When I started my career as an entrepreneur, my office was so small that when a visitor arrived, my wife, who was also my secretary, would have to leave the room. We had just enough space for two chairs. My only capital when I started Trans Pacific Traders in 1946 was my accumulated military pay. What I did have was a willingness to research, find opportunities, and make deals. Fancy furniture and a large office would have to wait.
I’m often asked if it was harder starting a business 67 years ago than it is today. My answer is no. Starting a business then versus now is about equal in the degree of difficulty, just different. The rise of the internet is one of the biggest changes. Web access allows entrepreneurs to more easily reach mass markets, as well as targeted market segments, with the ability to monitor results immediately. In contrast, when I completed my first deal to sell army surplus wool material to a Chinese buyer, my samples went by boat and took three weeks to reach the customer. Today, a company’s samples can reach almost any destination in the world in 24-48 hours.
I’m a firm believer that all business is personal, and here, the internet can work both for and against the budding entrepreneur. It is absolutely vital that new entrepreneurs start developing relationships at the very outset of a deal. If all they do is trade emails and negotiate prices, then trust and loyalty are unlikely to build. Repeat business is far from guaranteed. Where the internet can help develop relationships is by offering the customer vital metrics and by supplying a customised approach with rapid feedback. Information about sales patterns and targeted promotions are valuable tools for success, and the more information the dealmaker can provide to the customer the better.
In my most recent book, The Evolution of an Entrepreneur, I included 50 of my best business tips culled from seven decades of successful business experience. The book’s emphasis is on long-term success and actions that can be replicated with a variety of business types. However, in this article, I would like to share five strategies that are especially related to the initial phases of a start-up: