What Advice Entrepreneurs Really Want (and Don’t Ignore)
(This post originally appeared on Entrepreneur)
Entrepreneurs have abundant energy, drive, ambition, ideas and sweat. What they lack is time.
That’s why they only have time for the advice they want.
At the recent Accelerate Your Business event Entrepreneur held in partnership with Microsoft in Chicago, it became clear that their interests rest under just a handful of key pillars.
It’s not easy being an entrepreneur. Normal people take a job, work and collect a paycheck. Entrepreneurs work under different priorities. They have an idea, a solution to a problem, and they work tirelessly to build products and services — all without the safety net of a sure paycheck and benefits. It can be heroic work, and it has a nine-in-10 chance of abject failure.
What keeps them going? The inspiration of others. Hearing that someone as successful as Alexis Ohanian could have started his professional life with so much rejection helps entrepreneurs recognize that they’re not alone in the world and that their own setbacks don’t mean that their business is doomed.
Sales and customer service.
Your idea doesn’t turn into a business until you get your first customer. Plenty of people have good ideas. Fewer people act on them, and even fewer actually find a market for them. Getting advice on how to land that first sale, and, more importantly, how to convert that into repeat business, is some of the most sought-after guidance for entrepreneurs.
Take building customer loyalty, an area of expertise of Carol Roth, the business expert and host of the TBS business show America’s Greatest Makers. Roth told the Accelerate event crowd that entrepreneurs need to develop long-term, loyal customers. In an approach she calls “Customer Loyalty 3.0,” she said the goal is to get raving fans to tell other customers about your brand or company. When you factor in the expense of trying to reach new customers and the high lifetime value of each individual customer, loyalty needs to be a top priority for every business.
Data management and security.
Every company nowadays, no matter what they do, says they are a “data” company. Yes, that’s a marketing hook, but it has a grain of truth in it. Every transaction, every interaction is recorded and stored. So every company collects and can use data. Here’s the good news: It’s easier than ever to use data to improve both your business and your customer experiences. Gene Marks, president of The Marks Group, which sells sales and marketing software, says the bad news is that bad actors get more sophisticated every day at trying to steal that data — and your business is liable. That’s made security a big concern for companies of all sizes.
On the bright side, it’s never been easier to store and secure that data. Jordan Chrysafidis, vice president of U.S. OEM at Microsoft, told the crowd that new cloud services really allow for a better mobile experience for business owners. As mobile becomes less about devices and more about the overall tech experience, having secure and easy-to-use cloud services becomes more important, Chrysafidis said.
The devices we use to do business each day are increasing in capability as they decrease in size and weight. Kirk Godkin, a device evangelist for HP, often holds up a small phone and announces that this is the PC of today. Much of device development is designed for mobility, which shouldn’t come as a surprise since the workforce today are becoming increasingly mobile and virtual.
Most entrepreneurs can’t get enough of new devices. The smaller, the better, provided they can also increase productivity.
Entrepreneurs, more than other groups of business leaders, are fascinated by what makes people tick. That desire is two-fold: First, understanding what drives customer decisions helps plot a sales strategy. In this regard, there are some ways in which our minds work in predictable ways, says Jon Levy, an expert in behavior and adventure, who also spoke at the Accelerate Your Business event. In fact, you can actually change people’s decisions simply through suggestion. “But with that great power comes great responsibility,” he said. It’s a dangerous line to cross to influence someone as opposed to manipulating them, he said.
As for personal behavior, entrepreneurs devour any advice on how to personally find an edge. Whether it’s how often to sleep or how much exercise to get or even what habits to follow, entrepreneurs want any advice and guidance they can get to make them work more efficiently, think better and live smarter.
Entrepreneurs want to connect, with customers, with vendors and with each other. For the first time, at the end of the recent Accelerate Your Business event, we held a Networking in Minutes event, where attendees were able to spend a few minutes with each other and presenters from the conference. Think of it as speed-dating meets networking.
The feedback? There was a value in being able to interact with one another.