1. Adopt an entrepreneur mindset. Wanna know the opposite of an entrepreneur? A corporate-preneur. That, Dr. Lorenzo explains, is someone who tries to start his or her own business with the same habits and assumptions that brought success in the corporate world.
Spoiler alert: Those habits and assumptions don’t translate.
“As an entrepreneur, you have to do everything, you have to think of everything and you have to pay for everything,” she says. “As a corporate bigwig, you may have great ideas, but someone else foots the bill.”
The other part of this equation is your personality. You have to ask yourself if you have the tenacity to see your idea through to success. Do you have the stomach for the highs and the lows, the hiring and the firing? No one, after all, said it would be easy.
2. Do your (market) research. “This is so important because the competition is great,” Dr. Lorenzo points out. “You need to see what’s out there in your industry. You need to find a way to make yourself different so that you can get that client to come to you — and stay.”
By way of example, Dr. Lorenzo cites Hackathon Jr., which teaches kids how to use technology to solve real-world problems. She started the organization with three of her University of Phoenix doctoral studies classmates to help children learn emotional intelligence and computational problem solving. Coding is part of that, but there were already coding camps and schools aplenty in the marketplace. Hackathon Jr.’s edge, she says, is in that interpersonal component.
Other businesses have to take a similar approach to research. They have to think globally, not just locally. (Thanks, internet!) And they have to be ready to compete with the online giants and big-box stores. So, in essence, being different is good.
3. Understand your customer and niche. “If you market to everybody, you get nobody,” Dr. Lorenzo quips. Make sure your customers are front of mind when developing a marketing plan and a brand (see below!).
Points to consider include your target customers' age range, gender and income level as well as where else they shop.
The more specific you are about your customers, the more effective your marketing and business will be.
4. Develop a plan. Dr. Lorenzo concedes that not everyone agrees that a business plan is necessary, but she compares it to GPS. Without a business plan, she explains, it’s like asking someone to meet you in Chicago without offering an address. You’ll take your business in one direction for a while and then, when you hit a roadblock, course-correct in another direction. But all those changes cost money.
While a business plan is important, it’s not the Ten Commandments. Consider it a living document to be revisited and strategically updated as your business evolves, Dr. Lorenzo advises.
5. Build a brand, not just a company. More than ever, branding matters. Yes, this means you should have a logo and consistent visuals across all of your marketing materials. But it also means you have to have a compelling and crystal mission.
Dr. Lorenzo says: “A brand has a mission. It has a vision. It says, ‘This is what my company stands for. This is how we’re going to serve the community.’”
People are increasingly concerned with the “give-back” right now, she adds, so make sure you know the ways in which your business will enhance and give back to its community.