How to Coach an Entrepreneur

What are the common traits of an entrepreneur?

The entrepreneur is a different animal to your average coaching client. They are futurists and have the capacity to see opportunities where others cannot. They are highly creative and are strategic thinkers. They operate best free of constraints. They are impulsive and risk takers. The opportunity will often outweigh the risk. Their impetuosity and spontaneity often leaving a trail for others to clean up. They love to have multiple ideas or projects on the go. They thrive on starting things and can quickly become bored. They often work best alone. They move at a rapid pace. They may experience frustration if those around them cannot keep up.

What common mistakes do coaches make with entrepreneurs?

Don’t try to change them or slow them down

Successful coaches appreciate the entrepreneur for who they are and don’t try to change them. Let them run and get out of their way. Watch and learn. They move at such rapid pace they may omit to consider risks or challenges. Help them expand their thinking, use brainstorming techniques, run scenarios, add clarity and detail to the vision, identify blind spots.

Preserve balance and sustainability

In their haste the entrepreneur may neglect basic aspects of their lives, eg diet, exercise, relationships, birthdays. Watch out for sustained periods of neglect. They are optimists and masters of illusion. Look for hidden signs of stress. The entrepreneur has the capacity to make small things big things – both opportunities and problems. Call it gearing. A good coach will realise this and role-play whatever role is appropriate. This is an art.

Respect their creativity and risk threshold

Entrepreneurs have a high threshold for risk. Accept it and work with them. You may need to be the flexible one. Their tolerance for risk, not yours, should determine the basis for strategies and objectives. Entrepreneurs love to brainstorm ideas. They also love to talk. So, let them. Coaching is about listening. Entrepreneurs want someone to listen and respond enthusiastically to their ideas. They seek positive reinforcement.

What advice would you give to public practitioners dealing with entrepreneurs?

Much of the above is also true for the professional advisor. There is one basic distinction. True coaches will not give advice. They will facilitate self-discovery through questioning techniques. Professional advisors such as accountants are expected to give professional advice. They are subject matter experts and required to interpret the law and share their knowledge. Remember entrepreneurs are the decision makers so offer them your considered opinion and let them decide. Give them options.

Be proactive

Entrepreneurs move fast. They subject themselves to risks and make frequent decisions. They do not and cannot know everything. They place a premium value on astute professional advisors who can give them considered opinion proactively and foresee scenarios or risk exposure they cannot.

Be accessible and responsive

When entrepreneurs want an answer they want it now. They make rapid fire decisions and have short concentration spans. They don’t want to dwell on the detail. Big picture, clear guidance, fast turnaround.

Service focus

Tune into what your client wants. Take time to learn how they tick. Be flexible with your communication style to accommodate your client. They talk fast, you talk fast. They want succinct information, give it to them. They want options, run scenarios. They expect you to be there when they need you not return my call two days later.

Questions are the answers

Learn how to listen. Learn how to ask powerful questions. The techniques of a skilled coach are just as relevant for an accountant or sales professional. Ask open questions, eg what, where, when, how. Practise questioning techniques such as probing, clarifying, paraphrasing, summarising.

Restate commitments

Once you have reached agreement with your client, repeat it back to them for clarity, “So, it is my understanding that you want me to submit your tax return by Monday, 31 July, is that correct?” or “My expectation is that you will sign and return the contract to me by Wednesday, is that reasonable?”

Real-time information

Nothing irritates an entrepreneur more than old information. Time is money. They want both lead indicators (prospects, conversion rates, average sales, purchase frequency) and lag indicators (customers, sales, profits) in their management reports. Sales pipelines are essential management information.

System and structure

The entrepreneur needs system and structure. They often aren’t the best person to deliver it. That’s why they hire a coach, personal assistant, consultant or accountant.

Coaching an entrepreneur is an exhilarating and rewarding experience. It can be a roller coaster ride and is never a dull moment. Supporting them in your role as a public practitioner can be just as rewarding. So, get yourself ready and hang on for the ride of your life.

15 Characteristics Of Successful Entrepreneurs – Do You Have Them?

Most people are longing to start their own businesses. But do they know what it takes to become successful entrepreneurs? What about you? Which characteristics of successful entrepreneurs do you bring in the business you have or you intend to begin? Before going any further into the details, let me define an entrepreneur as someone, who makes money by starting businesses with some kind of financial risk-taking involved. Is that what you are?

Well, every person joins business with various reasons. These reasons usually determine the performance of the business. I have discovered that many people think that success in business depends upon being highly educated, having lots of money and a supportive family. However, the bottom line of success in your business is motivation, fuelled by the desire to achieve and the enthusiasm to do your business. A highly motivated person tends to behave in a certain way that leads to success and it’s a distinguishing factor of all successful entrepreneurs. How motivated are you?

Through this article, allow me to share with you 15 characteristics of successful entrepreneurs that are fundamental to building a successful business. If you are aiming at succeeding in your business, then it’s high time you started acquiring the following behaviors.

1. BE AN INNOVATOR. To succeed you have to be creative. All successful entrepreneurs think a lot differently from ordinary people. They see things other people have not yet mirrored and are able to introduce new things and new ways of doing things.

2. LEARN TO SOLVE PEOPLE’S PROBLEMS. Successful entrepreneurs are problem solvers. They have the ability to identify specific problems of a given customer group, which require their products or services to be solved. As they solve their customers’ problems, they end up making money. Turning people’s problems into great opportunities is one of the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs.

3. BE AN INFORMATION SEEKER. There is no successful entrepreneur who is not hungry for knowledge. You have to get new knowledge, new information and new skills for you to become successful in what you are doing.

4. PERSISTENCE WILL HELP YOU TO SUCCEED. All successful entrepreneurs keep on and on no matter how hard the going may be. They are success-conscious and believe in succeeding despite all roadblocks. They believe that riches come only to those who work hard and long. Indeed! By working hard and consistently long, riches begin to power so quickly and in such a great abundance that you even wonder where they have been hiding during all those years of toiling.

5. LEARN TO SET GOALS. This helps them to know where they are going and how to go there systematically. Without setting goals you are like someone who is blindfolded and asked to shoot the target. You will never know where the target is and you will only be gambling.

6. COMMITMENT TO WORK. How committed are you to your work? Successful entrepreneurs are able to initiate and to pursue their work contracts to the end. They are self-driven and do not need anybody to drive them, to supervise them.

7. DEMAND FOR EFFICIENCY AND QUALITY. Demanding for efficiency and quality is one of the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. They detest mediocrity and can never settle for that. They are able to achieve the desired results without wasting their energy. They always aim at offering goods and services of the highest quality.

8. BE HARD WORKING. Successful entrepreneurs are hard working people. They spend a lot of time, energy and other resources working on their businesses to achieve the desired results. They inspect to get what they expect. They think big and strategically.

9. AIM AT ACHIEVING YOUR GOALS AND DESIRES. All successful entrepreneurs are achievers. They do not give up when faced with a temporary defeat. They do not despair because they are highly motivated people. Whatever they put their hands and their minds on, they commit themselves to achieve it. Until they achieve it, they do not stop. Even after achieving it, they look forward to strengthen their achievements.

10. BE A RISK TAKER. Taking moderate risks is another characteristic of successful entrepreneurs. They don’t fear to take risks. FEAR to take risks discourages initiative, brings about uncertainty of purpose, destroys ambition, kills enthusiasm, destroys good reasoning and stops you from taking action. Besides, there is nothing you can engage yourself in without any risks involved.

For instance, by just driving your car to go to work, you risk getting involved in an accident. But if you already know it, you take precautionary measures to avoid getting an accident other than opting not to drive. That’s how successful entrepreneurs go about their business. They anticipate the risks involved and think of how to overcome them in case they manifested.

11. DESIRE TO BE INDEPENDENT. Desiring to become independent is one of the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. They have a strong drive to be masters of their own life, to take their own decisions and to pursue their own destiny.

12. LEARN TO CONTROL YOUR OWN DESTINY. Successful entrepreneurs control their own destiny. They don’t lose focus of what they pursue. Having a strong desire to walk their road to riches is one of the characteristics of successful entrepreneurs. The end justifies the means.

13. BE DETERMINED. Successful entrepreneurs are so strong-minded that they do not give up despite any obstacles. They are always determined to transform their desires and thoughts into their monetary equivalent at any cost.

14. HAVE SELF-CONFIDENCE. Successful entrepreneurs don’t depend on luck. They are able to visualize and they believe in the attainment of their desires at all cost. Ability to visualize and to have faith in the attainment of your desires is an important factor in building your self-confidence.

Developing a high level of self-confidence is a key element in effective business management and success. You need to be sure of yourself to tackle the tasks at hand. You need to have high expectations of achieving success. If you think you can, then you can. But if you think you can’t, the chances are that you cannot. “Yes, we can”, is the winning formula President Obama applied to become president. You, too, can follow the same principle to become a successful entrepreneur.

15. Last but not least, BE CREDIBLE. Credibility is an important element to the success of any businessperson. In my article entitled “Personal Branding, A Key To Success In Your Business”, I emphasized the importance of credibility. Let me not overemphasize the same point but it’s the absolute truth that successful entrepreneurs are credible and honesty paves the way for them to succeed. Will this information help you?

How Do You Protect Your Information Products? Part 1

We infopreneurs (information entrepreneurs) are a breed apart in the publication industry. We specialize in making money with information products and at the same time we give away a lot of our information products. We know that free stuff sells stuff. We have learned that lesson well.

All profitable infopreneurs usually give away products to build an “opt-in” mailing list. They then use this mailing list and the permission granted by the opt-in system to sell, up-sell, and to build a marketing funnel that lets them sell increasingly higher priced products to the same clients.

We qualify our freebies by insisting that redistribution of these information products be distributed with all our identifying information and links back to us. We want to freely give but always expect ultimately to profit while helping others.

After all, infopreneurs are information entrepreneurs, and entrepreneurs expect to make money. So, how do we balance creating widespread availability of our products with some degree of protection?

With printed books (as opposed to digital books), two methods are used to identify and protect the author’s rights.

  1. Copyright is the first method. It protects the rights of the author and restricts the product’s use and dissemination by others. It protects the specific expression of ideas but cannot protect the actual facts and ideas. Copyrights are used for protection of both written and electronic information products. Placing a copyright symbol, the date of the copyright, and the owner of the copyright on hard copies or digital works provides the first line of defense against someone using your work as their own. I suggest that you place a copyright notice with the date of production even on your drafts. It provides one more piece of evidence of your authorship if a question of authorship arises later.
  2. Registration of an information product by the author through nationally and internationally recognized “serial” (identification) numbers provides a second line of defense. These include ISBN numbers (for books); ISSN numbers for periodicals (both printed and electronic); and ESN’s (for electronic media). These three are not the only “serial” numbers in use, but are the most common ones. Each provides some degree of protection for the author by registering the information product under the publisher or author’s name.

You are not required to have a copyright or any other type of identification number on your publications, but not having one is an open invitation to unscrupulous readers to steal your works.

Owner-Management-Skills and Knowledge – Your Second Test As an Entrepreneur

The Global Entrepreneurial Monitor’s (GEM) report 2013-14 findings demonstrate the difficulty entrepreneurs face across the globe. Now in its fifteenth year, the report covers each region in the world encompassing 70 economies be they developing, semi-developed or developed (e.g. termed Factor- Driven; Efficiency-Driven and Innovation-driven in the report) old (Source- Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) 2014 by Jose Ernesto Amoros, Niels Bosma and Global Entrepreneurship Research Association [GERA].

Over the fifteen years GEM has been going, one finding repeated itself- the vast majority of nascent entrepreneurs (also known as early-stage entrepreneurs) globally – involved in setting up a business – fail. It means they never become owner-manager of a new business (up to 3.5 years old) or advance to become owner-manager of an established business, more than 3.5 years]).

The finding raises a question: What makes it so difficult to start a small business and ensure moving to the owner-manager of an established business stage?

GEM report cites reasons as per comment by the entrepreneurs themselves! Starting and discontinuing a business – in the eyes of business-owner – boils down to an unprofitable business, problems getting finance and personal reasons. Financial issues (unprofitable businesses or problems obtaining finance) remain the most important reason mentioned for business discontinuation in the majority of economies, also in other stages of economic development.

Finance – the lack thereof is understandable. The rate of business discontinuance is highest in the factor-driven economies -mainly in Sub-Saharan African economies – where high level poverty is common.

Extrapolating from GEM findings, in some – mainly-innovation-driven economies – a significant share of entrepreneurs who discontinued owning and managing their business did so for reasons such as selling the business as it had value, the opportunity to get a good job; and for some, an improvement in their personal situation.

Many entrepreneurs who managed to stay afloat will tell a prospective small business owner they are still trying as hard as they could – each and every day – to survive; let alone getting into a position to turn their business into something with a high market value ready for selling. They would also agree on the energy needed to manage a business spending many hours early mornings and late evenings.

Seasoned entrepreneurs would warn against learning as you grow along the business life cycle.

It is important to work hard and smart. Few small businesses can afford a team of specialized staff, forcing the business-owner to become multi skilled.

Discussed are key owner-management functions a prospective and going entrepreneur face from a skills and knowledge point of view.

Managing a small business warrants a holistic approach comprising at least the following.

  1. Administration

Administration is often underestimated. Main types (they exclude the often cumbersome inherent tasks to each) include: Bookkeeping and other financial administration, cost accounting and administration, finance and credit administration, payroll administration, production administration, purchasing administration, quality administration and control, sales administration, and inventory administration.

Other forms of administration: Quoting administration, costing administration, debt administration, client databases and Complaints administrations.

Some of these administrative tasks would be very relevant to your type of business and industry, others less!

Finding a way to learn more about administration skill and knowledge is advised as you prepare for a venture.

  1. Communication

You will found yourself communicating with many different types of people. Audiences will include customers, the bank manager, suppliers, creditors (those you owe money), debtors (those that owe you money) and others.

If not a natural speaker or compiling documentation, then there is need to consider how to overcome these weaknesses! Daily running of a business entails answering telephones, doing presentations to customers, negotiation with bank managers for an extended overdraft, negotiation with creditors for more time and negotiation with debtors to pay outstanding invoices! Writing, oral and presentation skills are important.

Finding a way to learn more about business communication skill and knowledge is advised as you prepare for a venture.

  1. Financial

Failure at managing a business financially could potentially mean failing before the venture had a chance to move into a growth cycle. Many business owners opt to make an accountant (given they can afford one), financial manager! While the accountant could be a valuable source of advice the entrepreneur should learn how to take financial decisions based on financial data.

Entrepreneurs, more often than not, do not have formal training in fundamental bookkeeping, or in financial management. Managing finances even at a basic level is a very challenging task.

Entrepreneurs would find yourself trying to master at least the following: Profit planning, costing of products and services, sales planning (revenue) balancing it with expenses and possible taxes, general ledger, accounts receivable ledger, accounts payable ledger, general journal, sales book, cash book (or their equivalents) and regular books of account

Accountants would at the end of the financial year consolidate all financial data and present the business owner with financial statements to enable submission of tax returns.

Entrepreneurs are advised to master basic accounting and managing finances.

  1. Human-resources

Business-owners surviving harsh times to grow later will end up with a few staff members. Once the entrepreneur gets to that stage he (or she) would have to manage people and the following: Employee contracts and role description, introduce staff to their environment (induction training), training for workers, practice of Labour legislation, fair discipline and how to address disobedience, high morale and positive attitude, production levels, recruitment and selection- getting the right people, staff benefits, staff demands and staff planning generally

By learning more about these tasks the entrepreneurs prepare itself for the day they would need the knowledge. The internet provides a wealth of information and examples of human resources management in a small business setting.

Which bring one to a crucial skill, information-technology!

  1. Info-technology

Entrepreneurs find themselves in an age of information. Tools are needed to manage waves of information from outside the business.

Each and every aspect of business is related in some way or another to information and the technology linked to it. First and foremost there is the issue of computer skill and use of software programmes (as many as one could, always relevant to your business).

If fortunate enough to afford a personal assistant to take care of tasks on the computer, this would still not exonerate entrepreneurs from being equally skilled at using this technology.

Business owners find themselves many hours behind the computer long after the assistant has gone home.

Entrepreneurs are advised to master computer skill and software to run its business more effectively!

  1. Legal

Entrepreneurs will gradually find themselves learning more about the legal side of a business as legal advice and assistance are costly.

Entrepreneur come across at least the following related to the laws of the country you find yourself in, including: Registration of your business with the relevant authorities (unless you operate as a sole proprietor), Income tax registration, company taxes and registration with relevant Labour authorities

Legal areas that have an impact on the business including (among many others potentially): Income Tax Acts, Labour legislation Acts, trade licences, product liability Acts, environmental Acts, standards for products and services, Usury Act, information Acts and consumer Acts

Regarding contracts (in addition to all of the above)! Entrepreneur should be able to read, interpret and analyse contracts. Identifying potential pitfalls is important. One could turn to a legal expert for advice, but would there be capital to cover fees for each smallish business deal?

Entrepreneurs could learn to draft elementary agreements. If a business deal is very complex then consider legal assistance.

Seasoned business owners would advise against not having agreements in place, bargaining on mutual trust and potential dire consequences!

There are templates available covering a variety of agreement types. To acquire a library of these and absorb the content is advised! Business agreements should be documented, covering all deliverables and costs in detail; and be signed!

  1. Marketing, sales and distribution

As part of business planning the entrepreneur drafted a comprehensive marketing plan to be put into action.

Some entrepreneurs are natural at sales and marketing! A potential problem is they can become overly embroiled in the marketing side of their business, neglecting the other areas of management. What happens then?

Orders fly in but no-one can invoice as the entrepreneur might be computer illiterate not taking heed of how important technology is to business.

Or, not taking stock recently, the shelves are empty.

Equally bad for business, the orders are based on prices dating back months while there was old stock. The entrepreneur will now, if he delivers, be selling at a loss.

The lesson learned is an administrative and technical one.

  1. Production or/and service and retail

Business is about manufacturing and selling a commodity, or if the entrepreneur is in services render a service at a fee.

Manufacturers would come across a number of start-up tasks when starting his (or her) business, including: Factory or office layout, product design, production planning, materials management, stock control, maintenance and upgrading, selling of product and distribution and post sale services planning.

It amounts to a lot of work considering business owners also have to take care of all other management tasks discussed thus far! Or if fortunate enough to afford staff, the business owner would ensure a handle on each management task.

Input to ensure the business work successful comes to a multitude of activities!

In conclusion, many prospective entrepreneurs might feel disillusioned after reading the article but it is better to be prepared when deciding to become an entrepreneur. Entrepreneurs knowledgeable about main challenges – when starting a venture – would have an edge over those who walk into one not knowing how important skill and knowledge are in surviving!