Right off the bat, I’ll get right to the goods. Most young entrepreneurs suck: they are filled with lofty, unrealistic goals and typically serve a selfish or ego-driven hunger… usually to impress their friends on the fourth floor of the UTM library. I’ll go one step further and say most entrepreneurs lack the backbone to come up with a brilliant idea and execute it. Most young entrepreneurs want to establish a marketing agency and charge ridiculous fees for their service, a get-rich scheme of sorts. The idea typically fails—who’s really going to trust an inexperienced and immature student with a few million?
Being an entrepreneur is not only challenging, it’s gruelling and tough. Anyone who says it’s easy hasn’t developed a successful business. For the young entrepreneurs thinking of starting a marketing agency, don’t! It’s a saturated industry that is filled with more experienced and creative individuals. You think you can undercut the big boys to get the big client? Not a new idea—you and a hundred other companies have done it and failed.
Just a little demotivating, isn’t it? Well, that’s the typical young entrepreneur. I’ve learned a lot running my young business. I’ll explain some of my experiences that can help the young entrepreneur within you. I first started out running a “marketing agency” when I was 16. I sold it as an agency, but in reality we just delivered flyers. Made $2,000 a month when I was a kid—not bad. I sold my partnership stake in that for a few hundred bucks (my first time dealing with equity stakes; it would prove to be a valuable experience, and I later found out I sold my stake for cheap). I now run an online “boutique”. We manage websites, and what sets us apart from a marketing or ad agency is we actually develop an all-in-one solution, with a platform that actually generates revenue or brand awareness which we leverage to generate revenue later.
The best advice I can give you is don’t ever undercut your product or service. People and companies will pay for anything if they see value. If you can provide value to an organization (big or small), you not only become valuable to them but you become an authority in your field. It’s that authority you can now leverage to generate revenue. I never charge less—I believe my time and my service is actually worth something.
Developing revenue for clients has proven to be the biggest reward for me. Why? I quickly learned that if I could make money in the process of making more money for the people that pay me. Not only are they happy, but they’d promote me to others (referrals). This is where most young entrepreneurs fail: they believe they need to get rich first and forget about others in the process.
Let’s take a step back and look even closer to the people around you, your employees. I pay my employees (I have five writers, a chef, an assistant, plus three contract workers) more than the average. Yes, this cuts into my cash flow and reduces my profits. But I know they are happy, and making my employees happy is my first goal. When they are happy I know they will work harder, a above and beyond. It’s a win-win situation.
Besides making sure my employees are happy, networking has become the second-most important aspect of my job. I don’t see the value in those stupid networking events some clubs in university hold (no offence really). I mean really networking, knowing the person one-on-one. I’ve had the luxury to meet CEOs, VPs and directors. After you go through your first few executives, you realize it’s just a title and that these individuals are just like you and me. They are friendly and always looking to help, though you might get a couple rough, ego-driven executives. The best way to meet and know people is to do something good for them first. You need to provide something to them that shows your value.
Personally, I leverage my sites to get in contact with these individuals, I Google the VP of marketing (or who I’m interested in getting in contact with), and I contact them (thank you, Linkedin). I send them an email and ask for an interview. After the interview I’ll send them a nice thank-you note and small gift. Small gestures go a long way. This method typically works, because guess what: Who doesn’t like to get interviewed and featured on a popular site, magazine, or newspaper? Everyone likes that extra little bit of attention. The gift is designed to show your appreciation and reinforce your new relationship.
Stay in contact with your network. I send out a monthly or bi-monthly personal email to each one. They aren’t long, but they are personal. I always go out for coffee, usually at Starbucks. You need to keep and develop your relationships—they eventually all pan out in some way.
Lastly, always be positive and always help others. I give out a ton of free advice to make money online. I literally give away most of my tactics and “secrets”. Most would say this is bad business. I believe otherwise! Most individuals won’t actually do what I tell them; they either don’t have the drive or determination to do it, or they lack the knowledge. Guess what they do when they fail? They come back and talk to you. Being positive attracts positive things to you; I’ve been called a lunatic for stating this. But I’m serious, I can count several occasions when I was just being nice and positive to someone else, which brought huge benefits to my organization or my personal life. Yes, I do think Ari Gold (from the TV show Entourage) is awesome, but that isn’t reality. Develop a positive attitude towards others and I bet you positive things will start to happen to you.
The most important aspect to every new startup and established business is focussing on your employees, networking, and being positive. You need to develop a positive and happy environment.