Tonya Lanthier, an Entrepreneurs' Organization (EO) member from Atlanta, is the founder of DentalPost.net, a nationwide mobile job board for dental professionals with solutions and methods for better hiring. We asked Tonya about her experiences diving into entrepreneurship and what she has learned along the way. Here is what she had to say.
Many people dream of leaving their day jobs behind and becoming their own boss. Some want to have more control over their own destiny. Others have a great idea that they're sure they can build into a profitable business. And others might be attracted by the flexibility self-employment offers.
Whatever the motivation, it's not easy to trade the security of a steady paycheck and benefits package for the uncertainty of launching a new venture. But if you've got the entrepreneurial itch, there are steps you can take to make your dream a reality. As a first-time entrepreneur, I had to learn by trial and error; from an idea that started in my basement, my team and I grew a company that has enjoyed a lot of success and even made the Inc. 5000 list. Here are five things I learned along the way:
Find a pursuit you're passionate about. Entrepreneurship requires a huge commitment and sustained focus, so it's incredibly important to truly believe in what you're doing. My venture grew out of my career as a dental hygienist and my passion for the industry, desire to help dental professionals find the right position, and joy in serving patients who need dental care. This foundation was essential to my company's success. Look for a venture that allows you to contribute to a cause you're passionate about so you can stay motivated and focused.
Scale up cautiously. Some people throw caution to the wind, quit their job and pour everything into their new venture. That might work in some cases, but more often than not, an entrepreneur who takes that route will end up broke and unemployed. When I started my online community for dental professionals, DentalPost, I kept my day job as a hygienist and worked nights and weekends to build up my company. As my profits grew, I scaled back on my clinical work to focus on the business. In this way, I was able to grow my company and demonstrate profitability without risking my financial security.
Evangelize. No matter how compelling the product or service you provide is, you won't succeed if no one knows about it, so be prepared to serve as an evangelist for your new venture. Build business by networking and connecting with people online and in-person. I was already the go-to person in the Atlanta dental community for employment information, but once I turned this passion into a business, I doubled down, printing up flyers to hand out, sending out mailers to licensed professionals and spreading the word at every opportunity. It paid off, helping me establish my startup as a key industry resource while honing my entrepreneurial skills, demanding that I overcome fear and take a bold approach.
Put together the right team. When you're growing a business, you're also building a company culture. Give some thought to your long-range vision for the company and consciously create the culture you believe will best support your objectives. Set parameters for how team members will work together. As my business expanded, the importance of company culture and putting the right person in the right job became clearer than ever. Our success in building a highly collaborative team has been a key advantage in a changing environment.
Stay connected. As your business gains traction, it's easy to become so caught up in operations that you lose sight of your market -- or worse yet, lose your connection with your customers. One way I've avoided this is to keep doing clinical work, albeit on a smaller scale. By working with patients and collaborating with dental office colleagues, I've been able to keep up to date on what's happening in the industry. More importantly, my clinical work keeps me mindful of why my venture is important in the larger scheme of things. It's a constant reminder that no amount of money or success can ever equal the gift received from patients -- their confidence and trust.
Entrepreneurship isn't for everyone. The statistics on startup failure are sobering and underscore the very real risks involved. But if you are convinced that being your own boss is right for you, there are steps you can take to set yourself up for success.
Choose your field wisely and test the waters before taking the plunge. Spread the word about your new venture and create a culture that supports your vision. And never forget why you're in business and who you serve. If you can keep these tips in mind, you'll be well on your way to bootstrap success.