Every aspiring entrepreneur I know is talking about the fact that there are more than 2,000 billionaires in the world today, and how their innovative idea could make them one of the next ones.
On the basis of my own experience in working with many successful, and some not so successful, entrepreneurs and business owners, I suggest that you start with an assessment of your own personal goals and interests, other than making money.
Becoming an entrepreneur is actually a commitment to a new lifestyle, certainly very exciting, but with many unknowns and risks.
To help you focus, I have prioritized the following list of success principles, too often overlooked by otherwise smart people blinded by dollar signs, who jump in before they consider the consequences and alternatives:
1. Find a unique niche you love that adds real value.
Offering one more social media site (over 200 already exist, according to Wikipedia) probably won't work. I suggest looking for painful problems to solve, rather than "easier to use" or "nice to have" solutions for customers with money. Look for needs that have a global appeal to a wide demographic.
2. Highlight your credentials as an insider or influencer.
Customers line up to believe and buy from people who are viewed as leaders or experts relative to a specific solution. Don't forget to market yourself before, during, and after your initial idea, through social media, websites, and events. Get support from credible industry groups and partners.
3. Focus on a solution that is scalable worldwide.
Products that can be easily produced and sold via multiple channels, including the internet, are more easily scaled worldwide. Global considerations include cultural differences and translation. Specialized services, such as accounting, require skilled people, training, and tools, and do not scale well.
4. Collaborate with customers to tune your solution.
Customer feedback, including blog comments, usability reviews, and early user testimonials, builds relationships and provides credible marketing to the broader customer community. Your solution must have value for every customer. Strive to make real customers your best advocates for the initial rollout.
5. Minimize one-time sales in your business model.
You need a stable customer base with an automatically renewing revenue stream, such as the subscription model. This reduces the cost of customer acquisition, allows easy upgrades for service and new features, and improves customer loyalty in the face of new competitors in the market.
6. Facilitate rapid growth through contracted resources.
Minimize permanent hiring and customized operational facilities. In this age of the gig economy, you can more quickly hire and manage freelancers, contract workers, and contract operations. Every new business has unexpected pivots and adjustments, and outsourcing is easier to manage.
7. Take advantage of low-cost modern tools and automation.
Use open-source e-commerce and website software, including web-chat software and PayPal, rather than building expensive customized solutions. On the hardware side, look for high-volume manufacturing and direct-ship solutions, rather than final assembly in your garage.
8. Develop a product line and add alternative channels.
Diversifying sooner rather than later grows your opportunity with existing customers, and increases your brand visibility outside of the market you already own. New channels, such as adding brick-and-mortar distributors to supplement your online sales, also can multiply your rate of growth.
9. Prioritize mergers and acquisitions early.
Most entrepreneurs consider mergers and acquisitions as a later follow-on, unless they are in real trouble or they have already saturated their base market. Smart startups explore mergers early to solidify their image in the marketplace, eliminate competitors, allow rapid scaling, or resolve resource gaps.
You probably already intend to follow one or more of these principles, but leading billionaires like Jeff Bezos could validly claim every one of these and others, and he has used them to drive Amazon to the trillion-dollar level.
Yet, even by following all these principles, don't expect it to be easy. The odds are still stacked against you, and the volatility of new markets makes it even more challenging. But for those of you who are a real match for the entrepreneurial lifestyle, that's what makes it fun.
You will enjoy the learning and problem solving that come from these challenges, and you may even step into the ranks of the billionaires as a final accolade. It's a big step, but you can do it.