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Quite simply, the passion and sacrifice required in building a business rarely corresponds to the monetary results entrepreneurs are seeking. Sure, most tech entrepreneurs desire to build the next billion dollar empire, but the reality is most businesses fail within the first few years of its existence.
Many new or would-be entrepreneurs seek my advice and/or financial support. While the individual thinks they are submitting their business (or concept thereof) for my advice or consideration, it is often difficult to determine if their idea is a hobby or a business that will generate sustainable revenue. During my presentation, I advised the attendees to contemplate the following questions if they are considering starting their own enterprise:
- Why you (and your idea) and why now?
- Who are your customers?
- How will people know about you?
- How will you make money?
- How will you retain customers, while at the same time, grow your business?
- How will you achieve and sustain profitability?
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I subsequently explained to the attendees the requirement of forming a team to build a business that will produce revenue and achieve profitability. It is important to note that the team is not limited to employees only, but it consists of mentors and advisors, family members, and friends. In addition to emphasizing the requirement of forming a team to build a company of value, my slide titled "It Takes a Team" emphasized the need to "surround yourself with people smarter than you." The ability of every entrepreneur to lead their business effectively often lies in the awareness of their personal and professional strengths and weaknesses alike. I learned long ago that building a successful business requires building a team with people whom are smarter than me and provide the support (financial and/or emotional) when the company, or I as its leader, encounter obstacles that often appear unexpectedly.
"If you do not know your numbers, you do not know your business" was another important point of my presentation. While many businesses fail for a variety of reasons, the management team's inability to understand their financial plan is often a common cause of business failure. A company's operational plan is only as strong as its financial plan, the latter of which is required to implement the former. Business owners who do not understand the numbers, which should be expressed through a profit and loss (P&L) statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet, will see the demise of their hopes and dreams of becoming a successful entrepreneur. Ideas alone will not build a business that will produce revenue and achieve profitability. Business success requires a sound operational strategy complemented by a realistic financial plan.
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For those attendees preparing to enter the job market, I provided some advice about looking for a job and writing a résumé that will stand-out from the dozens or hundreds of résumés submitted to hiring managers. It is important for job seekers to not just network with people affiliated with a specific sector, but building meaningful relationships. Utilizing social platforms like LinkedIn is important, but going the extra step to meet with sector or business leaders, and the applicant's willingness to learn from these leaders, is essential to building strong long-term relationships.
Citing an article from Entrepreneur magazine, I noted one in four and one in ten HR managers receive 50 résumés or one in ten résumé per job listing, respectively. The article also provided the following list of criteria HR managers are looking for from job applicants:
- 77% - relevant experience;
- 48% - specific accomplishments; and
- 41% - résumé was customized to the open position or not.
Again citing the article, I provided the percentage of HR managers who look for specific keywords in résumés:
- 56% - problem solving;
- 44% - leadership;
- 40% - oral and written communication;
- 33% - team building; and
- 31% - performance & productivity improvement.
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I enjoyed the experience of presenting at the 2015 International Biz-Tech Forum at the University of Washington and I want to convey my sincerest appreciation to the members and leaders of TBAUW for providing me with the opportunity. The slides from my presentation may be found below.