Recently I interviewed Susan Solovic, author of It's Your Biz (out soon) and founder of the resource-rich It's Your Biz website. Her new book is excellent for if you're thinking about starting your own business. You can start by reading my interview with her below.
And, you'll also want to check out her 10 free videos on how to avoid the common pitfalls and increase the odds of your success.
With all the business books out there, why did you decide to write one?
SUSAN SOLOVIC: Many of the business books don't address realities of what it takes to start and build a successful business. I want to make sure people start their business journey well-equipped with a true understanding of what it takes to be successful.
Business ownership isn't for everyone. Yet in this economy, many Americans by default are jumping into their own business because they feel they have no other choice.
Others choose self-employment naively because they think it will provide a more balanced lifestyle. No more office politics. No more bad bosses, etc. So whether you are just in the start-up phase or struggling to build it's important for you to understand the realities of business fundamentals. I've been in the trenches and built a million dollar plus organization from the ground up. I want to share those fundamentals with new or struggling business owners so they can soar to success.
So what do you mean about business realities and fundamentals.
SUSAN SOLOVIC: The building blocks that it takes to build a successful business. Too many self-proclaimed small business experts tell people if you are passionate about what you do you can't help but succeed.
WRONG. Passion alone is not the key to business success. Passion is important because it gives you energy to work the kind of hours you need to work to build a company, but it takes a lot more business expertise to really be successful.
Furthermore, there is a significant difference between creating a job for yourself -- an income stream -- and building a successful, sustainable business. When you build a real business, it becomes bigger than you alone. In fact, if more small companies applied these basic fundamentals to build a business, we could begin to chip away at America's job crisis.
Can you give us some examples?
SUSAN SOLOVIC: Yes. For example, when you start a business you should have a sense of what you want it to become. Otherwise, It's like starting to build a home without blueprints. You don't know what materials to use or what direction to go. Understanding the big picture helps you make the right choices regarding steps you need to take to build a sustainable business.
What if you want your business to remain small?
SUSAN SOLOVIC: That's okay as long as you make an educated decision. As I noted, there is a huge difference between creating a job for yourself and building a business. Unfortunately, a lot of entrepreneurs don't figure that out until it's too late. If you create a job you have an income stream, but when you stop doing all the work yourself the money -- and the business - stops too.
A business is something that becomes bigger than you and can sustain itself down the road with or without your participation. And best of all it has value if you want to sell it some day, pass it on to your heirs or give your employees a chance to take it over.
What was the biggest challenge for you as you built your business?
SUSAN SOLOVIC: Learning to let go. Entrepreneurs really like to do things their own way. And we think no one can do it better than we can. But successful business owners learn how to create the processes in their companies so they can teach others how to do what they do and it can be delivered consistently. So for me, being able to step back and give others the authority and power to run with the ball was a difficult transition.
When is the right time to add employees to your team?
SUSAN SOLOVIC: There's no right answer, but in the book I talk about what I call the MYTOP Theory -- Multiple Yourself Through Other People. You can't do everything all by yourself and expect to be build a successful business. You need the right people to help you grow.
So when you find yourself in a position where the level of business is such that an extra set of hands could free you up to do what you do best for the company -- then that's a good time to start thinking about adding that first team member. Always start by looking for someone who complements your skill set.
What about funding business start-up or growth. Access to capital is a big challenge for small businesses.
SUSAN SOLOVIC: When I hear entrepreneurs talk about what they would do if only they had the money then I figure they really don't want to do it. Successful business owners know how to do a lot with very little. They are creative and innovative and most bootstrap their way to success.
Some research shows the majority of small businesses start with less than $10,000 in capital which they secure from their own personal assets or borrowing from family and friends. As my mother used to say, "Where there's a will there's a way."
What are you recommendations regarding social media and social media.
SUSAN SOLOVIC: If you aren't using social media to market your business, you are missing a huge opportunity. It is a game changer. It makes it possible for a small business owner to build its brand and identify potential customers for very little cost.
For example, one dog training service I interviewed decided to leave a franchise operation, change its name and basically strike out on their own. Because of social media they were able to alert hundreds of followers easily and the transition went smoothly. Ten years ago that would have been a very different situation.
Additionally, how important is technology in helping small businesses succeed.
SUSAN SOLOVIC: Technology levels the playing field. It gives small businesses the opportunity to grow a global business from their garage. But now with all the mobility application, small businesses are getting even greater advantages.
With advances in technology, you can literally manage your entire business from the palm of your hand -- your smart phone. Track expenses, manage inventory, manage your CRM, run credit card payments and my favorite is connecting with social media. When people tell me they don't have time for social media I ask them -- what do you do when you are waiting in line at the grocery store or in a dentist office lobby? Get out your smart phone or tablet PC and start marketing using your social media applications.
What's your final piece of advice?
SUSAN SOLOVIC: You have to take action every day to build a business. Lots of business owners talk, talk, talk about what they are going to do, but never do it. To be successful you have to be disciplined and deliberated about taking measurable actions every day to drive your business forward. Without that kind of commitment, it's difficult to succeed.