How to Build a Successful Foundation for Your Entrepreneurial Career
We all have grandiose visions – sitting on a beach with a cool drink in hand, the Lambo valeted nearby as we gaze out at the pristine, crystal clear waters. Or maybe you’re more of a lakeside villa kinda gal or guy with the Rolls parked in the driveway. The fact is, when you launch your entrepreneurial dream, you see yourself doing big things. You envision the big prizes and the irresistible lifestyle that awaits you.
While we all want to experience the rewards from what we build, we must first firmly establish ourselves with a structure that positions us for future success. You need a game plan to get you there. That means your entrepreneurial success is predicated on a foundation that positions you for enduring success, even in ever-changing market conditions.
Most entrepreneurs have big ideas for living the dream – but lack a plan. So, what does that plan look like? It focuses on the fundamentals you need to build self-confidence, gain clarity around your service offering/product, and construct your business plan. We’re talking about honing in on what you do well, how you’ll define success, and ensuring that you set achievable goals. This means doing the marketing work to determine what sets you apart from your competition and why they should buy from you are essential to success.
Are you ready to get started? Let’s dive in.
Build Your Foundation
When we build a foundation, we do so because we’re looking to achieve RESULTS. We want to create a solid position to operate from for future success. I call it using a “Game Plan” that primes you to take action and do so with increased confidence and conviction.
Your passion is the thing that lights the fire inside of you and brings you indescribable joy and enthusiasm. It’s more than just a “hunch.” It’s a powerful emotion you can use to harness toward the goals and objectives you hope to achieve.
Examples of passion could be:
- A love for music
- Interactive gaming
- Creating an unforgettable experience for customers
Think of a strength as something you do well that either comes naturally to you or has been acquired as a skill along your journey. Research from Clifton StrengthsFinder shows that leaning into your strengths and using them to your advantage leads to greater gains and growth. This applies to your entrepreneurial journey by understanding what you do well and getting feedback from others to guide you.
Examples of strengths could be:
- Communication (verbal and written)
- Visual design
- Product marketing
Values are perhaps the most foundational aspect of building your entrepreneurial career. They’re the time-tested core components that keep you grounded, self-aware, and firm in your beliefs and actions. As life around us changes, values serve as the constant that center us and help align us with our purpose.
Examples of values include: integrity, honesty, courage, discipline, confidence, perseverance, competitiveness.
As Simon Sinek has famously written about, your purpose is your “Why” for living. If you’re going to expend time, energy, and resources into an entrepreneurial venture, you’re best-served to understand why you’re doing it. When you’re clear and purpose-driven, you’re operating from a tremendous position of confidence and fortitude.
Examples of purpose:
- To improve the way people communicate and help people forge greater connections with those they love
- To increase access to online learning at a low cost
- To improve the physical well-being of people and help them find greater happiness
Every great business and startup has a mission. So should every entrepreneur. A mission is about what you do, who you’re looking to serve, and how you will define success – leading to the big goals you want to achieve. Think big-picture, not isolated to just a short-term task.
Examples of mission:
- To make a living that supports me and my family and allows me the freedom to work anywhere in the world
- To invent new products for the marketplace that enriches the lives of other people
- Growing and learning every day while providing those I lead with the benefits of a continuing education
You own your goals and they should lead directly to the exact results you want to achieve. Again, think of the big picture here. You can plan your results first and create goals that form the bridge to achieve those. Goals are time-based and should be things that you can achieve within reason. Don’t set goals that are far beyond your current abilities. Validate your goals with fellow entrepreneurs and people you trust. Keep setting them daily, weekly, monthly, and yearly. And don’t forget to hold yourself accountable.
Fortifying Your Foundation for Good Times and Bad
Think of your foundation in the same way that you would the foundation of a house.
A house’s foundation is built to be strong enough for the weight of the house, as well as nasty weather that will come its way.
Now, think of how much your foundation matters as an entrepreneur. It’s for the days where you don’t have the motivation, energy, and focus. No matter how much you love what you do, these days will come. Your foundation will ground you when you lose a client or a key business partner decides to part ways. Adversity is going to strike. If you’re unprepared, you can be ruined.
Your foundation is there when changes in the market occur and buying patterns change. And oh yeah – when a massive global pandemic strikes that no one quite knows will end. That, too.
Trust Your Experience
When I launched my career as an executive coach and leadership consultant, I relied heavily on my experience working for one of the top management consulting firms in the world. I’ve played that up in conversations I’ve had to win new businesses and also realized how much that foundation in professional services helped me to create my programs and my business structure.
Look back at your experiences, skills, and natural talents and blend that with what you’re passionate about. This is where your creative imagination will take flight and allow you to build something unique. It’s about solving a problem that the marketplace needs and continuing to learn, grow, and adapt along the way. As much as you want to do new things, don’t hesitate to be a bit old school. That means creating a business plan.
This shouldn’t be optional. View this as essential. Being able to concisely put into writing exactly what you intend to accomplish is what the pros do. Now, don’t get carried away or get too caught up in the mechanics of it. You can find a simple template online and follow the basics of what you intend to do, the problem you solve, what makes you unique, and how you plan to market your services.
Marketing and Social Media
If you’re looking to grow your business when you’re first starting out, social media is a must-have for your marketing foundation. You need to learn how to differentiate yourself. First, it’s worthwhile to brainstorm on how you want to position your brand.
I can tell you that if you’re a creator, you’re going to want people to hear and see your most authentic voice when you’re posting and sharing on social media. Build your strategy around authenticity, your passions, and what makes your expertise unique. You will never, ever go wrong with this strategy.
Part of your social media foundation is a precise strategy of posting and targeting the audience you want to sell to. This means crafting copy that is appealing to them. Be consistent and post once per day during the week. Allow these posts to drive connection. Engage on platforms like Instagram and TikTok to understand and listen to the voice of the customer. This takes patience and empathy and this investment of your time is well worth it.
Trust your intuition but gain feedback from people that you trust in your inner circle and also those that you respect. Push yourself in the beginning to connect with industry leaders and those that you can learn from and can give you honest feedback. Building your foundation means putting your ego to the side and strengthening your core as an entrepreneur.
Developing marketing strategies that are innovative and modern and continuing to gain brand awareness will differentiate you from your peers. Remember: You may have the greatest product or service, but if no one knows about it, or can really identify who you are, it won’t matter.
New to social media? Check out these online courses for entrepreneurs featuring Facebook’s Blueprint and more.
You don’t need to delay your start until you have every single piece in order. Don’t sit on an idea. Get going, but be smart about how you build. The first year for an entrepreneur shouldn’t be viewed as a sprint – it truly is a marathon and you must look at it as the long-game. A foundation sets you up to spend your money wisely, make smart decisions, and set goals that are worth aspiring to.
Marketing strategies evolve. Plans change. But know this – there’s magic in movement and a firm structure will sustain you for a long, successful journey. The most successful entrepreneurs have great self-awareness; they know themselves inside and out and that allows them to identify the right opportunities to pursue. So saddle up for the long haul. And keep your eyes on those powerful visions. You’ll be there soon enough if you build the right foundation for success.