Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Leaping into Entrepreneurship

How to Build Your Own Network of Experts

By Cambridge Who’s Who Member and Contributing Author Cheryl Nordyke

When my business partners and I decided that we wanted to venture into entrepreneurship by starting our own e-commerce business, we knew that there would be so much to learn. We had chosen an industry that we did not have any experience in but a great deal of interest.

It seemed a little overwhelming at times but then I would reflect on every position I had ever held. I thought about what made me successful in those positions and realized that my success had always come from reaching out to the experts in the industry I was working in at the time. If I had a problem or did not know how to do something, as long as I knew how to get the answer, I was okay. I also determined which responsibilities I loved and excelled at and became an expert in those areas. In the areas where I didn’t have an interest, I developed relationships and sought resources to provide me with the skill set I needed to succeed.

Another strategy I learned from numerous mentors was to document and share my knowledge. Following their advice, I became the go-to person in all of my positions. This made me more valuable to my employers and helped me to excel in my career. From the age of 15 at my first job until I started my own business, I never had to look for a job; I was recruited for every position I held.

Breaking New Ground
When my business partners and I made the decision to go into a new business area, the question became, “How do we start a business with no apparent experience?” I soon realized that between the three of us we had generated over $20 million during the last 10 years for other companies. Combined, we had backgrounds in business development, marketing, public relations, customer relationship management and finance. We had more than desire and focus; we had sound experience and knowledge in key business areas. And just as important, we knew that we could learn or find someone who had knowledge and experience in areas we were not familiar with.

My first visit to the bookstore got us started on our business plan. The Internet gave us statistics to analyze the industry. Our stop to the Small Business Development Center enlightened us with the funding obstacles we would face and gave us access to resources we never would have thought of seeking.

Next, we stumbled upon a website called StartUp Nation that takes a completely new outlook on starting a business. First you develop your life plan and then analyze the life you want before even considering writing a business plan. The website has a blog, forum and newsletter area – all of which offer a wealth of information.

We then took a trip to our local county’s Economic Resource Center, which provided us with even more information on preparing a business plan. At this point, the cost for all our outside informational resources was zero dollars.

Another great online resource was http://www.gobignetwork.com/. This website allowed us to connect with vendors through a program called Vendor Seek. This is what we used to find our web developer. We spoke to more than 10 web developers and focused our attention on those specializing in e-commerce. We found a company that has been developing e-commerce-based websites for more than 10 years and offers numerous features necessary to running a virtually seamless and efficient website. In addition to providing a great website, they act as a resource center for setting up our site and structuring our discounts and coupons.

Lining Up Your Team of Experts
When we set out to create jewelry, we were introduced to a designer, Jessica Fields. Jessica has been in the fashion industry for several years – her own high-end line of jewelry is sold in boutiques around the country. Her expertise in the industry and access to manufacturers, packaging companies and design resources has not only set our company apart from others, but has also saved us the time and energy needed to pursue these options on our own.

Other experts and vendors that we used to fill in the gaps in our own business skills included credit card processors and others who were familiar with online businesses. We decided on First Data as our processor and used Authorize.net as the gateway. Both companies have proven to be knowledgeable and efficient in handling the issues we face as an e-commerce business.

Starting a new venture is both exciting and stressful. Just remember that you do not have to be an expert in every area. You simply need to know where to find experts in areas where you lack expertise and how to utilize their knowledge base to build your business. Follow these tips and you will be well on your way to running a successful company:

  • Reach out to those who have experience in areas where you do not.
  • Ask questions and document the answers for easy reference.
  • Do that which you know and love and let your team of resources handle the areas in which they hold expertise.

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