Taking the plunge to be an entrepreneur and setting out on your own can seem daunting. Too many people either don’t know this is a career option, or think the risks are too great. Here are my Top 3 Tips for new entrepreneurs:
1. Just do it
As I’ve written and spoken about elsewhere, I am a huge advocate of entrepreneurial activity as a means to self actualization. So many people are working day jobs that they might define as “plan B,” and my question is always, “why not give your plan A a chance?” If you have a burning desire to do something in business, why not give it a try? Worst case scenario, you’re back to plan B. In my case, this epiphany came after I was fired from a graphic design job. I decided over a conciliatory slice of pie with a friend that I would take my small severance to the bank with a plan to open a beauty bar. I’d always believed the market lacked options – you basically had the choice of a low-end nail bar or a super-high-end day spa. There was no “Starbucks of spas” – a quick, fun, high-quality place with a social vibe. Within a few days, I’d signed a lease and had a business plan to the bank, and the rest is history. Ten years later, there are twenty locations of THE TEN SPOT across Canada, with 10 more set to open this year. Personally, I’ve gained so much from taking that initial risk.
2. Know your segment and your strategy
When you decide to become and entrepreneur, you need to really test your idea against the market. What’s new about it? Is anyone else doing it? If so, what’s special about your idea? How will you compete, especially if there are other big players? There are lots of strategy frameworks and ways of analyzing consumer segments and behaviours, but the most important thing is the outcome. You need to know where you are situated in the market and how that’s different from everyone else, and also how you plan to keep a competitive advantage. In the case of The Ten Spot, this came easily. There were no trendy places for a group of women to go have a manicure and chat over a glass of wine – with the assurance that it was ultra clean and high quality as well. Our first location, in Toronto’s then up-and-coming Queen West neighbourhood, gained an immediate cult following and garnered a great deal of media attention that continues to this day.
However, this type of thinking could kill you idea completely. You may do analysis and realize the business idea makes no sense. I recently had a discussion with a friend who was interested in doing a pocket square business for men’s suits. When the analysis was completed, the margins and supply chain were too challenging. It would have been hard to turn a profit or position the business as something new in the market.
3. Trust your gut
Being an entrepreneur takes a special disposition, and its something you do need to cultivate within yourself. You need to be smart enough to take advice from people whose expertise you don’t personally have, but you also need to have a strong sense of who you are. Sometimes that means making choices against the advice of others. Too much compromise and you’ve lost the whole business to other interests. Lawyers and financial people will always give you the most conservative advice, and may advocate strongly. It may be tough, but you have to cultivate an internal barometer of your risk tolerance and what’s important to you. Sometimes you will be swayed to take the less risky path, but in my experience, the decisions I’ve regretted the most are the ones where I knew I was right and didn’t trust myself. Where’s the fun in that?
Kristen Wood is CEO and Founder of THE TEN SPOT. As CEO, her main focus is on brand oversight, development and expansion. Wood has her hands in everything – from developing new service protocols to designing collateral and wining and dining all new franchise partners. She was named one of PROFIT/Chatelaine magazine’s top 100 female entrepreneurs in Canada in 2016, and landed her business on PROFIT 500’s fastest growing companies in 2016. Since first opening, THE TEN SPOT has grown exponentially across Canada with plans for expansion in the US of A! When she is not in the office, Wood is swooning over her young son and enjoying weekly date nights with her hubby.