Among the growing list of concerns for millions of people right now is job security. From employees to small business owners, everyone is processing life-altering impacts and unsure of what the future may hold.
As many people are using this time to reflect on what is truly important to them and what aspects of normalcy they are most eager to get back to, home-based entrepreneurship might be something worth exploring. When society's pause button switches to resume, what pursuits will matter the most?
Take the time to find out what gets you excited.
In 2014, I was gearing up for graduation from Iowa State University with my bachelor's degree in finance and financial management services in hand. I invested time working in a corporate environment but knew it wasn't something I wanted to be a part of. It was nothing against corporate America, I just wanted to push myself to see if I could build something that was my own with me in the driver's seat. During my senior year, I started working with a business broker to help me identify smaller investment opportunities that I could buy, scale and grow.
At 23 years old, I purchased InXpress, a home-based shipping and logistics franchise. It wasn't 'logistics' that got me excited, but the growth opportunity available as every small-to-medium size enterprise has recurring shipping needs, the flexibility to create my own schedule and the chance to be my own boss. It was challenging to launch the business, but the entrepreneurial skills gained will always be practical. I'm glad I jumped into entrepreneurship when I did because I took the risk early on in my career.
Prepare for the hardest hurdle – the first year of business.
The most important and arguably most stressful time when launching any home business is the first year. It's common for new business owners to go through a “baptism by fire” beginning. Accept that mistakes will be made but the foundational groundwork put into the first year will greatly impact the future success and health of the business.
To get my business off the ground, making genuine connections and selling discounted shipping rates was key. Yet even with training and knowing I was offering a valuable solution, it still required me to develop my sales pitch and long hours of cold calling, door knocking and setting up one-on-one meetings to break through. In my first six months, I made $77 and wondered what I was doing wrong. I had to quickly adjust my strategy and seek guidance from other entrepreneurs. I promised myself that I would at least give it a year and I'm glad I did as now I own three InXpress branches. The first year of operations is always filled with hardships and sacrifices, but these growing pains are a part of the process and will make a stronger business owner.
Find mentors, and build a network of small business owners
I tapped into the resources available within the franchise and sought out fellow business owners who experienced similar struggles and turned it around as mentors. In the beginning, I was stuck in this, "me against the world" mentality. I had hard goals, and I wanted to impress others but felt I could do it on my own. I refused to believe that working alongside others with similar goals was positive – I saw them as competition.
However, once I embraced the team culture and value of having people to bounce ideas off of and share best practices with, business started pouring in. Even though I'm in business for myself, it doesn't mean I need to do by myself. I now volunteer my time and use my experiences to help others who join InXpress and know my network of small business owners are always a phone call away.
Whether it is another entrepreneur providing you an extension of support or vice versa, always strive to build a partnership at the core of your business. Embracing this outlook will be crucial to your success and aid you in becoming a principal team player.
Set the rules, and identify the target market to serve.
As the boss, understand all the decisions are up to you. Even with a proven model and essential service to sell, I still got to build my business the way I wanted. I had the flexibility to set my hours, how many employees I wanted to bring on board, where I wanted to do business and who I wanted to target. Even now with the unprecedented impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic downturn, I'm able to persistent to be there for my e-commerce customers who rely on me to ship efficiently, provide real-time updates and help reduce costs.
In most cases, the target customer is whoever would benefit the most from the product or service being provided. However, sometimes it means hand-selecting what demographic you want to go after the most.
Once the core customer is determined, you can then build a marketing strategy around them and better learn how to reach them. For instance, I know based on the different industries I work with, who the decision-makers are and with whom I need to communicate.
Start with a small team and grow as needed.
When starting a home business, more often than not, you are the only employee. As you continue to grow and require more hands on deck, hiring the right individuals becomes an essential next step. I waited until I was in my third year of business before hiring and by the fourth year, I brought on two full-time employees – a sales representative and customer service representative. Training others can be difficult, but I knew if I wanted to see my business grow, it was time to bring in support. If you're lacking a skill such as sales management, then consider hiring a sales manager or find self-motivated people who keep themselves accountable.
Personal growth is the end goal.
I've been recognized for my sales growth and even hit the quarter-million-dollar club last year. While I'm happy to see when hard work pays off, the most gratifying aspect of being an entrepreneur is my own personal development. No one can take away the skills and lessons I've learned along the way. If you are motivated, invested, and willing, then you will learn to define your own success when starting a business from home.