As they say, knowledge is power. It is so true. A few years ago, I came to realize that without a college degree, it would difficult for me to compete in this current economic environment. Without a college degree and majoring in accounting, I wouldn’t have been able to write Cash In with Your Money (iUniverse, November 2011), a financial literacy book or have founded Moneyvations, to inspire young adults to be financially successful. We can’t stop learning, especially in this world where innovation and globalization are becoming dominant. Throughout my transition from student to author and entrepreneur, I have learned many lessons on running a business I would like to share:
1. Be educated and informed.
As a business owner or manager running a business, you have the responsibility to be educated and fully understand the business you are operating. This means knowing your products and services you sell to your customers. It does not look great when a customer asks a question about a specific product or service and gets no valid answer. Being informed in your industry genre is also important so you can stay informed and compete effectively. I am constantly educating myself by reading articles, newsletters, publications, so I can stay on top of the industry trends. I also attend seminars and conferences in my industry field not only to learn, but to also interact with other financial professionals. Recently, I become a Certified Educator in Personal Financial and am currently participating in the Gallup’s Entrepreneur Acceleration.
2. Focus on employees.
Most of time businesses focus on their customers more than their employees. As we have heard often “customers come first.” No, your employees also should come first. Employees who are treated well are most likely to be productive and deliver good customer service by making customer happy. I always make sure to treat all my contractors, freelancers with respect and dignity so they can they deliver good services for the benefits of my clients. Using this approach can help you be a better employer and help your employees understand what you want and need from them.
3. Realize your competitors are not your enemy.
Spending money and resources attacking your competitors may not be the best alternative in attracting new customers and retaining old ones. Instead of that “nasty” strategy, learn from your competitors. Find out what they are doing, how, why and the results they are getting and if possible share resources with them. The only way you can differentiate from your competitors and attract customers is to have a competitive advantage. Not too long ago, I learned about another organization similar to mine that provides financial education to young adults. Instead of competing, I contacted them to see which areas we can work together on for the benefit of our audiences. They were interested in by book, and I was impressed by their curriculum. We are currently talking about a partnership where they will provide my book for the clients, and I will be using part of their curriculum for my upcoming seminars.
4. Rely on innovation.
As you run a business, it is necessary that you come up with new ideas and be creative to grow your business and be successful in the future. Being innovative will help your products or services find a great pathway through unique ideas, maintain a success track even during a difficult time. It’s no surprise some businesses have an innovative department. I realized that my services alone (coaching, speaking engagement, international student assistance) were not enough to drive my business to success and set it apart from competitions. At that point, I realized the importance of developing a product: Cash In with Your Money was born, focusing on young adults’ financial problems.
5. Let the world know.
We all agree that in this global market, you have to let the world know about your product and services. How can a business owner achieve that goal? The answer is simple: web and social media presence. To have a successful business, you need a website that describes your business and the products and services you offer. On top of the web presence, social media presence is needed. You can’t have a business without having a Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google Plus, or at least one of them. Through social media, your business becomes known even in a broad market. Two months ago after my book was published, I received an email from a college student in Glasgow, UK who wanted to purchase a signed book. He found my business profile on Facebook and visited my website. My social media presence gives me the opportunity to be exposed globally.
6. Make ethics and social responsibilities high priority.
As you run a business, make ethics and social responsibility one of your priorities, and make sure these values are communicated and understood by your employees. Businesses that demonstrate ethical and social responsibilities are trusted by the stakeholders. After all, ethics and social responsibility are good for business. As a business owner, I realize on the importance of giving back to my community. I volunteer my time and skills by speaking regularly to high school students on the importance of making wise financial decisions through Junior Achievement (a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering young people to own their economic success).
7. Pursue more education.
Make sure you have achieved the level of education necessary to move ahead in your industry. Going back to school can be a difficult task, especially if one has to care for family and work at the same time. As you are planning to go school, it is important to have some organization and time management skills in order to balance priorities. If you have a family, they should be involved in the process. You need to explain to them your goals about getting educated. They should be able to understand your objective and support you along the road. As college degree demands sacrifices, you need to arm yourself with courage and stay motivated. Don’t forget to tap into many resources your college or university has available for you. Keep this in mind: As you begin, that means you are done! Time goes by so fast.
If you are looking to start your own business, these tips will help give you a head start. In short, keep on learning. Continually remaining conscious of new and better business practices as well as your own personal development will help you take your business to the next level. In turn, you can serve as an example to your employees and mentor them along their paths.
Marco LeRoc is an author, entrepreneur and money coach. Marco received a Bachelor of Science in Accounting from Bellevue University in 2009 and has an experience in the banking and sales industries. He is the founder of Moneyvations, an organization that focuses on the financial well-being of young adults through education, coaching, and empowerment. He published Cash in With Your Money, a book on financial literacy. Marco is member of the American Association of Individual Investors and the Financial Planning Association. Marco grew up in West Africa, Lome Togo and currently resides in Omaha, Nebraska. He looks forward to returning to school soon, to pursue further degrees and achieve his dreams.