The developed world has almost always offered fertile ground to anyone with a desire to try something new in the relatively “free” market, but not everyone who does so holds a helpful MBA from Harvard. For many budding entrepreneurs, entrepreneurship was little more than an afterthought as they sought only to do the kind of work they longed for.
From the artist struggling to make ends meet in a large, bustling metropolitan city to the organic vegetable farmer launching a neighborhood CSA because his friends asked him to, some people end up in business without ever having intended to, but that doesn’t mean their business can’t be a massive success. If you’re an accidental entrepreneur doing something you love just hoping you can figure out how to succeed in business at it, here are six ways to gain some quick business acumen.
Nurture Your Competitive Side
Not everyone was born a fierce competitor, but that doesn’t mean you can’t nurture and hone your competitive side in order to tackle the needs of your business more effectively. Like it or not, capitalism is something of a dog-eat-dog environment, and while there’s no need to cheat, lie, steal, or blackmail to get ahead, you’ll still need a healthy sense of competition in order to stay in the black. Whether you hire speakers from Shark Tank to offer their knowledge or join an indoor soccer league, fuel your desire to win. You’re going to need it.
Get to Know Your Market
Attitude, however, isn’t everything, and one of the first lessons for any entrepreneur — accidental or otherwise — is to get to know your market. Who do you expect to buy your product or service? Where do they reside? Where can you find them with your advertising? How much are they willing to pay? Getting to know your eventual customer base, a.k.a. your demographic, is a key component to running a successful business, so don’t take shortcuts in this regard. The better you get to know the people to whom you’re trying to sell, the more effective you’ll be at selling to them.
Brush Up on Knowledge
Let’s say you accidentally went into business selling handmade shoes. You watched a cobbler on YouTube, learned how to make high-quality shoes, and your designs are so attractive people started harassing you about buying them. What, if anything, do you actually know about shoemaking? About feet? About materials and suppliers and managing inventory? Regardless of they way in which you are trying to make money, you need to brush up on knowledge about your particular industry and about business in general. Read books. Attend webinars. Take classes. In every way you can, expand your knowledge base.
It can be terrifying when you first find yourself in business to realize that you have no idea of what you’re up to, which is why it’s important that every time you run into another blank wall of your own ignorance, you get help. From tax advice to regulatory compliance, the world of business is a complex place. Get help as soon as you recognize you need it, and you’ll be able to put out the small fires you accidentally start before they actually burn you and your business down.
Put Yourself in Your Customers’ Shoes
Empathy is a powerful skill, and when a businessperson is able to apply it to her customer base, it makes for a successful business and happier customers. Whether you’re making soap, snaking pipes, or serving waffles, put yourself in your customers’ shoes at every opportunity. Give them the service, products, communication, savings, and more that you’d like to experience if you were in their place, and you should find being in business as natural as whatever it was that landed you in business in the first place.
Find a Mentor
There are many reasons to look for someone to mentor you when you first start a business, and while gaining insight and wisdom into the difficulties you are facing and will face is important, you should also find a mentor because you’re going to need encouragement. Being an entrepreneur is hard work, and the vast majority of small businesses and startups fail within 18 months. Find a mentor who has already started a business, struggled to survive, and learned how to thrive. Not only will you benefit from your mentor’s business acumen, but during lean and difficult times, he will give you the help you need to stay the course.
So, don’t lament your accidental entrepreneurship. Embrace it by grabbing as much business insight as you can with these six tips and others like them.