In May, I went back to school to start the Certificate of Entrepreneurship at the University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies (in collaboration with MaRS Discover District). Many of you have been following along this entrepreneurial journey of mine and taking in some of the interesting nuggets of information from the course.
I attended my final class in the first section of the certificate and wanted to share 6 of the most important tips I'm taking away with me.
6 Important Tips for Entrepreneurs
Favour experimentation over elaborate planning, customer feedback over intuition and iterative design over traditional up-front development. In short, experiment, listen and be flexible. This is part of the Lean Startup methodology and something that really resonates with me. As an entrepreneur you have to constantly evolve your products or services depending on what the market is telling you.
Make unknowns, known. You have an idea and YOU think it's a really good one, but before you get that big bank loan, test your assumptions. As entrepreneurs, we all make assumptions based on what we think is right, but it's extremely important to validate what you're doing. Determine if there really is a need for your product or service, and, most importantly, make sure people are willing to pay for it!
It's harder to execute than to come up with a good idea. This statement couldn't be more true. In my career I've worked with many people who have come up with what seems like the most outstanding and creative idea on paper, but once it comes to executing the idea, it all falls apart ... quickly. Execution is hard. It takes a lot of sweat, hard work and dedication. Once you have the idea, have a strong plan of execution and get ready to WORK.
The market can support multiple players ... that are on top of their game. Competition is healthy and good, right? It makes you better at what you do and everyone learns from each other. Just don't be the company that's falling way behind in the market (*cough, Blackberry, *cough, *cough). It's a fast moving world (like realllllly fast), make sure you stay ahead and pull in resources and partners when you need to.
Get out of your office and talk to your customers. Talking to your customers is one of the single most important things you can do. Don't rely on what your intuition is telling you, rely on your customers' opinions and feedback. It's easy to send out surveys via Survey Monkey (just make sure your customers agree to receive emails from you as strict new anti-spam legislation takes place July 1, 2014 in Canada). But remember, face-to-face interactions with your customers is always the best way to learn about what's working and what's not. Yes, Mrs. (or Mr.) CEO, is time to take to get out and talk to your customers!
Get ready to pivot! In class, we went through a list of companies that have all pivoted numerous times throughout their lifespan to eventually become as successful as they are now. The list includes Twitter, Pinterest and many more. Who knows what your idea will eventually evolve to become in order to be wildly successful?!
As I grow NorthPR, I will come back to this list as a reminder. As a PR professional, where my profession is, in fact, 'dead' (there are many articles about it, check it out here via let me Google this for you), I need to ensure I'm positioning my services well and not getting categorized as an old-fashioned, traditional PR agency.
While I've been building my company, I've considered not calling it a PR company. Many have asked if I'm concerned about the stigma behind PR. This is whole other blog post (or series) and for now I'm sticking to PR because it's not a trendy marketing 'content-type' buzzword (I'm a strong believer that good PR professionals are strategic, talented storytellers who know how to build relationships and credibility for a brand). But I really need to get out there and validate this with my potential customers and get ready to pivot at any time!
All in all, the Entrepreneurship program was very valuable, and not only as I begin my own business, but as I help other entrepreneurs grow their companies.
Please be sure to check out my other blog posts about the course to get a better idea of the content and if this course is right for you! And reach out to me at any time if you'd like to learn more.
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This is a sponsored post on behalf of University of Toronto School of Continuing Studies Certificate in Entrepreneurship program; however, the opinions provided are my own.