One of the most daunting challenges a person ever faces is starting their own business. U.S. Small Business Association statistics indicate that only 60 percent of new businesses get through their first two years and at least 50 percent fail within five years. Making it to five years does not guarantee success nor does it assure that your business is profitable or that you can earn a living.
Now that you are an agent, what can you do to make your business successful and profitable? Start with the understanding that building a business is much like taking a journey, fraught with challenges that lie ahead. As the leader you must know where you are headed, understand your direction, stick with it and of course make all the decisions. We have outlined our MAPSS process to help you navigate a course when starting out as a telecom agent.
Money. The old adage “it takes money to make money” has never been truer than when it comes to starting a business, and you can never have too much capital to fuel your business. Rent, equipment, promotional expenses, travel, entertainment and payroll are all expenses requiring capital. As a telecom agent you will need to either use your own money, known as “bootstrapping,” borrow from a lender or obtain capital from outside sources, such as independent or venture capital investors. Excess capital is a positive situation, especially when starting out. It is better to have capital available and not use it than need it and not have access to it.
Advice. Seek advice by joining or forming an advisory group with representation from within and outside of your industry and enlist the support of people who can help. The more senior people you have in your group the better. Advisers who understand your business and industry will help you with the more specific challenges you will face while non–industry advisers may be able to assist with issues that are more general and provide access to business contacts and referrals. Both are invaluable for your business.
Planning. One of the most overlooked areas when starting out, whether or not you require outside investment, is a business plan. Lenders and private investors typically require a formal business plan before providing capital or a business loan. There is no need to write a business plan that rivals “War and Peace,” and we encourage our clients to start with an outline and then fill in the details. We recommend starting with no more than 10 pages, which includes a section on financial projections. When starting a business there is always enthusiasm and rightfully so, but do not let your enthusiasm cloud your judgment. Unless you have orders already in hand, do not forecast sales too aggressively. It is better to project your revenues conservatively and spend your money cautiously. Pay particular attention to the financial section of your plan and develop a very conservative budget and work within it. You can always spend more if you need to but you cannot get cash back once it has been spent.
Sales. Sales are the key to your success. Operate under the axiom that nothing happens until somebody sells something. In your business plan you have or will identify the target markets and segments and the collateral you will need. Spend as much time as possible each day prospecting and building your sales pipeline. Reach out to everyone: clients, business associates, friends and as many former clients and prospects as you can. When you speak to these contacts tell them about your business and ask for referrals.
Support. If sales is the road to success, support is the vehicle. High-quality, “you can count on us” customer support is key to the success of any business, especially telecom agents. It is also equally important to have excellent carrier relationships. Start developing those relationships right away and nurture them. Indentify the senior people responsible for all of your carriers and contact them. Introduce yourself, tell them about your business and ask them about any additional programs or support they can provide to you without charge. You would be surprised at what is available if you only just ask.
All great explorers followed their plans as they set out on expeditions. Good maps helped them discover exciting new worlds, guiding them and keeping their people safe on their journeys. The best explorers gained fame and great fortune along the way, while those explorers who had no maps, bad maps or failed to understand and correctly follow their maps often had less than desired results.
Looking for More?
Hear more of Channel Coach Bill Taylor’s advice for starting out on the right path as a telecom agent at the Fall 2009 Channel Partners Conference & Expo, Sept. 23-25, in Miami. For more info, visit www.channelpartnersconference.com.
Bill Taylor is president of Corporate Ladders, a management, sales and business development consulting and coaching firm specializing in technology, telecom, Internet, health care and financial services companies. He can be reached at +1 201 825 8296 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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