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Three Stages of the Entrepreneurial Journey

This post is sponsored by Anderson Insurance Agency

In the spirit of Valentine’s Day, let’s talk about relationships. No, not that kind. But as any business owner knows, the process of starting a business from scratch and growing it progresses through stages just like any relationship.

Ann Anderson of Farmers Insurance knows a thing or two about these stages. In fact, she claims that there are three distinct stages of development as one starts a business.

First,” Ann says, “you need to know whether you plan to transition out of your current career entirely, or whether you plan to stick with the same, or similar, industry in the new business.”

Anderson’s banking and finance background provided her with the perfect pathway into running her own insurance company.

If you love something, it still has to make you a profit in order to be called a business,” she laughs. “Otherwise, it’s a hobby. You have to ask yourself, ‘Is this business something I can sustain and that will sustain me?”

Stage 1: Launch

Most business fail within their first year for one of two reasons:

  1. a lack of capital, or
  2. a lack of training support and knowledge.

Anderson suggests that all new or prospective business owners take a close look at these aspects of business ownership early in the buying or startup process.

“Ask yourself whether capital is available,” says Anderson. “Furthermore, many franchises provide support, marketing dollars, training dollars, etc. Know what your resources are and take advantage of them.”

Stage 2: Growth

Once a business has been purchased and established, most owners move into the second stage of questions. Anderson remarks,

As a business owner, you have to make all sorts of decisions about marketing, networking, and social media. How are you going to market yourself? Are you going to maintain a blog? How does social media and digital marketing fit into your overall plan? What kind of interactions will you have with local chambers of commerce and other professional organizations? To succeed requires a strategy.”

New business owners, according to Anderson, will either “dabble or dominate.

I was guilty of dabbling initially,” Anderson chuckles. “But focusing is key. My focus? It’s Frisco business owners. I am a Frisco cheerleader… All things and everything Frisco because I love this city.”

Whether the focus is geographical, demographical, or driven by some other characteristic, laser-focusing on your ideal target market with a clear customer persona is imperative to a new business’ success.

During this second stage, Anderson says that new business owners can leap-frog forward by intentionally establish a culture.

Think about what kind of culture you’re going to create,” she insists. “It might feel awkward if there are only 1 or two employees, but it’s still helpful to look at companies like Disney and Nordstrom and apply their concepts to your small business.

Also consider leading-edge books like GOOD AUTHORITY: How to Become the Leader Your Team is Waiting For.”

The values, principles, and culture of a business, no matter how small, become distinctive factors from Day 1. As a personal example, Anderson offers…

For instance, at Farmers Insurance, we give back. That’s part of who we are. Time, money, resources. It might look different day to day, but we intentionally give back to the Frisco community. We’re developing a plan where we support a different non-profit each month. I believe with all that I am that I have an obligation to give back to my community who is already giving so much to me.”

Stage 3: Formal Processes

The third stage of a business often involves the nuts and bolts of the structure and establishing processes. Anderson points out…

Some entrepreneurs may not have a store-front. You might work entirely online. But as an entrepreneur, you have to be ultra-disciplined, especially if no one is telling you to show up. This lifestyle is not for everyone.”

As a new business owner, some of your products may not generate income immediately, but it’s important to have a plan for your focus areas and make sure that everything consuming your time affects your bottom line down the road.

In the early days, I set my alarm clock and got dressed every morning, even on days when I didn’t have to be anywhere. I started to schedule a lot of morning appointments, since those fuel and motivate me.”

Numbers also come into play in the third stage of a young business, as well as structure. Watch your numbers or they’ll watch you. And, don’t be afraid to hire experts who know more about bookkeeping, taxes, or contracts than you do.

The biggest misconception, Anderson notes, about the entrepreneur’s lifestyle, is that it’s an easier path. 

I work harder now than I ever have,” Ann laughs. “Longer days, busier schedule, little flexibility.”

But clearly, for those really called to the entrepreneurial lifestyle, get ready for these three stages and you’ll find there’s no better path.