For students across the country, the lazy days of summer are coming to a close and a new school year is right around the corner. As an entrepreneur, you can learn a lot more than you think from back-to-school season. Here are 10 school-inspired tips to apply to your business strategy.
Do your homework
While no small business is guaranteed to be successful, one thing that will improve your odds is doing your "homework." For an entrepreneur, this means thoroughly researching your competition, financial options and target market, as well as putting a solid business plan in place before you launch your startup. You'll have a much easier time passing the big tests of a startup — the elevator pitch, your marketing strategy, the first sale — if you're thoroughly prepared.
Go for extra credit
Providing exceptional customer service and going the extra mile for your customers can make all the difference in getting repeat business. Respond to questions and concerns quickly express your appreciation for their business and take the time to talk to your customers to learn about them and what they want. Friendly, personal interactions will earn you a solid "A" in your clients' minds (and probably a nice profit in your bank account, too).
Teacher knows best
Mentorship is extremely important for entrepreneurs, especially when they're first starting out. You can really learn a lot from someone who's been in your shoes. A mentor can put you in touch with industry connections, help you through your startup growing pains and give valuable insights for your present and future business goals. Even if you don't agree with all the advice you're given, respect your mentor's willingness to share the time and energy to help you learn and grow as a business owner.
You can't be too prepared
Remember when you moved into your first college dorm and thought you brought way too much with you, only to discover that the extra screwdriver you packed came in handy mid-year? Similarly, you can never be too prepared when it comes to running a business. Even if it seems like you're overthinking, it's good to be ready for even the most unlikely of situations. What will you do if you don't raise all the funds you need? What if one of your team members unexpectedly bails on you? What if you need to rethink your entire branding strategy? Knowing what to do in the event of a crisis will help you navigate any obstacles you might encounter.
College students are constantly told to network with professionals in their future career fields. As many grads — and entrepreneurs — have learned, the right connections can open up opportunities that would have remained closed otherwise. Take every chance you get to reach out to other small business owners, whether it's to get a few tips, do a small favor or just have a friendly conversation. You never know who might be able to lend a helping hand to you at some point down the road.
You won't always stick to the syllabus
Think of your business plan as the syllabus for your startup. Like the syllabus for a class, your plan includes a description of your company, what you'll need to run the business, and your long-term goals. And like a class, your business might end up taking a slightly different path than you had initially anticipated. Maybe you didn't meet your first-year projections, or you ended up having to change directions on a project halfway through. While having a clear-cut strategy is crucial, part of running a startup is being able to adapt when things don't go according to plan. Students learn some of the most important and inspiring lessons when their professor veers from the syllabus; the same could be true of your business.
Building a routine takes time
It often takes students a few weeks to get back into the swing of things when the new school year begins. In the early stages of your business (and even later on if you make a drastic strategy change), you're likely to have a "trial and error" period before you really figure out the best way to operate. This might be a frustrating time, but you just need to persevere and power through until you get onto steadier ground.
Failure is not defeat
In school, one failed test doesn't mean you should drop the entire class. Similarly, in business, one misstep doesn't necessarily mean you should give up on your entrepreneurial venture. Take the experience and learn from it. Retrace your steps and figure out exactly where you went wrong. If you have the resources to immediately try again, do so, while employing the knowledge you gained from your mistakes. If you can't keep going right away, hold onto that knowledge and wait for your next opportunity.
You're never done learning
You might have thought you knew everything while you were in high school, but you quickly discovered you were wrong. Having a successful startup doesn't mean you have nothing left to learn about entrepreneurship. Always be open to lessons from others in and out of your industry. The world is like a university, and your business is just one small course in it.
Originally published on BusinessNewsDaily.