Entrepreneurs are critical vertebrae in the backbone of the U.S. economy, which is why professionals—aspiring and seasoned—should spend National Entrepreneurship Month recognizing and learning about their contributions.
Every entrepreneur has their own formula for business success, though most are connected by a few commonalities: creativity, innovation, risk-taking and work ethic. Most important, they know how to position themselves with the right resources to take advantage when opportunity strikes.
As someone who works with small business owners every day, I have seen several strategies for success. To celebrate and share stories of entrepreneurship, here are three best practices I learned from 123Pet customers that any businessperson can benefit from.
Identify a Gap in the Market
The best entrepreneurs have a full understanding of the market—from where it is lacking to where it is oversaturated. No savvy professional wants to open a business where there is already steep competition and little opportunity to differentiate. Instead, they should identify what consumer needs haven’t been filled or what challenges haven’t been solved. Therein lies the opportunity to capitalize on a gap in the market and become a leader in the space.
In other words, instead of reinventing the wheel, see who already has a wheel and figure out where they want to go.
A great exemplifier of this is Colleen Medere, who owns and operates Bubble Puppy Pool House, Michigan’s only dog groomer and pool house where dogs can enjoy a 30-minute swim lesson followed by a full grooming session. As a pet owner herself, Colleen knew two things about dogs: not only do they love to swim, but a tuckered-out pup is easier for her employees to groom and for her clients to pick up after an appointment.
It would be a win-win for dog owners who want to pamper their pets and, to an extent, themselves. Colleen ran with this idea—using scheduling software to make it easy for customers to sign up for both pool and grooming services at once, and offering unique promotions such as the “dip and clip special.”
Become an End-to-End Expert—or Partner with Someone Who Is
Entrepreneurs can’t rely solely on the next “big” idea. They need to understand how to run a business—and what to do if the next big idea excels. Small business owners wear multiple hats, including manager, HR pro, marketer and accountant.
So, if an entrepreneur only knows how to fill one or two of these roles, they need to find a partner with complementary expertise. A great business idea won’t scale if it isn’t supported with the right operational and financial infrastructure.
For example, Mike Conners, the owner of Haute Dogge Grooming Salon in Tennessee, wanted to buy a business that gave him more work-life balance after serving in the United States Air Force for almost 20 years. Mike’s daughter, Jennifer Bartman, was a pet groomer, so together they opened a grooming salon with three employees.
While Jennifer ran operations, Mike managed the behind-the-scenes of the business, such as accounting. Mike’s first order of business was updating the grooming salon from its previous pen-and-paper model. By implementing software, Mike was able to run reports more frequently to monitor growth, measure top performers and track the financial health of the business. Six years later, Haute Dogge has expanded to three brick-and-mortar locations, one mobile unit and 24 employees.
Prioritize Customer Service, Always
Entrepreneurship is competitive—even cut-throat—in today’s crowded market where customer loyalty is fickler than ever. It’s critical for business owners to identify and maximize their differentiators, especially when it comes to customer service.
According to Frost & Sullivan, customer experience is expected to overtake both price and product as a key brand differentiator by 2020. The more entrepreneurs understand their customer, the better they can cater to their specific needs and preferences.
Abbey Trobe understood the importance of customer service when she started Calling All Paws Mobile Grooming in Illinois at the age of 25. As a veterinary technician, Abbey wanted to deliver a grooming experience that was less stressful for animals and more convenient for pet owners.
Not only did she start a mobile grooming business—bringing her services to the client’s doorstep—but she digitized her business to set herself apart from other mobile groomers who still use paper calendars. Abbey’s customers can schedule appointments online at their leisure and will receive email confirmations and text reminders leading up to the appointment. Those personal touches keep her customers coming back.
Every entrepreneurial journey is different, though the formula for success—at least at a high level—may be universal. Discover a passion, whether it’s pet grooming, hairstyling or tattooing. Become an expert in the market.
Find out what those customers need and how their experiences could be improved. Equip yourself with all the resources you need—from capable employees and business partners, to software and digital tools that make business simpler. And when in doubt, reach out to mentors and learn from their stories.
Jeff Dickerson is CEO of DaySmart Software, the makers of 123Pet, a leading pet care business management software for appointment booking, staff management, payment processing, marketing and customer communications for pet care professionals worldwide.
Entrepreneurs stock photo by fizkes/Shutterstock