Competitive Edge

In his book, The Road Ahead, Bill Gates of Microsoft writes of “friction-free capitalism” made possible by developments in communications, chief among them the Internet and its World Wide Web. In this context, “friction” is everything that keeps markets from functioning as the “perfect competition” of economics textbooks. This friction can be a function of distance between buyer and seller, costs of overcoming this distance, and incomplete or incorrect information.

Friction manifests itself by causing barriers to entry for new competitors, limiting the number of outlets from which the consumer has to choose. Large companies, with multiple sales outlets, and economies of scale, have greater power to direct the marketplace.

The degree of friction in the developed world has been decreasing for some years now. Affordable air travel, overnight delivery, improved telephone and fax communications have shortened distances. Credit cards and toll-free numbers have spawned at-home shopping from sources across the country.

The Web has taken the friction in our economy down another notch. In principle, we can sell products and services to a worldwide audience as easily and effectively as our largest multi-national competitor. In principle, we can sell products and services to a worldwide audience as easily and effectively as our largest multi-national competitor. In the friction-less economy, the challenge of differentiating ourselves from the competition becomes even greater.

In the friction-less economy, the challenge of differentiating ourselves from the competition becomes even greater. Successful small businesses tend to be those who can find some competitive edge, even when their product or service is similar to those around them.

Marketing professionals often call a business’ competitive edge their “unique selling proposition”, or USP. Pinpointing and refining one’s USP, however, is not a simple matter. An approach is unique only in the context of our competitors’ marketing messages.

Some marketing messages go beyond product and service characteristics. For example, Charles Revson, founder of Revlon, insisted that he sold hope, not makeup. Similarly, United Airlines sells “friendly skies”, and Wal-Mart sells “always” the low price. Do these slogans convey how each company views their customers? Does their selling proposition appeal to your preferences?

Sharpen your USP:

  • Put yourself in your customer’s shoes; satisfy their needs, not yours.
  • Know what motivates behavior and buying decisions.
  • Find the real reasons people would buy your product instead of a competitor’s. Ask them!
  • “Shop” the competition, be open-minded about your product, and never stop looking for ways to make your product stand out.
  • Try now to recast your business idea in terms of its competitive advantage. Prepare an industry analysis (size, customers, trends, and competitiveness). Identify what you see as your specific market, and estimate the share you think you can capture.

    The Web can be a powerful research assistant. Virtually every major business puts product and service information on the Web, including business directory services and magazines.

    Search engines can help in improving your understanding of your industry, and the key success factors. Test the resources available on the Web. Visit sites of major companies in the industry, where appropriate. Search the archives of business magazines for articles that give background and statistics.

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has over 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site www.jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available on Amazon.

    Selecting a Venture

    Craft an entry strategy. What type of business could best seize the chosen opportunity?

    The basic rule is simple: “Find a market need and fill it!” The process of finding the need, and the method chosen to fill it are where the difficulties arise.

    Based on our opportunity scan, does the market need a product or service that is not currently being provided? Is there a needed product or service currently being provided in a less than satisfactory way? Is some particular market being underserved due to capacity shortages or location gaps? Can we serve any of these needs with some competitive advantage?

    Remember that a business idea is not a business opportunity until it is evaluated objectively and judged to be feasible. You may wish to choose two to five of the ideas that seem most promising for more detailed study. Trying to consider too many would spread your time, energy and focus too thin. At the same time, if you focus too early on only one business idea, you are more likely to become “attached” to it, and could lose your objectivity.

    Testing the feasibility of your top business ideas involves time and effort to collect key information. A first pass might consist of consulting recent journal articles that evaluate the market of interest; most libraries have computer-based indexes of periodical articles, such as InfoTrac. Other useful library resources include industry trade books, directories, and other sources of industry statistics.

    Data collected from industry sources and journal articles is often referred to as secondary data, in that it was collected for purposes not directly related to our specific venture. Sometimes this can be sufficient, though we may find the need to fill the gaps with primary data. Collection of primary data can be very expensive. It generally consists of conducting market surveys, in person or by telephone, of a statistically significant random sample of our prospective clientele.

    Craft an entry strategy. What type of business could best seize the chosen opportunity? Would taking in partners with complementary skills enhance my chances for success? What would be the optimum location? Whom would we serve, and how? Would my chances be improved by buying a franchise or an existing business, as opposed to starting a venture “from scratch?”

    A small business is the usual product of entrepreneurship. Can a person start a large business? Only 4% of businesses employ over 20 people at start-up. What kinds of businesses are the larger start-ups likely to be? My sense is that most would be food service businesses, and many of those would be franchises.

    Over half of business start-ups consist of 1 or 2 employees. What kinds of businesses can you enter with only 1 or 2 employees? Most would probably be considered professional practices (medical, law, accounting) rather than commercial businesses.

    Small businesses are characterized by independent management, closely-held ownership, a primarily local area of operations, and a scale that is small in comparison with competitors. Many are small by design, or are “lifestyle” businesses, where the primary objective is employment for the principals.

    Many are intended to be more “entrepreneurial ventures,” with the intention of generating substantial growth in scale of operations and profitability. Successful entrepreneurs craft such an idea into a business concept that, hopefully, fills a void in the marketplace. You should enjoy your concept and be excited enough to relay your feelings to your market.

    Your concept does not need to be a major breakthrough. It could simply be an improvement to an existing product or service. The improvement could be as simple as better service and/or quality than is currently available, a faster or otherwise better method of delivery, or a technological improvement.

    Solicit input from friends and other consumers of the product as currently offered. Ask questions like: Is there a need? Would YOU buy it? What price would you expect to pay for it? Is there a better way to provide it?

    Check out how the competition is providing the product to the market. Determine what makes your concept different from the competition. Why would the market be better off doing business with you? What can you give the market to improve their experience with the product? Does your product or service exceed the expectations of the market?

    Define the needs of your market by listening to the customers and understanding how your product might fill that need. Is there something more you could do, to make it more attractive to your market? Is your product a solution to a problem in your market? How will you handle customer service complaints? What are your guarantees to your customers?

    Statistics show that 80% of company sales come from repeat orders and referrals from satisfied customers. Exceed your customers’ expectations and they will be back, and they will refer you to others.

    Refining and improving your concept is an ongoing process. Maintain a high profile in your community to develop relationships that help promote the product and serve as a referral and constructive feedback network. This involvement will only produce these benefits, however, if you are sincere in your willingness to work hard for the community you live in. If you don’t the available time to offer your community, perhaps you could give your product as a gift to local charities or sponsor a local event where your community would benefit.

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has almost 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” available on Amazon.

    Motivation and Commitment

    Abstract: What kinds of people start businesses? Their skills are seldom different from those of people who succeed at working for others. The more successful entrepreneurs tend to be proactive, assertive, and highly observant.

    Why do people start small businesses? The most frequently cited motivation for business start-ups is to allow the entrepreneur to achieve independence; money is secondary. Is this surprising? The other reasons named most often are that an opportunity presented itself, a person took over the family business, or the person simply wanted to be an entrepreneur. Identify your motivation.

    For context, what reasons might people offer for joining a large corporation? For choosing a government career? A union job? Certainly, many people desire security, fringe benefits, and a predictable career “trajectory”.

    What kinds of people start businesses? Their skills are seldom different from those of people who succeed at working for others. The more successful entrepreneurs tend to be proactive, assertive, and highly observant. They are efficient, quality-conscious, and good at planning and procedures. As business operators, they are committed to “partnership” with employees, customers, suppliers, and their community. Would these skills or personality traits lead to success at any professional pursuit?

    Most entrepreneurs value control, freedom, flexibility; and self-reliance. They generally desire responsibility and personal fulfillment. Most entrepreneurs are not “gamblers”; they have a preference for moderate risk (What is the largest financial risk that you would consider moderate?). They are always searching for opportunities, and willing to pursue some.

    These are merely general characteristics. How might we apply them to our own fitness for, and commitment to, the entrepreneurial lifestyle? We need to ask ourselves some tough questions:

    Do I really want to start or own a business? What are my real reasons for considering going into business? The motivation must be strong enough to sustain you when the excitement of the startup has passed, and the everyday grind begins.

    Is there a product or service that fits my talents or desires? How should I address the opportunity? About 65% of new businesses are startups, 30% purchases of existing businesses, with the remainder inherited, promoted or otherwise brought into ownership. About 11% of the businesses operate under a franchise name.

    Am I ready yet? Why do you think so many new business founders are in their 30s? Perhaps it is because they have enough experience to be confident, yet are still flexible enough to take some risk. Do you think entrepreneurs are born (demanding parents, ethnic tradition) or made? Is it for you? If so, identify what additional skills or knowledge would increase your readiness.

    For women and minorities, there are additional considerations relevant to their chances of success. Do they have to be “better” to make it, or is entrepreneurship the only true meritocracy? Is any disadvantage only at startup?

    Do I have an adequate support structure? If you have a spouse, or are relying on some other form of family support, make sure that they understand the sacrifices involved and the pressures these will put on relationships.

    Can I place developing this business over other interests and goals for the foreseeable future? Am I willing to take on the personal demands of entrepreneurship? For example, can I work a full day as an employee of another firm, then work at my coffee shop evenings and weekends until it can support me full-time? There is more to life than work, and maintaining a balanced and healthy lifestyle can be a challenge for the self-employed.

    Can I muster the resources to make the venture a success? Do I respond well to continuous pressure? Once I make the venture a full-time pursuit, can I live without a regular paycheck, a predictable work schedule, and for a while without vacations and other benefits? Even after startup, business concerns seldom end when you lock the door at closing time. Am I prepared for the possibility that I might lose my money and property, and damage my health and self-respect?

    There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, only those that best reflect your feelings on these issues. Similarly, if your feelings indicate that you should not take the entrepreneurial path, it is certainly not a sign of weakness or any other sort of deficiency. It is more likely a decision that reflects the best life-work balance for you.

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has almost 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business opportunity site www.jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book “8 Steps to Starting a Business” available on Amazon.

    Innovation

    Abstract: Innovation, in a business context, is generally thought of as the product or application of creativity. Peter F. Drucker suggests that innovation “is the specific instrument of entrepreneurship”.

    Mr. Drucker further suggests that there are seven sources of innovative opportunity. Four of these relate to a specific industry or service sector: the unexpected; the incongruous; process needs; and structural change. The other three relate to the human and economic environment: demographics; changes in perception, mood, and meaning; and new knowledge.

    Let us observe some of these factors at work in a coffee shop venture. The unexpected factor in the recent success of gourmet coffee shops is the willingness of the consumer to spend two or three times the cost of a generic cup of coffee for exotic, flavored or brand-name coffee. An incongruity is the popularity of fat-free desserts (“healthy” indulgence) to go with that coffee. The structural change in the industry is the emergence of franchises.

    Environmental changes have also contributed to this phenomenon. As the “baby-boomer” generation has aged, the preferred place to meet has moved from the bar to the health club to the coffee shop.

    Let us consider information about some current trends to see if we can relate them to potential opportunities in the context of Professor Drucker’s categories. For each, see if you can possibly find a niche on which to build a business:

  • The unexpected The International Association for Financial Planning is observing a rapid (to the point of unexpected) increase in calls requesting referrals for financial planners. A spokesperson for the IAFP says, “People are realizing that financial planning is not just for retirement or saving for a child’s college education; it’s for all stages of a person’s life”.
  • The incongruous Many Americans are feeling pressed for time, incongruously wishing to lead simpler, easier lives without giving up those activities that take the most time and effort. The opportunity lies in offering personal time-saving products and services that relieve these people of tasks that they find less than fulfilling, not worth the time, or unpleasant.
  • Process needs Individuals and businesses are spending unprecedented sums of money to acquire the education, training and skills necessary to remain competitive in a rapidly evolving marketplace, creating opportunities in consulting and training.
  • Structural change The health-care industry will flourish because of an aging population, myriad technological advances and people’s expectations of readily available medical care. One of the industry’s fastest growing segments is home-based health care, which is well-suited for entrepreneurs because of its ease of entry.
  • Demographics The aging population referred to possesses a combination of leisure time and discretionary funds that makes them a great market for new ventures in services relating to their comfort and recreational needs.
  • Changes in perception, mood and meaning The amount of money that citizens and businesses spend on security products and services is growing rapidly; the preferred method for many forms of purchase is increasingly becoming the Internet.
  • New knowledge In 1996, for the first time, computer sales outnumbered television sales in the United States.
  • Do any of these sources of innovative opportunity suggest an entrepreneurial niche to you?

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has almost 40 years’ experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in the business
    opportunity site www.jbv.com and its associated blog. John recently released his latest book, “8 Steps to Starting a Business”, available on
    Amazon
    .

    Evaluating an Opportunity

    A brief case study in entrepreneurship is presented to demonstrate how opportunities can be evaluated.

    Business opportunities are often based on broad trends, such as:

  • Demographic, such as the “graying” of America (creating opportunities in health services, for example);
  • Sociological developments, like the “green” movement, with its emphasis on recycling and environmental sensitivity, and;
  • Cultural changes caused by changing economic conditions and technological developments.
  • Opportunities can also frequently be found in current and developing business trends such as:

  • The globalization of business,
  • The need for outsourcing created by downsizing, and
  • The burgeoning service economy.
  • The Internet and rapid growth of e-commerce have certainly created changes in the process of buying books and CD’s, trading stock, delivering information, and bidding on collectibles. Where do you see the next process to be transformed in a major way by the Internet?

    Let’s do a brief case study in opportunity:

    Neighborhood Coffee Shop

    I live in the eastern section of town, which is growing rapidly, and food and business services are not quite keeping up. The “East” is fairly isolated from the rest of the city by water, an interstate highway, and an industrial park, forming a separate and distinct market. “People” are saying that the East desperately needs a good coffee shop. (Who are these people? Are they just in our immediate circle? Are they representative enough of the area to extrapolate from?)

    Let us analyze some factors which indicate the opportunity potential of an idea:

  • The “window of opportunity” is opening, and will remain open long enough.
  • We cannot be the only entrepreneurs that perceive these opportunities. How long before the need becomes compelling enough for others to jump in?

  • Entry is feasible, and achievable with the committed principals.
  • Two friends want to be partners with me in a venture; one is managing a coffee shop across town, and willing to manage a startup. Between us, we could muster the capital for a coffee shop.

  • The proposed venture has some competitive advantage.
  • We were among the first to locate in the new area, and are very active in the local business community. We know of an ideal site, and the building manager is a friend. She is willing to sub-contract the beverage and light-meal/dessert services the building provides tenants.

  • The economics of the venture are “rewarding and forgiving.”
  • Materials costs are a small percentage of revenues; site preparation and equipment costs are minimal.

  • We can break even at what seems to be an easily achievable volume.
  • We may even want to consider a more upscale atmosphere based on what some say is the difference between a “coffeehouse” and a “coffee shop:” About two bucks a cup… A coffee shop is a place to grab a quick bite and a cheap cup of coffee.

    Eric Gerber of the MSN Network’s Sidewalk suggests that “A coffeehouse is a place to wax philosophical –
    Mozart or Bach, Faulkner or Fitzgerald, Xena or Hercules? – while seeing just how complicated you can make a simple drink like coffee: double latte espresso-chino with half decaf Jamaican Blue Mountain dark roast, extra low-fat foam and a Frangelica drizzle, please.”

    The conditions for starting a neighborhood coffee shop seem favorable, but there must be more that we can do to critically evaluate the venture while improving our chances of success. That “more” is market research, and do not leave the business launch pad without it!

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has more than 40 years’ experience as an educator, manager, entrepreneur, and strategist. He founded and ran a highly successful business for 20 years. He is the author of “8 Steps to Starting a Business,” and “The Entrepreneur’s Fieldbook” and co-author of “Raising Entrepreneurial Capital,” now in its second edition.

    Business Ideas

    The process of creating or
    seizing an opportunity is less the result of a deliberate search than it is a
    mindset of maintaining a form of vigilance that is sensitized to business
    opportunity. Successful entrepreneurs recognize an opportunity while it is still
    taking shape.

     

    Richard Branson, billionaire founder of Virgin Records and
    Virgin Atlantic Airlines, may be better known for his efforts to circle the
    globe in a hot-air balloon than for his business successes. He suggests that
    “Being an adventurer and an entrepreneur are similar… You’re willing to go where
    most people won’t dare.”

     

    But it is still generally accepted that entrepreneurs are
    skillful at knowing which risks are worth taking. “In everything I do, I examine
    the downside, the danger, what can go wrong,” says Branson. When he started his
    airline, he only bought one plane, with an agreement with Boeing to take that
    back “if things didn’t work out.”

     

    Are there any safeguards against failure? No! Even the best
    conceived and implemented business ventures can become market experiments that
    simply did not work. Our goal here is to follow a planning process that can
    minimize risk. That is the best that we can do, and the degree to which we can
    enhance our confidence about a venture must enter into any decision about its
    pursuit.

     

    The best approach requires patience, and to a commitment to
    preparation well in advance of start-up. This could be a long-range process of
    getting to better understand one’s strengths, weaknesses, and limitations, and
    setting about filling knowledge and experience gaps. During this period, we
    should constantly generate ideas with the potential of becoming real business
    opportunities.

     

    Where do business ideas come from? The best source is what
    you know. Often, ideas come from work experience or from personal interests,
    such as hobbies; other ideas can come from friends and relatives, and our
    educational background. Ideas may be easy enough to generate, but an idea is not
    necessarily an opportunity! Building a "better mousetrap" does not insure
    success; other factors include fit, timing, and resources.

     

    Jeff Timmons, in his book
    New Venture Creation, suggests that “An
    opportunity is attractive, durable, and timely and is anchored in a
    product or service that creates or adds value for its buyer or end user.
    Opportunities are created because there are changing circumstances,
    inconsistencies, chaos, lags, or leads, information gaps, and a variety of other
    vacuums, and because there are entrepreneurs who can recognize and seize them.”

     

    The process of creating or seizing an opportunity is less
    the result of a deliberate search than it is a
    mindset of maintaining a form of vigilance that is sensitized to
    business opportunity. Successful entrepreneurs recognize an opportunity while it
    is still taking shape. This frequently relates to the prospective entrepreneur’s
    current profession or interests, where he or she perceives:

     

    *
    a process that can be more efficiently performed,

     

    * an attractive new service or improvement of an existing
    service, or

     

    * some business or geographic "niche" that is being
    underserved.

     

    There are often localized opportunities, based on
    geography, natural resources, human resources in local abundance, and the like.
    Can you think of any for your area?

     

    Once an idea is thought to represent a real opportunity,
    one must be able to research the market, know what data is important and how to
    gather it meaningfully, and know what actions this information indicates. This
    can then be worked into a rather detailed plan, and then refined into a
    blueprint for success.

     


    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has more than
    40 years’ experience as an educator, manager, entrepreneur, and strategist. He
    founded and ran a highly successful business for 20 years. He is the author of “
    8 Steps to
    Starting a Business
    ,” and “The Entrepreneur’s Fieldbook”
    and co-author of “Raising Entrepreneurial Capital,” now in its second edition. 


     

     

    A Guide on How You Can Use Websites to Pay the Bills

    In the golden age of ecommerce, it has never been easier to set up and start generating a profit online. If you have a product to sell, or you’re looking to make money from your blog, this post will tell you how you can use websites to help you pay the bills.

    Step One: Choose a Niche

    As the range of goods and services available online is extensive, you should start off approaching your home business idea with your interests at the forefront. If you have a passion for dance, for example, consider setting up an online store for dancewear and accessories. This will help you solidify your brand messages, as you will already know the kinds of products and ads your audience wants to see.

    If you have no particular hobby or interest in mind, and you just want to make a profit as quickly as possible, set up a general store with a generic name. Buy a .com domain name, as these sites carry the most authority with consumers.

    Step Two: Research Your Audience

    This is arguably the most crucial stage in making money online. You need to make sure you have the market for your business idea. There are many tools you can use to research things like audience demographics, preferred social media networks, even the types of posts audiences prefer.

    Collect insights such as the influencers people follow, the publications they read, the products they buy, how much income they have, etc.

    Collate this data into one large document and divide your customers into suitable segments. This exercise is essential because not all customers are created equal. Some audience sections will spend more with you than others. Therefore, you must be able to differentiate and encourage buying behaviors that meet your customers where they are in the buying cycle.

    Step Three: Set Up Your Site

    The number of channels you can sell through is ever-expanding, so you should consider your customers’ needs and your ability to deliver. For example, if you are selling digital products, you can set up on Etsy, or you can self-host through your own store – or both!

    You will also need to consider your abilities when setting up. ‘Plug and play’ ecommerce hosts like Shopify can help you get up and running quickly. Platforms like Magento can also be a good option for those with web development skills who may be looking for more customization.

    Step Four: Choose Your Products

    Once you’re all set up, it’s time to get your shop stocked. You can use a wholesaler (where you buy in bulk and resell), or you can use a drop shipping model. Drop shipping is an excellent option for those starting a business from home. Under these plans, you make a subsequent order, and your supplier handles the inventory and shipping.

    With a few clicks, you can import goods into your store to start selling. Make sure you provide detailed descriptions with all of the benefits listed. Use keywords to help you optimize for the search terms your audience will be using to find you.

    Don’t forget: it’s worth going to the effort of shooting original product photos. You need to make your shop unique from the rest, so give this step some thorough consideration.

    Step Five: Advertise to Your Segments

    Regardless of what you’re selling and on what channel, you will need to invest in some paid advertising. Facebook is a great place to start, as the engagement figures are enormous. From your research, refine your ad targeting. Instagram is another excellent platform to use.

    With both Facebook and Instagram, you can find apps that allow you sell directly from your social media account. You can also take advantage of the top influencers on these sites and approach them with a personalized pitch and sponsorship opportunity.

    The more effort you put into getting the word out, the better off you’ll be. Set a daily budget for paid advertising, research your channels, and look for forums and guest blogging opportunities in your niche.

    Step Six: Automate Your Processes

    You want to make money as quickly as possible, so make sure you automate things like sales tax collection, record keeping and social media posting using whatever apps and plugins are available through your ecommerce host.

    Alternatively, you can choose to hire a virtual assistant to help you post and process orders from your store. Take advantage of the automated help available and concentrate on making engaging marketing content to draw in buyers.

    Making money online can be easy, provided you take some time to research your niche thoroughly. Automate the processes as much as you can, and you could start generating a healthy profit in no time.

    Victoria Greene

    Victoria Greene is a branding expert and writer. She runs a blog called Victoriaecommerce. Here, she likes to share tips to wannabe entrepreneurs looking to start a business from home.

    We are all self-employed

    We are all self-employed; even as employees of a firm, we are still primarily personal career managers.

    Many people equate being self-employed with being an entrepreneur. We suggest that few of us are entrepreneurs, but all of us are self-employed. To make the distinction, let us explore the requirements of entrepreneurship.

    Entrepreneurship is generally characterized by some type of innovation, a significant investment, and a strategy that values expansion. The entrepreneur is often quite different in mindset from a manager, who is generally charged with using existing resources to make an existing business run well. The roles of entrepreneur and manager are not necessarily incompatible, but entrepreneurs are seldom patient enough to be good managers.

    Mindset of an entrepreneur

    It is often instructive to analyze the experiences that have formed our attitudes toward entrepreneurship. A recent study showed that 70% of business startups were by a person who had an entrepreneurial parent.

    The U.S. Small Business Administration has developed a Checklist for Going into Business that leads the prospective entrepreneur through a skills inventory that includes supervisory and/or managerial experience, business education, knowledge about the specific business of interest, and willingness to acquire the missing necessary skills. A commitment to filling any knowledge or experience gap is a very positive indicator of success.

    Personal characteristics required, according to the SBA, include leadership, decisiveness, and competitiveness. Important factors in personal style include will power, and self-discipline, comfort with the planning process, and with working with others. Can you objectively rate yourself in these dimensions?

    Peter F. Drucker, author of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, says that anybody from any organization can learn how to be an entrepreneur, that it is “systematic work.” But there is a difference between learning how to be, and succeeding as an entrepreneur. “When a person earns a degree in physics, he becomes a physicist,” says Morton Kamien, a professor of entrepreneurship at Northwestern University. “But if you were to earn a degree in entrepreneurship, that wouldn’t make you an entrepreneur.”

    Why we are all self-employed

    The reasons commonly given for people going into business for themselves are: freedom from a work routine; being your own boss; doing what you want when you want; boredom with the current job; financial desires, and; a perceived opportunity. Which of these might be sufficient to get you to take the risk?

    Several “yardsticks” have been proposed for measuring whether a person is a likely candidate to be a successful entrepreneur, but the real challenge is in accurately applying them to ourselves.

    We are all self-employed; even as employees of a firm, we are still primarily personal career managers. Trends toward downsizing and outsourcing will almost certainly lead to smaller companies utilizing networks of specialists. Fortune magazine suggests that “Almost everyone, up through the highest ranks of professionals, will feel increased pressure to specialize, or at least to package himself or herself as a marketable portfolio of skills.”

    How marketable is your portfolio of skills? Many think they have several years’ experience, when what they really have is one year’s experience several times. Are you continuing to learn, and keeping up with developments in your field? The best approach to preparing for an entrepreneurial career is often to find some aspect of your field in which you can become expert.

    John B. Vinturella, Ph.D. has 40 years experience as a management and strategic consultant, entrepreneur, and college professor. He is a principal in business opportunity sites www.jbv.com and myhorizontravels.com, and maintains business and political blogs. This article is excerpted from his latest book “8 Steps to Starting a Business.” Ask for it at your favorite bookstore or buy it from Amazon.

    8 Steps Education Fund

    How would you like to donate entrepreneurship textbooks to schools to encourage teaching of the topic?

    8 Steps to Starting a Business” is my latest book on entrepreneurship. It is written at a level suitable for community colleges and advanced high schools.  The book is well researched, interesting (with lots of case studies) and challenging.

    The book is self-published with a retail price of $20. The total cost per copy (printing, warehousing, shipping, sales tax …) is about $12.

    The book is for sale to you at $12. A typical school donation might be 30 books, or $360. You may designate the school to receive the books, or contribute them to partially funded schools or to libraries. A typical library donation might be $96.

    The process will be fully transparent. I will post every donation and any expense not covered by the $12 price. Thank you for your generosity. Donate now by going to GoFundMe.

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