Yesterday, I was invited as a panelist at the Master Card and Cisco event "Delivering Value to Entrepreneurs & Intrapreneurs by promoting Diversity" with Marie-José Sobrini (Cisco) and Anis Bedda (Intrapreneurship Conference). It was a great opportunity to exchange views on Intra- and entrepreneurship. I am happy to share some questions I've been asked.
How did you know it’s the right time to start a business and how did you build your brand?
After working at Microsoft, I knew the only option to do a job I love without leaving Belgium was to create my own job.
Of course, being a marketeer was an asset to build a brand and reputation but I started by asking myself 4 questions:
1. What are my strengths? I listed:
- my network;
- I am stress-resistant;
- and organised.
2. Why do customers come to me, What are their objectives?
I realised that all my customers contacted me to increase the awareness of their brand (in order to grow their business) and do not have the competencies inside the company.
3.Why do they come to ME? That was a though one! So, I decided to ask my customers and here is what they said:
- word of mouth was of course the main channel;
- they knew the job would be done and in a professional way;
- they underlined the creative approach and my capacity to listen an open to feedbacks;
- and finally they add: collaborating with someone positive and smiling was the cherry on the cake :-)
4. What kind of relationships do I want to build?
My will was to be a partner for my customers; a resource, not a cost or a saleswoman. I wanted to build a long-term relationship based on trust, accountability and.. joy! Probably because my business is also a part of me.
What are your advices to the future intra- and entrepreneur?
Based on my experience as a founder of Digitaly and as a startup coach, my advices are:
1. Know yourself
- Know who you are;
- What are your strengths and weaknesses (and ask your former colleagues and managers);
- How do you function (are you right or left brain, intro or extraverted,..);
- What drives you? Where does your energy comes from?
- Why do you really want to become an entrepreneur?
- Where do you want to go?
Developing a business is also about personal development.
2. Have a plan
Lots of future entrepreneurs spend a lot of time in preparing their project/business (and also fantasize a lot).
Have a plan from Day 1 about How will you tell the world you exist? What are your objectives? How will you reach them? Having a business plan is not a plan (it is about -optimistic- assumptions in a Excel sheet).
3. Speak out
Being an entrepreneur often means working a lot which often means..staying in your office (or worse in your home office). Get out of your building, speak out, tell your stories, network, participate in conferences and workshop, share your questions and experience. Have a blog, vlog or whatever .. Take the place you want to have.
4. Be creative
Well, being an entrepreneur is also about managing resources efficiently. It is the perfect opportunity to be creative, to bootstrap, to mutualise and share resources, to build partnerships.
5. Adopt technology
Adopting technology from Day 1 is key (devices, tools, apps and softs). I strongly believes it will increase your efficiency and offer you a clear view about where you are, streamline processes but also re-inforce your communication and allows you more freedom (like working from anywhere in the world). The world is changing very fast, we cannot wait anymore for the annual results to figure out if our business is doing well. If you are not geeky, follow trainings but make sure to make technology a solid partner.
Bonus: Take care of your balance and never stop learning.
What public policies & private sponsorships do you believe should be in place to support entrepreneurs?
I think there are many initiatives in favour of entrepreneurship which is positive.. but most of them probably do not answer the main needs and pains of entrepreneurs.
- Public policies should simplify and streamline (administrative) procedures. In Belgium, administration can kill your business (even if some steps forward have been done)!!
- Public policies should also celebrate entrepreneurship AND success in a diverse approach (like invite not only white male entrepreneurs wearing a suit)!
- Privately held companies should learn to really listen to entrepreneurs and become customers centric (and not localise US-based marketing campaigns where SME's are 10 times bigger than Belgian ones). Again simplification and agility are key.
- Private sponsorship should focus on training people to make sure everyone has the competencies for a more and more digital world.