An accomplished leader and leadership developer, salesperson, sales trainer and corporate executive, Ed Lewellen has a track record of more than two decades in successfully building his own businesses and helping others to do the same. One of his most recent ventures involved taking a small, multi-million dollar organization and growing it into the international $100 million corporation it is today.
As the Regional Manager and Senior VP, Talent Acquisition for Employers Edge, Inc., Ed identifies and then mentors individuals who want to learn how they can start their own business in the rapidly growing and exhilarating organizational development industry.
The Employers Edge business model has been proven successful time and again in its ability to enable entrepreneurial individuals to achieve their personal, professional and financial goals by coaching, training and developing client executives and their employees.
Given his extensive expertise in all things business, BusinessOpportunity.com’s Entrepreneur Exchange asked Ed to share a little bit of his wisdom and guidance with individuals who are interested in starting a business of their own, and here is what he had to say:
How does someone know if they have what it takes to own their own business? Tell us a bit about how you made the decision and why.
There are three main things to keep in mind when thinking about starting a business of your own: 1) Do I have a passion for this?, 2) Do I have the talents and skills for this type of business?, and 3) Are people willing to pay for this product and/or service? If any one of these components is missing, then a person should move on to another business concept.
If those three components are met, then they should assess their business acumen by doing a SWOT analysis―Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. If they find that they have key areas where they lack in business knowledge, then they will need to decide if they will: 1) hire someone to fill that gap, 2) learn what they need to fill the gap, or 3) buy into a business concept that already has that gap filled for them.
Lastly, taking a behavioral assessment that measures their Total Person―Thinking Style, Core Behaviors and Business Interests―is important. This will tell them if they have what it takes to drive a business through the start-up phase and into the growth phase.
These are the steps I took back in the mid-90s when I was deciding if I should go into business for myself. I chose a business concept that provided me with training and support and that filled in the gaps of my business knowledge at the time. I was privileged to have been matched with a mentor from the company that knew how to best challenge and support me, and I give him a lot of credit for helping me build a very successful first business.
What was the biggest challenge you faced in your first six months in business? How did you meet that challenge?
I have mentored hundreds of people in building their businesses over the last 20 years. The two biggest challenges most people face are not having enough capital to get through the first 6 to 12 months so that they can cash-flow the business and not having the ability to stick through the times when it seems that getting into their own business was a bad idea.
The first challenge can be met by ensuring that you either have the cash to support yourself through the first 6 to 12 months with no income or to have an available line of credit, just in case. The second can be addressed by having a firm goal with regard to what you want the business to do for you. I always encourage people to tell me what their hopes and dreams are as they embark on their new business venture. When the times come that they and those around them start thinking that getting into their own business was a bad idea, I take them back to those hopes and dreams. That’s what kept me going when those times came, along with a support person that believed in me and supported me during those times.
What do you think is the greatest challenge facing business owners today and why? Any suggestions for how to address those challenges?
What I hear on a daily basis is that it is the economy. What people have to realize is that we can’t allow the outside world, especially the media, which seem to have mind-control over people in the stock market, to control our thoughts. The world is full of abundance, but many people think from the standpoint of scarcity. If a person is scarcity-minded, then they should stay working for an employer. During the “down” economy of the last few years, in our business concept, we have companies that have written us emails and letters stating how thankful they are that we helped their companies have success in both their growth and their revenues.
What is the single strongest piece of advice you would have for someone just starting out in business for themselves?
Set strategic goals and make sure you are determined to reach them. Set goals for activities that you will do starting on Day One and then for the first month, at 3 months, 6 months, 1 year, 5 years and 10 years. Dream big on the 5- and 10-year goals. Vividly picture what it will be like when those goals are reached. Without strong goal-setting, you are destined to fail.
What would you say is the one thing that new business owners forget about or overlook when they’re just planning/starting out?
I’ll say it again because I can’t say it enough…you’ve got to know that the tough times will come. You’ve got to be prepared to press through those times with clearly set goals.
What marketing strategies have you found to be most successful in growing your business?
We have some very unique and innovative marketing strategies that I reserve to share with those who are interested in our concept.
What is it about the business/industry you are in that made it so attractive to you?
I love to see people grow and prosper. Companies succeed through their people. They succeed one person at a time. Our concept trains and develops our Strategic Partners to work from the C-level down in enhancing people performance. That’s what I love about our business―we help people to be successful professionally, and it then spills over into helping them be more successful personally.
After the initial start-up phase in business, what obstacles do business owners face as they try to grow their business and remain successful? Any advice for how to overcome those obstacles?
Some people are serial entrepreneurs. They are great at starting a company and taking it into the growth phase, but they get bored once it’s up and running on its own. These people need to hire someone to run the company’s day-to-day business as they either develop new products and services for the company, new revenue channels, new divisions or a new company.
What did you do before you decided to become your own boss, and how have those skills helped you in your current business?
I was involved in leading and developing leaders in a religious setting. Through the development I received as a public speaker, counselor and church operations manager, I was able to transfer those skills into the business setting. I also was a key person that identified and developed other leaders in these organizations. Again, this is a talent and skill that was transferable.
What process do you follow to successfully close on a lead and make the final sale? Any tips?
This is an article in itself, as it gets into marketing and sales strategies. If I can give just one point on this, it is to make the sale all about the customer. Take what you want or need out of the equation and make it about what the prospect needs. You will get the sale, and you will both come out “winners.”
If you work from home, what are the greatest benefits to doing so? What are the drawbacks, and how do you manage them?
The benefits are that you can maximize your time by not having to travel to an office. The drawbacks are that you MUST be a self-starter, self-disciplined and have a sales activity goal for every day; otherwise, you will fall into the trap of organizing to get ready to get started. It’s easy to fool yourself that you’re working when you’re doing activities that don’t make you money or directly lead to making money. Some people find that dressing like they would if they were going to an office somewhere motivates them more than if they stay in more leisurely clothing.
If you bought into an already existing business opportunity, distributorship, licensee opportunity or small franchise, how and why did you make that choice?
I needed a proven marketing and sales strategy, as well as proven products and support in starting my business from someone that was already successful at it. I didn’t want to have to go through the trial-and-error method to find out what works. Because of choosing this route, I was able to generate $150,000 in sales my first year. Conversely, I saw a friend that started a similar business on her own and, after five years of just “getting by,” she still hadn’t gained much traction for the business.
What is/are your favorite motto and/or quote when it comes to business?
Whatever your mind can conceive and your heart can believe you can achieve!
“Far better is it to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure… than to rank with those poor spirits who neither enjoy nor suffer much, because they live in a gray twilight that knows not victory nor defeat.” –Theodore Roosevelt
Any final words of encouragement and/or inspiration for the budding entrepreneur?
Don’t get caught up in “paralysis of analysis.” When you find the right opportunity, as Nike says, “Just Do It!” I have seen more people succeed that went forth with enthusiasm, courage and just a little bit of knowledge than those who think they have to know every part of a business before they start selling something. The same goes when deciding on an opportunity; you won’t know everything about how the business works until you are in it, so don’t go forth with the idea that you have to know every aspect about doing the business before buying into it. Otherwise, you will never make a decision. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t fully understand the business arrangement between you and the business concept company. That is a given. But to fully understand any business, you have to take action. That is, you have to be in the business.