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ANY ENTREPRENEUR NEEDS HELP

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The entrepreneur in a new business venture encounters many challenges. Among the most important, I think, is the challenge of keeping in touch with all levels of the emerging business. During the start-up phase, the entrepreneur must be acutely aware of everyday business operations: Is the staff performing up to standards? Do we need to order any supplies? Are our customers satisfied? The entrepreneur must also be conscious of the financial and planning aspects of the business: How should we grow? How is the business performing? What should we do in the future?

Can a new business person perform all of these tasks? In the first phases of the business, the entrepreneur may not have a choice. Limited funds may prevent the hiring of managers to take over operational supervision. Or perhaps the entrepreneur believes these operations need to be overseen personally during start up. In any case, every aspect of the business needs to be supervised.Organization is one key element here. Some system needs to be in place that can nudge the entrepreneur into continually changing focus. For example, keeping a checklist or a notebook to record problems and ideas is a simple system that can help keep the entrepreneur constantly aware. Issues can be prioritized and scheduled. In this way, all aspects of the new business can be addressed.

Another possibility is the assigning of key people to keep tabs on business issues. These people do not necessarily have to be hired specifically to handle a particular part of the business. A restaurant, for example, can have a food server double as a floor supervisor to make sure that the everyday operational issues of the restaurant are tackled. This frees the owner to handle more complex tasks.

Third-party perspectives can also help in identifying issues and when they need to be dealt with. A brutally honest relative or friend can prove to be an inexpensive consultant. The entrepreneur's own customers are also a vital source of business feedback; unfortunately, this feedback is often unsolicited. Employees are another source to consider. All of these individuals can provide a perspective of the organization that can lead to continual improvement, or at least bring important issues to light.

Plans for future growth must also be incorporated into the system. The entrepreneur must realize that at some point in the evolution of the business, it will become too large to manage by one person. At this point it will be necessary to transfer some authority into the hands of a manager. Plans for this transfer of authority need to be made well in advance of the event. The entrepreneur needs to "groom" employees for this position or be ready to search outside of the organization for help.

During the start-up phase of a business, the key element is awareness. This not only pertains to attention to detail, but also to a broad sense of what is going on in the business and in the industry. Blindly operating at a single level in the organization can be dangerous. Mechanisms need to be in place to provide the entrepreneur with the ability to recognize and deal with key issues as they arise.