The amount of people joining the road to entrepreneurship is climbing - according to Business News Daily; "the number of Americans involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity is the highest it has been since The Global Entrepreneurship Monitor (GEM) began back in 1999." Also according to site, research has found: 13% of Americans are involved in entrepreneurial activity.
Kara Miller, host of WGBH radio's Innovation Hub credits two main reasons why young adults in particular are becoming entrepreneurs: there's the fame that follows the founder of the next big thing and the sheer necessity of finding work in a stagnant economy.
Approximately 543,000 new businesses get started each month, according to Forbes. Over the course of 10 years, 96% of businesses fail (Inc.).
What does it take to make it as an entrepreneur in this era and why are so many businesses failing? George Otte, Miami-based entrepreneur and technology expert, shared his insight.
At the beginning of our interview Otte recalled the first time he felt 'entrepreneurial.'
"I was just seven at the time. I put a sign in the [his] front yard and sold mangos to neighbors and passing cars," he said.
"I'll never forget how good it felt when I had a cup full of quarters by sunset."
George Otte then moved onto starting a tutoring business as a teen prior. Following, he started a highly successful computer repair and support service. At age 21, he ran it while enrolled in college full time, building a network of more than 100 clients in less than two years.
Today, Otte serves as the founder and president of the Miami-based Otte Polo Group, a conglomerate of businesses that serve customers nationwide and operate in a wide-range of industries including: IT support and computer repair, call center and answering services, fulfillment and direct mail, and real estate & property management. The Otte Polo Group's subsidiaries include: Florida-based Geeks on Site, Responsive Call Center, Phase V Fulfillment, and Otte Real Estate. While George attends to this diverse portfolio of companies, he continues to serve as a resource for technology related issues. Throughout the years, he has had been acknowledged by Entrepreneur, NBC, PC Mag, and others, including Mashable in a feature on cyber safety.
Back in 2002, it wasn't everyday people in their early 20s were starting businesses. What do you think you knew that they didn't?
I knew that people were willing to pay well for a good service. I was in tech support but it could have been any industry. I also knew you could easily incorporate a company in one day and get started - so I did.
Can you recall an 'aha' moment you had when first starting any of your businesses?
My first "aha" was when I was starting Geeks On Site. I realized businesses and individuals were willing to pay good money for reliable tech support. I immediately knew that I could hire and manage techs to perform this work and profit from it.
Why do you think businesses fail?
There are many reasons - sometimes one, sometimes a combination of a few such as poor customer service, mismanagement of resources (employees and capital), or economic downturns.
What does it take to make it as an entrepreneur in this era?
Innovation, adaptability, and having the right pricing strategy are key. Thanks to the Internet, consumers are more savvy now than ever before. They are glued to their smartphones and want what they want when they want it. If a webpage loads too slowly or a company rep fails to respond to an inquiry on social media within 24 hours, that sale could be as good as dead.
There are some companies out there that have been doing the same old thing for the past ten years and then they wonder why their revenue is spiraling downward. Become an expert in your industry and get to know your customers and prospects like the back of your hand. Show them the value of your products and services and deliver it on the channels they communicate on in a language they understand.
Also be sure to price what you're selling accordingly. If you go too low or too high you could run your company into the ground. Some companies offer hefty discounts to bring customers in the door, despite in doing so, they decrease their margins. This only goes so far. If what you're selling is innovative enough, people will be more than happy to pay full price.
What can consumers do to keep up with the fast paced, hyper connected world we live in?
Use a customer relationship management tool (CRM) - it has been key for my businesses. Use it to track communications and follow through on requests. I'm also a big fan of surveys. Surveying your customers can quickly show you patterns of strengths and weaknesses in your operation.
If being an entrepreneur was easy, everyone would become one. What can you tell others to do when challenges in business come up?
Learn something new and lean on other successful business owners for support. It's important to have a circle of like-minded people to lean on.
What's something(s) most people don't know about being an entrepreneur but need to in order to survive and thrive?
Don't give up. I've seen a lot of people start businesses but not focus or commit and then they give up.
Through the challenges, I wake up every day extremely grateful for how my business career has turned out.
What four things can aspiring entrepreneurs start doing right away to hit the ground running with their business in order to make it successful?
1. Have complete focus and dedication.
2. Regularly review key areas such as operations, sales/marketing, finance, etc.
3. Keep a close eye on the customer experience.
4. Constantly think of ways to grow revenue while keeping costs in check.
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