The Accidental Entrepreneur

j0438875When a consultant signs up for a direct selling company, she may have several motivations.  Some may be a love for the products (and a desire to purchase at a discount), a chance to get out of the house and have some adult conversation, a little extra pocket money, etc.  And for the majority of consultants, that’s where it stays.  They do 1-2 parties a month and are satisfied.  But there are a select few who find that they’re good at this, and they love it.  This group finds that their team is growing, they’re booking like crazy, and suddenly they’ve got a thriving business they weren’t prepared for.

Has this happened to you?

These entrepreneurs who suddenly find themselves with a successful business are typically unprepared for this sudden success, and as a result find the business growth driving them, instead of the other way around.

If the growth rate and results are to be sustained, it is critical for these “accidental entrepreneurs” to make a strategic plan.  You cannot allow your business to drive you because you will find yourself drained, overwhelmed, and less effective.  This isn’t fair to your business or your team.  In my classes on social media, I always teach people to make a strategic plan before diving into social media.  Even if folks have already been dabbling in social media, a strategic plan makes their efforts more effective and more efficient.  And the same goes for your overall business.  Even if you’ve been running your business for YEARS, if you don’t have a strategic plan you need to stop RIGHT NOW and make one.  With the holiday sales season approaching, achieve greater success, as you define it, through mindful efforts based on your plan.

So what are some of the elements of a strategic plan for your direct selling business?

  1. Goal(s) – What is it you hope to achieve, and how will you measure it?  For example, I plan to sell $500/month, and recruit 3 new people/month.  With this goal, you know what successful achievement looks like.  Be sure your goals are realistic, so success is possible.
  2. Target Market – One of the biggest mistakes that I find direct sellers make is the failure to adequately describe their target market.  This needs to be quite specific if your marketing efforts are to be successful.  So for example, if you sell skincare, a target market of “anyone with skin” is too general to be effective for your marketing efforts.  The skincare needs of a 20 year old are quite different from those of a 60 year old.  You need to be able to focus on the needs of your target market, their particular values, and provide solutions to their problems, if your marketing efforts are to be successful.
  3. Time – You need to identify ahead of time how much time you can realistically invest in your business.  Failure to plan this element is where most overwhelm comes from in a direct selling business.  So figure out how much time you’ll give to your business, set your office hours, plan your schedule, and then make sure the time you can invest is in alignment with the goals you want to achieve.It’s also a good idea to figure out what your hourly rate is for the time you plan to invest in your business.  So if your goal is to make $500/month, and you plan to invest 8 hours per week (32 hours per month), your hourly rate is $500/32 hours=$15.63 hour.  If your goal is to make $1000/month, and you plan to invest 10 hours per week (40 hours per month), your hourly rate is $1000/40 hours=$25 hour.  The brilliant part of all of this is that you get to decide how much you make per hour, based on the number of parties you’re willing to do, and the number of people you’re willing to recruit.  A strategic plan gives you a lot more control over the bottom line of your business.
  4. Marketing Activities – You need to decide how you’ll market your business.  Now I personally do a lot on inspiration, but at the same time, I have an underlying strategy that guides my activities.  I know exactly how much I need to make each month, the activities that bring me joy, and how much time I can realistically invest without burning out.  Then I select activities to market my business that work within that framework.To plan a successful marketing campaign for your business, look at the leaders in your company and note what they do to market their businesses.  Select those activities that work within the underlying strategy you’ve defined, and that will help you achieve the goals you’ve created.  I believe that social media can be one of those marketing activities that help put you in front of many people and nurture existing relationships, which can increase your overall sales and recruiting.  But this is just one piece of the puzzle.  You also need to be holding parties regularly, attending in-person networking events, gathering leads at vendor events, and more.  The point is to create a marketing plan that will provide you with maximum exposure for your business, so that you can achieve your goals.

You may be an accidental entrepreneur, but that doesn’t mean you have to run your business like one.  By being strategic in your planning, you can have an incredibly productive and fulfilling career in this industry that I love.  If you are a leader, you should also be watching promising members of your team, and making sure they also have a strategic plan to avoid overwhelm.  “Accidental” is only the beginning of “intentional.”

What do you think?  Have you been an accidental entrepreneur?  Are you now?  What have you done/will you do about it?  Looking forward to reading your comments below.

4 Responses to The Accidental Entrepreneur
  1. Lisa Young
    October 7, 2009 | 5:53 pm

    One of the first things I tell every new recruit is “Congratulations on starting your new business!”

    Very often, they’re taken aback somewhat.

    Usually, it’s because they never thought of it that way.

    As you keenly point out, Jen, so many people don’t join this industry because they want to build a business – it just sort of happens to them. Next thing they know, they’re leaders “by default”.

    Unfortunately, leaders “thrust into greatness” sometimes drop the ball because they didn’t want to be leaders in the first place, and their teams end up suffering because of it (and I’ve worked with many consultants who’ve faced this very situation).

    I think the stigma around leading with the business is still pretty strong, and it will take a HUGE culture shift (and attitude shift) in both consultants as well as the general public to shine up the “tarnished” reputation that Network Marketers have in the world – particularly those who lead with thie biz op.

    That said, you know that I’m all for treating your business like a real business concern. That means doing strategic planning, looking at profit and loss, and understanding the metrics of what makes your business successful (or unsuccessful as the case may be).

    When you focus on recruiting business builders, my research has shown that those teams are stronger, with better retention. They’re also slower to grow at first, because you’re pre-qualifying leads instead of signing up “anyone with skin” . Once the momentum builds, however, I’ve found that a team culture pervades and actually HELPS the forward momentum of the organization.

    It’s a tricky question, Jen. I think for us to effectively make the transition, to a business focused operation, instead of a product focused operation, it begins with what we’re telling our leadership – and how they cascade that training to their teams. It can be done, but unfortunately, I don’t think everyone will embrace it.

    Great food for thought!

  2. Roberta Jerram
    October 7, 2009 | 12:02 pm

    Some really great points there Jennifer as always.

    I’d just like to add though that I’ve found the use of the words ‘strategy’ and ‘strategic plan’ occasionally frightens those most ‘accidental’ entrepreneurs ie, those that still don’t see themselves as a proper woman in business. Leaders and potential leaders yes but not the majority.

    I’ve found talking about SMART goals with my ladies can sometimes work better. By simplifying it all a little it relates to their thinking yet still gets the same results…

    (strategic maybe, but it gets us there in the end!!)


    • Jennifer
      October 7, 2009 | 4:30 pm

      Thanks for your comments Roberta! I always appreciate your input.

      It’s interesting what you say about people not liking those terms. I know that’s true. I just wonder if it’s because we don’t emphasize enough that this is a BUSINESS. Perhaps one of the reasons that there’s such turnover in the direct selling world is because people don’t take it seriously enough. If we lead with business, perhaps we’d have stronger sales forces that make more money, and achieve greater overall success.

      What do you think?


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