When you embark on your entrepreneurial journey, it’s sometimes hard to tell if you are on the right track, especially if you are launching an original product or service and you have no reference to compare your work to.
Should you keep investing money even if customers' response is slow? Should you try something new? These could all seem like hard decisions to take. Think of it as if you are in a dark place, and there is no light at the end of the tunnel.
Even if you spoke to people about it, they may not be able to give you the right kind of advice, because they too are not familiar with your venture.
My sister and I found ourselves in this situation lately.
We have launched an online media platform, and sometimes we find ourselves a bit lost because our platform is unique and there's nothing to compare it to.
Luckily though, there are some signs that would serve as a guide to tell you if you are on the path to success or need to change your ways.
Word of mouth
This is one of the most obvious signs. If you are on the right track, then people will comment, share or post about your work, and a good place to keep track is social media. You will get more followers, people will email you to know more about it, and you may even receive some job requests. If you are selling a product, then you will see a demand for your products. In addition, your family and friends will comment positively about what you do, suggest ways of improving it and perhaps connect you to like-minded individuals, or some entities may invite you to speak about your journey.
Confidence in your venture
One of the most important signs on a personal level is the excitement you feel towards your business. If you find yourself dreading to work on it, feel too lazy to go to the office or do not want to talk about it to people, then these are red flags. On the contrary, if you are excited to work on it, willing to travel across the country to connect with the right people or you can't stop talking about it to your friends and family, then you are on the right track.
Things will get hard. There will be phases when you may doubt yourself.
But the most important thing is that you believe in your concept and trust that there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Having that mindset will help you make it through any tough times and keep you determined, focused, and ready to take any challenge that comes along the way.
Welcoming change and criticism
You may be extremely smart, but at the end of the day no one knows it all.
An important way to grow is to listen to people’s feedback and accept criticism.
What my sister and I for instance did recently was to meet with our target audience members. We asked them to dissect our business and tell us in their opinion about why certain areas of our business were not doing so well.
We heard some harsh comments, and as a business owner you may feel like a mother protecting her child in face of such criticism, but we knew that in order to succeed and take our business to the next level we had to hear all of the feedback.
The good thing is by doing so, we altered a few things, and there has been a positive change in customers’ behavior. In order to succeed, you should have an open mind and welcome other people’s views.
We weren’t very accepting of certain things in the beginning because we had a different vision, but then when we decided to have a more open mind about it and consider them, we were surprised by the outcome.
When profits exceed your costs
In the early days of any business, you will be burning cash.
You may spend it on lawyer fees, web design, logo design and product manufacturing.
You may not break even until your second or third year of business. But how do you know if you are on the right track?
When your income exceeds overhead cost at the end of the year. You may not be reaching your target income yet, but if you are making a profit then that means you are on the right track. At that stage, you could think of ways of improving your business performance, whether by marketing your business more, introducing new products or looking for ways to further reduce your cost.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi