Presented by Dell for Entrepreneurs

Being an entrepreneur is stressful, no doubt about it. Like most things, it doesn’t happen overnight. Instead it’s a journey with many stages, each posing different challenges. The key to success through it all, is aligning with programs and resources that can help your journey stay on track. Let’s start with Stage 1: the beginning.

Stage 1: Inspiration and ideation

This stage is where entrepreneurs have their first brilliant idea. It typically involves identifying a problem, an opportunity or gap in the marketplace, which leads to a profitable business opportunity. The first real challenge at this stage is thinking of a good idea, because without it, there’s no entrepreneurial journey.

Next, it’s vital that whatever idea you come up with, the idea is profitable and viable over the long-term, in order to develop a successful business.

A perfect example of this is Elon Musk, who has successfully developed profitable ideas that fill gaps in certain markets with companies like Tesla and SpaceX. Throughout his journey, he has taken risks and put virtually everything he has financially into ideas he’s passionate about, and as a result, today owns a number of very profitable, very successful businesses.

Before investing time or money, be sure the business idea has legs. CB Insights research shows that the number-one reason businesses don’t succeed is because there’s no market need for them, with 42% of businesses failing because of this reason. Test the idea and get feedback early, to ensure there’s market interest.

Dell Technologies’ Project Innovate is a great way to get input from a community of creatives and innovators. This site is designed specifically to share ideas to see how people respond. It’s the perfect way to get free neutral, non-biased advice quickly and easily. No expensive focus groups and no relying on family and friends who might just tell you what you want to hear. It contains useful content on ideas, active projects, and more.

Stage 2: Execution

Next, it’s time to execute on the business idea. To get the ball rolling, it’s critical to determine how to collect resources, as well as find and attract the right people to help. Moving from perfecting the idea to implementing it can be a struggle.

Part of Bill Gates’ success comes from partnering with the right resources (namely, his childhood friend Paul Allen) and having access to technology (in Harvard University’s computer lab) to perfect his skills. After reading about the world’s first microcomputer, Bill and Paul worked to write programs for it. After proving successful, they founded Microsoft with a vision to put “a computer on every desktop and in every home.” Today, its mission is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more.

There are many resources available to help turn a good idea into something tangible. Members of the Dell Technologies’ Project Innovate community include entrepreneurs who want to help others succeed in achieving their business goals and can recommend good resources.

Additionally, Dell for Entrepreneurs offers the opportunity to partner with Dell Technologies from an early stage, offering free technology consultation, support, and infrastructure to support business growth. Entrepreneurs can realize the following benefits:

  1. Access to capital for technology through Dell Technologies Financial Services, which can offer financing for start-up companies that meet certain requirements.
  2. A one-stop-shop for the technology and support that entrepreneurs need to start or scale their businesses.
  3. A start-up IT advisor, a single point of contact providing IT recommendations based on the entrepreneur’s specific IT infrastructure needs and growth strategy.
  4. Rewards for Dell Technologies entrepreneurial partners including free expedited delivery, exclusive offers, and more.

Stage 3: Scaling the business

Ideas start small, growing over time with effort. At a certain stage — with the right business and a market that’s ready for it — it’s time to scale up. The limits of scaling can be almost unimaginable, if your market can support such growth.

Scaling a business into a bigger operation presents challenges in that it requires more funding, more staff, more facilities, and more factors you may not even have considered. Additionally, a larger operation means more competition to gain customers and earn revenue on a much larger scale. According to The Hill, there are 582 million entrepreneurs in the world – some of whom may be targeting the same markets. So consider what other companies in the same space are trying to do with their product or service, and establish a competitive advantage that separates your business from the rest.

The first step here should be doing deeper research into the market to ensure there’s space for the business to grow and enough customers to support the increase in operations. If the answer is no to either question, the revenue potential may not justify the growth, so ensure you do your due diligence.

Remember that even McDonald’s, the world’s largest restaurant chain by revenue, started small. The first McDonald’s was opened in 1940 in San Bernardino, California, where over time, they introduced their Speeded Service System featuring 15 cent hamburgers. The restaurant’s success led the owners to begin franchising their restaurant concept and now there are more than 36,000 outlets in 100 countries around the world.

Step 4: Reaching the top of the mountain

Reaching the top of the mountain is a mighty achievement, worthy of taking a breath and enjoying the success. Keep the celebration short because reaching the top means facing the prospect of going back down the other side. It’s a challenge to stay at the top by maintaining your market position or finding ways to gain market share.

The challenge in this stage is that companies reaching maximum saturation typically struggle to remain innovative. Fifteen years ago, Blockbuster was at the peak of the video rental mountain with 9,000 stores globally, but failed to continually innovate. Competition from the Netflix mail-order service, Redbox automated kiosks, and video on-demand services were among the major factors leading up to Blockbuster’s eventual demise and bankruptcy.

Entrepreneurs start the journey with vigor, passion, and excitement. After the entrepreneur journey takes its toll, many lose the passion and drive for progress, preferring to try and hold onto what they’ve achieved. Often, this results in a company that is almost indistinguishable from competitors, and is often overtaken by newer, more passionate competitors.

The goal at this stage is to keep that entrepreneurial spirit — the one the business is built upon — alive and well. That passion is what will propel the company’s future success.

Each stage of the entrepreneurial journey has its own unique challenges and solutions. Fortunately, there are great resources like Project Innovate and Dell for Entrepreneurs to help you be inspired and learn from other entrepreneurs who prioritize new ideas, progress, and innovation.

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