By DR. CATIE HARRIS
There is incredible excitement when you finally decide that you are going to start a nurse business.
Maybe you're following an impulse because you came up with an amazing idea that you have to get out. Maybe you've been contemplating this idea for the last 5 - 10 years but were afraid to move forward with it. You see other people earning money with their own business and see it as a way out.
When you finally commit to starting a business, your enthusiasm is almost palpable.
You want to do everything right. You create your business plan, you get contracts drawn up with a lawyer, you get certified with a bunch of different outlets and you spend some money buying business cards and flyers. You are already to go.
You tell your friends and family about your new business. They are super excited for you.
However, most people will never get past this point of excitement in their business. They become paralyzed with the fear of the unknown, they get overwhelmed -- like what should I do next or first?
Or the initial enthusiasm of friends and family starts to wear off and they start getting annoyed with your "little project" to the point that you start to think it's all pointless anyway.
According to Forbes over 80 percent of new businesses fail.
The truth is your business is probably a great idea. But lots of great ideas fail. The main issue is that most people give up too early and too fast.
Don't Underestimate the Marketing Plan
People underestimate the need for and the execution of a marketing plan. It's not something you "wing" or throw together. Marketing isn't an after-thought. Marketing IS the business first and foremost.
What new NursePreneurs don't seem to understand is that a business is a real and living organism. It is an extension of you. I've had nurses tell me they can't launch their business because they don't have a business plan, they don't have a proforma, they are certified in X,Y,Z.
The truth is none of that matters, AT ALL.
What matters is that you have an idea that other people are willing to pay for. And the only way to know if it will be successful is to test it. This is your marketing plan and you should build in 6 months of marketing before you even open your business.
The marketing plan takes so long because it includes developing relationships, extending your network and helping others.
There is this weird misconception about what business is and how to act in business. I think people see slick salesmen and believe that is the appropriate way to operate in business.
I see new NursePreneurs start to get desperate when no money is coming in. They erroneously believe the solution is to hard pitch friends and family or bombard social media groups with a big red Buy Now button.
But nothing could be further from the truth. This type of behavior labels you as desperate. When you are desperate you do things you normally wouldn't do.
You can recognize this behavior in yourself or you'll notice your friends and family start to avoid you or you get removed by social groups who don't want to be spammed.
Nobody wants to be sold to. Period.
Think about it, do you want people constantly pushing you to buy something?
The key to marketing is to create value, to create trust and to create desire. None of this includes harassing your co-workers to buy your skin care line or "bomb" hair care products.
Business is all about relationships and solving problems. The single most powerful predictor of your business success is your ability to build relationships. And not sleazy, sales-y, one sided relationships, but real relationships with a network of people who trust you.
This is where marketing comes into the picture.
You see many new NursePreneurs have incredible ideas and they would fill so many gaps in the marketplace. We all have gifts and talents to share that could help other people, even change the world. But without a marketing plan, you've got nothing.
In a recent podcast interview with Michele McGlade, a business coach for healers, she broke down for me her concept of a pre-business marketing plan that she termed "The Runway".
The Runway in a business is a marketing plan that needs to build up power and momentum before the business even opens. You must build up power and momentum in your relationships BEFORE you start your business.
The worst thing you can do is to spend all your time putting the business together and zero time on marketing.
I have this conversation with my NursePreneurs almost every day. They are worried about having a perfect proforma or 50-page business plan.
And I'm telling them that they are too far ahead of themselves. You don't need a 50 page business plan to start a business, you need an audience.
The business aspect is super simple. I recently showed my student Erin how to set up an IV hydration clinic with 10 simple moves. That's easy. We set up the entire business literally in 48 hours. It's not the business that is hard, it's the marketing. So her next question was "now what?".
Exactly. Even the best ideas will fail without a marketing plan. I've seen slam dunk ideas fail because the business owner couldn't connect with an audience.
I said to Erin, "Now you need to go out and build relationships with people in the area -- businesses, groups, influencers".
Business Without Marketing?
The problem with doing the business first and the marketing last is time. It takes time to build relationships. You can't fast track this stuff. Imagine feeling the pressure that you have to get to know so and so RIGHT NOW because you have inventory and bills coming in.
People can smell when you are desperate and they don't buy from people who are desperate.
In fact, if you spent all your time on marketing and never even put a business together you would be better off.
Well take coaching for instance. People are spending tens of thousands of dollars to become a coach -- life coach, health coach, diet coach, spiritual coach, whatever.
Here's the thing though, it's completely unnecessary. You don't need to be certified as a coach. It's actually just marketing that makes you believe that you do. And ironically, the only thing you need to be a successful coach is a good marketing plan, which coaching certification programs don't teach you.
The marketing must come first.
I am a huge proponent of building your marketing first and then the business second.
Wait that doesn't make sense though, why would I suggest that?
Here's the thing, you have to market first. Marketing is about finding out what people want and then developing the message to let them know that you can solve their problem. You also have to build up trust and relationships. If people trust you, they will buy from you.
I saw a remarkable display of this type of behavior at an event one time. A marketer had delivered incredible value to the audience. Then on day 2, he brought out an empty water bottle. He told the audience that he was putting something incredibly valuable in the water bottle, but no one knew what it was.
He then offered to sell it to people for $5000. People were knocking each other over to buy this empty water bottle with a promissory note inside. This is the power of marketing. The people believed that he would deliver them value that would well exceed the cost of $5000.
They didn't even care what it was, but they trusted him enough to know that he would exceed their expectations.
Now imagine this scenario for yourself. If you take the time to build your Runway for 6 months prior to opening your business, the potential for success is exponentially greater.
What does this type of business scenario look like?
What if you find people who want to buy your services, but you have nothing to offer?
Well this is where you need a plan of action, a strategy. Come up with a date 6 months from now that you plan to open your business -- whether it's online, brick and mortar, whatever.
Your Dream 100
Once you are firm with your date, the next thing you need to do is devise a community action plan.
Draw up a list of 100 people or businesses you need to connect with in order to get clients for your business. If you are a health coach or a COPD coach, who would have the power and resources to refer clients to you?
Put those people on your list. It doesn't matter if you know them or not today.
Find out who the local journalists are who cover health related topics in your town. Put those people on your list.
Find out what the top events in health are that will be happening in your town over the next 6 months. Who are the organizers of those events? Put them on your list.
You get the idea.
I want you to put 100 people's names down on your list.
You now have 6 months to connect with all of them and start building relationships with them.
A huge tip... don't start out with "Hi, my name is Catie, I own a health coaching business and was hoping you would send me clients". If you start with a pitch you will get -- "Great thanks, we'll be in touch if anyone comes our way."
You will sound like everyone else who is groveling for business.
The idea is to provide value and build a two way relationship. A real relationship, not a fake one-sided relationship. Please, people can see through this.
Find something real that you like and want to compliment the person on or ask their advice. Try, "Hi, my name is Catie and I love the design of your website, did you create that? It's gorgeous."
This starts a conversation (not a pitch fest). There is a huge difference between the two approaches.
For each of your 100 people, find an angle to connect with them. Don't force it, if some of your 100 people are jerks or they just don't respond to you, move on and replace them.
The most valuable piece of advice I can give any new NursePreneur is to build your relationships first. Figure out who the key stakeholders are. Give yourself 6 months of a runway to network with all these stakeholders, and then put your business together in the last couple weeks.
You've learned how to be more confident and taken your social skills to a whole other level.
Start with making that list of 100 people.
You can do this if you are about to start business, if you are already in business, or you don't have a business, you just want to be more connected to your community.
Remember, building relationships takes time, and it gets easier with practice. So put yourself into situations where you can engage people and build relationships over time without the pressure of desperately needing referrals.
Even if you don't have a business today or you're not sure what type of business to start, connecting with these people will be a powerful way, will help you feel more connected and most importantly when you are ready to open a business, this marketing plan will make it seem like a breeze.
Catie Harris is the founder behind NursePreneurs, mentoring business platform that was developed in order to help nursing professionals realize that they can create value while also embracing a flexible lifestyle. As a nurse with over 20 years of experience under her belt, Catie is empowering nurses everywhere by teaching them how to focus their skills on building an independent lifestyle of their choosing. She's taken her knowledge and experience in the entrepreneurial space after helping many others start successful businesses of their own to help nursing professionals take their careers paths into their own hands. For more information on Catie Harris and NursePreneurs please visit CatieHarris.com.