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No one sets out in business and says, “Gee, I want to fail.”  Yet a whopping 80% of businesses fail within the first 18 months; 50% of the remaining bite the dust within the first five years (Source:  Forbes).  You have stellar intentions to boldly go where no other wedding vendor has gone before, but somehow your mission gets lost in translation (or the heaps of piles of papers and mounting bills on your desk) and instead you end up wallowing in a sea of “could-have been’s.”

My career as an entrepreneur began nearly two decades ago.  I’ve tried a lot, failed a lot (sometimes miserably and costly), but I learned from each one and my successes surpassed my pitfalls.  Why?  Because I have two things that every entrepreneur must have:  drive and brains.  Wanting it isn’t enough; you have to be willing to go get it and then have the smarts to know what to do with it.

I can’t help you learn “drive,” but I am here to help you with the “brains” part.  Here’s five tips to prevent ultimate failure–Let’s get started!

1.)  Have a Business Model.  Lead comes in.  You meet with a  bride for a consultation.  Do you have a contract?  What is your retainer amount?  When is the balance due?  What’s your procedure for day-of setup?  In other words, a Standard Operating Procedures guide.   You must have a step-by-step procedure for every aspect of your business.  Write it down.  Are you a one-person show and think you don’t need a SOPG?  Think again.  What if you grow and hire employees?  You’ll wish then you had all this in place BEFORE hiring.  

2.) Offer What Clients Really Want.  Sure, if you think it’s cool there’s bound be someone else out there who also thinks so, but if you can’t find enough of them, you will go out of business.  If you are a photographer and you are hearing that potential clients really want digital images, provide this option.  If you are a cake baker and your client wants a naked cake, do it.  It’s fine to have a niche, but if your market isn’t big enough or you don’t appeal well, you will loose.   

3.)  Understand Cash Flow and Profitability.  I’ve read that most new entrepreneurs do not understand the numbers.  I was one of them–but quickly (oh so quickly) learned.  Hire a CPA; take a course at the community college; read Accounting for Dummies even.  I stress this with the utmost importance:  If you do not understand how cash flow works and how to turn a profit you will fail with no chance of coming back.  

4.)  Be Different and Know How to Communicate.  If you are just like everyone else in your field you will suffer a quick death.  If you cannot clearly communicate how you are different and why people should hire you, you will fade away and never be noticed.  Your logo, slogan, marketing materials, website, even the way you present yourself must all be in line with one another.  Over the years I’ve read some terribly written marketing pieces–you are pre-judged by your potential clients so you better make it good.  Not a writer? and can help.

5.)  Be Confident!  Some entrepreneurs are seen as smug, arrogant even.  Ever watch Shark Tank?  Those people have millions of dollars to their names and offer no apology for it.  You will doom yourself to self-destruction by not believing in yourself and possessing 100% confidence in what you do.  Be it.  Believe it.  Don’t settle for second best.

Make no mistake, to succeed, you must first fail.  Mini-failures along the long the way that you learn from will make you stronger and more successful, but some failures (like what is listed above) will simply put you out of business.  Thomas Edison quote

What lessons have you learned from failing that helped you?  What advice do you have for other wedding professionals?  Please share in the comments below!