Entrepreneurial success starts with the desire to be successful. However, desire is just the start: the entrepreneur has to learn how to resolve problems, identify opportunities and learn to manage resources. Sharifah Hardie’s role as a professional business consultant is to provide the expert guidance that could help the entrepreneur reach their goals.
Sharifah has been running a very successful home based business advising other entrepreneurs with her consulting business at SharifahHardie.com www.sharifahhardie.com. In addition to running her business consulting, she also has an internet radio show called the AskSharifah Radio Show, with plans of launching a TV show series soon.
WomenHomeBusiness.com talked with Sharifah on what it takes to succeed as a small business entrepreneur:
What inspired you to start your professional consulting business?
I was inspired to become a professional business consultant because since I started online in 1994 I have continuously been asked for Internet advice. I initially started online with SMC and have had several Internet businesses and my following has followed me from business to business, from opportunity to opportunity. I compiled the wealth of information into my consulting business, an online radio show, speaking engagements and extensive social network presence.
There are many types of business consulting. What kinds of services do you offer?
As Google’s #1 Ranked, “Professional Business Consultant” I specialize in assisting small to medium sized business owners achieve a successful online presence.
What was the most challenging part of starting your own consulting business?
The most challenging aspect of starting my own business was dealing with people who felt that because my business is a home based virtual business it’s not a “real” business. Many people feel that if you do not have a 9-5 job then it’s just a hobby. It was a struggle for me to ignore what anyone else had to say and focus on my vision. Another challenge I experienced was having to handle every aspect of my business myself. As a sole proprietorship I’m responsible for everything from customer service to accounting, from marketing to hiring. Although I reap the benefits of my hard work I’m also responsible for handling any situations that might come up along the way.
For someone who also wants to start a business consulting, what do they need to successfully start this type of business?
In order to start a consulting business, as with any business research, research, research your industry. Know your product. Know the major competitors within your industry. Stay current on what’s going on in your market. You want to be able to have a future projection of where things are and are going. Stay current so that you are able to make recommendations to clients to make recommendations based upon future trends.
From your business consulting experience, what do you think are the most common problems of start up entrepreneurs? What advice do you give them?
The most common problems of start up entrepreneurs is their focus on the initial seed capital. I advice entrepreneurs to focus on spreading the word about their products and services and not on what they do not have. Excellent products and services will generate enough money to pay for additional marketing and services. Word of mouth advertising is one of the best form of marketing. Promote your business through online and offline social networks. Many entrepreneurs create the product or service and just sit and wait for the orders to come in and unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. You have to get out there and start knocking on doors, even if they’re just virtual doors.
You are your own brand. How important should branding be to a small business entrepreneur?
Your brand speaks for you and it’s a name people will recognize. Any small business entrepreneur wants to give a lot of thought and receive feedback on their brand. I recommend consulting an expert to make sure the image is complete. Many new entrepreneurs making the mistake of not including every aspect or the incorrect types of materials within their brand. Every piece of information, every photograph, every appearance, comment, article, post or press release is all a part of your brand. Think twice before sharing personal information online. Consider if the picture of you drinking margaritas is the image you would like to portray. Image is everything and it speaks everything about your brand.
How should small business entrepreneurs market on the Web? What do you think are the best ways to market a small business online?
There are many ways to market online. I highly recommend Adwords, media worthy press releases on any upcoming events, articles discussing your areas of expertise, being engaging on the social networks and direct word of mouth advertising in addition to traditional marketing.
You’re a business consultant, host of your radio show, and soon to launch your own television show series as well. How do you manage your time? What is your secret for balancing work with family and your me-time?
My secret to maintaining balance in my life is setting boundaries. Even though I work from home full time my business hours are still 9 AM – 6 PM. I only take scheduled calls and meetings before and after these times. Any non urgent calls or requests received outside of these times are handled the next business day. I make sure to allow time for me to unwind and spend time with my family. Initially when I made this change it felt overwhelming. I soon learned that most issues aren’t as initially urgent as they seem and don’t all have to be handled immediately. Setting boundaries across the board saved many hurt feelings when people didn’t receive an immediate response and it allows me time to analyze requests before immediately answering.
How do you see yourself and your business five years from now?
Five years from now I will have a television network and created various business related vehicles allowing increased exposure for a multitude of business owners and industries.
What advice do you give other women entrepreneurs?
I would advise women business entrepreneurs to believe in yourself and your abilities. Because we often have so many things pulling on us and are responsible for just about every aspect of our family lives we don’t know if we have the time, energy or resources to add one more thing to our plate. We feel as if our family will suffer. Being a successful entrepreneur is one of the best gifts you can give to your family, especially to our children. We can then stand tall and say, “If I can do it. You can do it!”