What are your entrepreneurial non-negotiables?


What are your entrepreneurial non-negotiables, and how will they help your business succeed? Identify the values that underpin your business with three simple but insightful questions.

There are a dizzying number of questions you need to answer when you start your business. What should you call it? What can you sell? How much should you charge? Do you need a logo? Where can you advertise your services?

But before you can answer any of these questions, you need to answer a much more fundamental one: what are your business non-negotiables?

To help you understand the values your business is built on (and why they’re so important), Jo-Ann Hamilton from SecretBirds explains what ‘entrepreneurial non-negotiables’ means, and challenges you to answer three insightful questions.

What are your entrepreneurial non-negotiables?

Non-negotiables are the principles that shape and drive your business. Every successful company is built on solid values; underlying principles by which they operate and that form the foundations of their relationships with their customers, collaborators and partners.

Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of believing that their product or service is their business. But products and services can change, according to market forces. Values, on the other hand, stand the test of time, and enable you to adapt, grow and even change the products or services that you sell, while remaining true to your business.

Values also create loyalty – they help people to identify with, trust and build a relationship with you. Once customers, collaborators and partners buy into your ‘why’ (and as long as you deliver it) they’ll remain with you.

Three questions to help you define them

So what about you? How do you define your entrepreneurial non-negiatobles? The reasons why you started your business, and who it’s for? To help you get clear about the values that underpin everything your business stands for and does, I will ask you three questions.

1) Why did you create your business?

Many entrepreneurs will tell you they started their business out of a need or when realising there was an opportunity to create something new or add value. It is important to consider the story behind your business and use it to develop your non-negotiables.

With a clear idea of your ‘why’ you can grow your business in alignment with this story and these values, to ensure it remains true to your initial vision, and doesn’t veer off course.

For example, Australia-based mumpreneur Janine Allis, realised there were very few health fast food options for the entire family, particularly when on the go. So she launched Boost Juice.

Boost Juice Bars are now located in over 17 countries and the brand embraces a love life philosophy. Using Janine’s business as an example, you can guess that her non-negotiables include:

  • Healthy eating.
  • Sustainable living.
  • Active lifestyle for children.

What about you?

Why did you create your business? What’s your story and what are the values that underpin what you do? As Simon Sinek explains in his book Start with why, the world’s most successful businesses, such as Apple, focus not on what they do, but why they do what they do, and grow their business in alignment with that core ethos.

2) Who are you working for?

You can’t have a business without customers – people who like the product or service you have created, and see the value in and buy it. And while you may be boss of your own business, these are the people you are actually working for.

Mrs Ogbeide, a Nigeria-based mumpreneur and founder of Washaman Court, started her business after having her children. She thought it an easy business to go into, after all – like any mother – she had been washing for years.

After several years in business, her main clientele are high ranking executives of major corporations; professionals who are constantly on the go and have limited time.

Washaman Court is their go-to place for a great service that will maintain the quality of their clothing. It also delivers the high end quality service they want. Given this, it’s not hard to conclude that Mrs Ogbeide’s non-negotiables may well include:

  • Attention to detail.
  • Efficient cleaning.
  • Best possible service.

Who are you working for?

Think about your actual or ideal customer. Who are they? What problems do they have? And how do you help them? By knowing who you’re working for, and keeping their needs at the heart of your company values (including your USP) you’ll find it easier to start and grow a business that sells products and services people want and buy.

3) What will be your legacy?

When it is all over what will be said about your business? How will people remember you? And what will be the story they tell about what you did and the impact it had on the world?

When Annabel Karmel tragically lost her baby daughter, she turned her loss into a drive to help other children; a mission she has more than achieved through her bestselling cookbooks. (You can read her story here.)

Today Annabel is expanding her legacy to help mums too, by sharing her business expertise and experience in her book Mumpreneur: the complete guide to starting and running a successful business.

Annabel has grown a thriving business and has dozens of successful books to her name. Through Annabel’s writing, she has helped mums prepare delicious and healthy food to give their children the best start in life, and is now helping those same mums fulfil their business ambitions. As a result, her non-negotiables could include:

  • Sharing advice and experience.
  • Helping make mums’ lives easier.
  • Growing healthy children.

What about you?

What do you want your legacy to be? How will your business change the world for the better (even in tiny ways)? What do you want people to say about you? How will you be remembered? By getting a clear vision of your ‘end goal’ – in this case the legacy you leave via your business – you’ll find it easier to make decisions that will steer you in the right direction, and actually reach it.

Think about your entrepreneurial non-negotiables

Entrepreneurial non-negotiables are built on solid values and, once you’re clear on them, will guide you through all your business challenges.

Each business will have their own, unique non-negotiables. Some may base theirs around integrity, superior customer service and the ability to embrace change. Other will focus on having the best product in the market, combined with excellent customer service.

So take time to consider your entrepreneurial non-negotiables. And when you have decided on them, be uncompromising in your commitment to sticking to them – and grow a successful business you love.

Jo-Ann A Hamilton, is the founder of SecretBirds, an enterprise which encourages, supports and empowers girls and women through entrepreneurship.

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