You’ve decided to go into business for yourself, and leave the rat race firmly in your rear view mirror. Fantastic! But let’s slow down a second. Starting a new business is like walking through a minefield, with seemingly countless mistakes and unknowns waiting ahead. We need to minimize mistakes and position you to have the most success possible, as soon as possible!
To help you navigate these potential troubles, here are six critical steps in starting a successful business.
Follow Your Dream
While that may be platitudinous way of stating it, you need to make sure that the venture you are launching falls in line with your passion in life. Whether it’s a parasailing company, a small accounting concern or a non-profit, one thing remains the same; you must love to do it. The reason? Because the truth of the matter is this:
The first 3 to 5 years of owning a small business is a GRIND.
I started Bush Marketing in 2008 and have put blood, sweat and tears building it into the agency it is today, and if I didn’t love doing it (and have fun doing it), I would have hung ’em up ages ago. If you aren’t sure if your upcoming business is what you truly want to do in life, take pause and evaluate. You’ll be glad you did.
One of the goals of the small business owner is to minimize the amount of mistakes when developing their business. The best way, hands down, to do this is by developing a detailed plan. Some of the questions that need to be addressed in advance are:
- Who is my target market?
- What is my mission statement?
- Who are my competitors?
- What measurable goals should I create?
- What deadlines should I set for those goals?
While the aspects of this plan may change as time goes by (pssst… they will), it is important to lay the foundation for success by planning ahead.
If you are currently employed, that’s great. You will want to transition into this new life. Your business will take some time to begin generating money steadily, oftentimes years, so if you can build your business while employed you will put yourself in a far better position to succeed than if you weren’t. Quitting your job and living off your savings while building a business is dangerous stuff, especially considering how little time a person can live comfortably without money coming in.
Being a small business owner, particularly when just beginning, can be a very isolating place. Trying to figure out aspects of running a business on one’s own, haphazardly guessing at which marketing strategies might work, trying to handle your own bookkeeping/accounting, etc. These are some of the greatest time and money wasters that new business owners endure. Surround yourself with people who have experience. Ask them what they did right and what they did wrong. If you are terrible with numbers, invest in a great bookkeeper/accountant. If you aren’t particularly tech or marketing savvy, look for a solid marketing company that can plan a strategy for you (hint: look for positive reviews and testimonials).
You will find that most people of business are very eager to help, so the only thing stopping you from learning is asking the right questions!
Press the Flesh
One of the most common frustrations that I see with small business owners is that they think once they have launched their business, the clients will come pouring in. That is very rarely the case. If you build it they will come does not apply to new business owners.
Your competition has been at work building a reputation and a client base for years before you and you need to catch up. Networking is one of the key elements to generating awareness. There are great networking opportunities to take advantage of, such as:
- Joining a Chamber of Commerce
- Joining a BNI chapter
- Attending Trade Shows
- Looking for events on Meetup.com
- Contacting friends and family for an introductory coffee
- Utilizing Linkedin to grow your connections
Your goal is to develop strategic partnerships and potential future clients. You need to make people aware of you and your business.
Maintain Life Balance
This one is more difficult than one would expect. You love what you do, you are now financially dependant on this business (as well as your family), so the inclination is to work at it constantly. It can creep up on you. All of a sudden you are working seven days a week, barrelling ahead and adding two new things to do for every one that you complete.
Take time for yourself. Take time for your family. At least one day a week, turn your phone off and don’t check your email. Not only will you be more refreshed and more effective in your work, you will get to enjoy the life that you have been given with those that you love. And that is the biggest perk of owning your own business.