7 Things you should know before starting your business
As a new entrepreneur, you're full of ambition and excitement as you get ready to bring your vision to life. You're thinking about the future and how your startup will help people. The independence that comes from becoming your own boss is incredibly motivating.
But, it doesn't take long for reality to set in. Starting and growing a company is often more complicated than anticipated. It comes with many ups and downs.
A few essential insights can help you navigate the road ahead. Below are a few lessons that will help as you get started.
1. Perfect timing doesn't exist. So, start today.
"Once my kids are "xx" years old." "Once I have "xxxx" dollars in my bank account." "After we get through the holidays, I'll start my business." Life is busy. There's always a reason to delay starting your company. Often, these reasons are excuses for your underlying fear. Don't give yourself an out. Realize that perfect timing doesn't exist.
The sooner you get started, the sooner you'll get on the path to success.
2. You're going to get it wrong before you get it right.
Failure is part of the process. No amount of planning can prevent you from getting things wrong. You might price your product or service too high or too low. You may find that a feature you believed was critical doesn't matter at all to your customers. Your service may resonate with an entirely different target market than you had planned. Expenses may be higher than projected. Finding the right employees may be more challenging than you thought it would be.
There are a million things you won't get right at first. But, guess what? It's a necessary part of the process. Every "failure" presents an opportunity to learn. You'll use these lessons to help you do the next right thing.
3. Focus on the minimum viable launch.
Just as you may strive for perfect timing, you may believe that your product, service, branding, website, and systems must be perfect before launching your business. But, a focus on perfection will hinder, not help, your progress.
"If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late," says Reid Hoffman, co-founder of LinkedIn.
As you operate your business, non-profit, blog, podcast, newsletter, or venture, you're going to learn more about the needs of your customers, clients, or audience. You'll undoubtedly make changes to meet those needs. The only way to truly understand your customers' needs is to start marketing your products and services to them. You'll receive feedback that's necessary to help your business succeed.
So, don't get stuck on perfection. Focus on launching your business with the minimum functionality and information necessary to launch.
Take on the mindset that your business is iterative. Based on feedback, industry changes, technological advancements, and customer preferences, it will grow and adapt.
4. It will take longer than you think, be patient.
Some companies may look like overnight successes, but in reality, you haven't seen the years of work it took to get there. Depending on the type of business, it can take months to get your first customers and years to become profitable. The timeline can be even longer if you're manufacturing or coding a product.
Owning a business will test your patience and persistence. There's no way to avoid this but understanding that "things take time" can help you get through it.
5. Your time has value.
Entrepreneurs are resourceful individuals who aren't afraid of a challenge. They'll teach themselves the skills necessary to start a business, from bookkeeping to sales, graphic design, and more. This "can-do" attitude is great for starting a business but can also lead to stalled growth.
Where you spend time within your business matters a lot. It's easy to get tied up in tasks (like website maintenance) that don't actually lead to business growth.
Focus your time on areas that grow the business. That may be in sales, working directly with the clients, or wherever your strengths, skills, and talents best serve the company. Hire or outsource everything else.
When your time is tied up in the wrong things, your company bears the cost of stalled growth. Value your time just as you value the money you spend in the business.
6. Budget for marketing.
Entrepreneurs are resourceful; they believe they can do a lot with little. That often leads to overcommitting your time (see point number 5) or neglecting key areas of your business like marketing.
On top of that, there's a lot of "market your business for free" advice online. There are certain marketing strategies that you can do for free, but usually, it's best to combine them with paid strategies for maximum effect.
Entrepreneurs will often spend money on labor, rent, software, and more while neglecting to budget for marketing and sales, one of the most critical functions of growing a business.
Acquiring customers requires you to reach the right target audience repeatedly. You need to allocate a budget to do so.
7. You have to do sales.
You know how great your product or service is, and others will see it too, right? Well, yes. But not without some effort on your part. You may need to pick up the phone, cold email, stop in to see a business owner or network in person. It can take a lot of trial, error, and work to land your first clients or customers.
In the early days, sales is one area that's difficult to outsource. At the same time, it's one of the critical functions of your business because it generates revenue. Being involved in the sales process early will provide insight to make your business better. It will also help you hire the right sales professional or marketer in the future.
You can do it!
Starting a new business is an exciting time! Enjoy planning and building your business and thinking about the future and its impact. Use the insights provided here to prepare your mindset and guide your business growth.
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