Through my experiences as a business owner, there are many things I wish I knew before stepping into the business world. Whether you have been in business for years or are just starting out, it’s important to look to the people who have paved the way to find your path. Here are the 10 things I wish I knew before starting my business.
1. Be ready to find new customers and contacts.
Be prepared to create and grow your business with new customers and contacts. People often leave corporate to start their own business and expect that those customers they served while working in corporate will come with them or want to do business with them. Sadly more times than not, those customers' allegiance is to the safety and security of the company you left. Your value has to be more than just relationships. Before you launch, work to create something with solid value propositions that can compete. If you're fortunate to bring in some old relationships, that's a bonus but don't rely on them.
2. Friends & Family aren’t a reliable source of revenue.
Don’t depend on friends and colleagues to support you. I don't know why this is true. It's a question better left for a psychologist to answer. The unfortunate truth I experienced and so many I have coached and interviewed say that the support they expected from colleagues and friends didn't happen when they started their businesses. I have my theories as to why this happens. That's for another day. Be prepared to grow new relationships and network with new people. Again, anyone supporting you is a bonus, but don't build your business plan around it.
3. Commit to your success, be flexible with how you get there.
Bruce Lee famously said, “Be like water." The road to success in business is like a river traveling from one body of water to the next. You must commit to your success and not how you get there. How you get there will and should change based on obstacles and opportunities presented to you along the way. You need to be malleable and adaptable. Commit to getting it right and not being right.
4. Two Years.
It will take two years minimum to make enough to pay yourself a modest salary. My experience has been that the two-year mark is usually the turning point. It's like clearing the first lap in the race. I've seen too often that those who need to support themselves directly from their business before the two years tend to head to financial failure. I recommend finding ways to supplement your personal income while growing your business in those first two years.
5. Organic marketing is the best marketing.
When growing a business, you need to reduce expenses as much as possible. Pay for play marketing vehicles takes a lot of time and money to succeed. Early in your business, those are two luxuries you don't have. Instead, opt for more organic ways to market yourself and your business. Think about marketing in ways others aren't. Strategic partnerships with people and companies you have synergy with, business social media content, trade organization, and networking events.
6. You are your best salesperson.
You can't hire someone to sell your business and products better than you. Accept it. You are the Head of Sales even if you aren't comfortable with sales. No one will have your passion, knowledge, or be as invested in your success. When starting a business, you need to embrace that role. You can't buy yourself out of it. As you grow and build success, you'll be able to elevate someone into that role.
7. Create frameworks and processes.
The biggest issue I hear from entrepreneurs that have grown their businesses is that they are too involved. If they remove themselves from the equation, the business will suffer. That is why it's essential to create processes and frameworks for everything you do. That allows you to assign specific tasks and actions more easily. To scale, you'll need SOPs.
8. Silence the Noise.
There is so much success noise. You have to do your best to limit your exposure to the noise. Stay in your bubble. If you believe in social media and give too much credence to all media sources, it'll make you feel like everyone is more successful than you. This can be demoralizing when building a business. Do your best to limit those distractions and create reminders to have balance.
9. Lean into your strengths.
You can't be great at everything. Early in your business, you'll have to wear many hats. That's important to do as it will help you gain a greater appreciation of the business holistically. Ultimately you will be at your best when you can lean into your strengths. Spending too much time involved in areas of weakness can take away from productivity and prolong your journey to success. Try to outsource weakness as soon as financially viable so that you can spend more time doing what you do best.
10. Money doesn’t define your success.
If you run your business only focusing on money, you will miss the passion and the people who make your business stand out from the crowd. Sometimes the best businesses with the biggest impact are not the most lucrative endeavors. Focus on the people and the passion behind your work and the money will follow.
If you want to learn more about what it takes to start a business and build a network with professionals in your industry, become a member at Business and Bourbon at www.businessandbourbon.live.