The essentials before starting a viable business
Starting a business really ought to be treated more like an Olympic sport than something that anyone can do easily. While it is true that you, in particular, can handle this challenge if you are ready, there are some serious attitude choices that will help you grow toward success as an entrepreneur. Here is some of the hard-won wisdom we’ve gained over time.
Evaluate Your Market Well: Before you take the leap and make this a business, do extensive research on your product or service:
- Are people looking for an alternative to what is already available?
- Is reaching your market possible through targeted marketing efforts?
- Is the price you’d need to make a profit also a price that people will pay?
- Are you the right person for this product or service?
These questions are hard, so often people gloss them over and don’t spend as much time understanding the market as they need to. However, finding out the answer is “no” to any of these questions is not the end! A “no” answer means you can pivot to a different market, product, or service before you spend your capital, rather than after costly investments of time and money.
Understand Your Own Temperament: Entrepreneurs, especially in the hard early days, spend a lot of time alone and a lot of time getting skeptical looks about their value. Recognize whether you are the kind of person who will take rejection personally or will use it as fuel to get better and better. Eventually, your company will be able to hire a skilled team to help you, but be aware of what you need emotionally to ensure you get through lonely times with success.
Prepare Yourself With a Healthy Schedule: I won’t lie to you: there will be some late-night and early-morning work sessions to get things done on time for your new business. However, on a “non-crisis” day, you want to have a schedule that won’t exhaust you to the point of illness or frustration. Make sure you have put in place a way to quickly and efficiently eat healthily, as well as opportunities to stay active. Even if you take “walking meetings” where you chat on the phone or with a colleague while getting some power-walking in, make the effort to keep your body healthy. Your mind provides its best solutions to your entrepreneurial challenges when you give it the sleep, exercise, and nutrition it needs.
Spend Start-Up Capital Wisely: Very few businesses need high-end office furniture, laptops, or decor for their launch. Certainly, do what you can to make an office that will receive clients look solid and professional, but spend as little as possible on unnecessary extras. The cash you have equates to your runway, or how long you can operate in those early portfolio-building months.
Re-Invest As Much Money As Possible in the Business: One major key to business success is to avoid taking a large salary as soon as there is money coming into the business. Entrepreneurs should evaluate their bare-bones salary, pay themselves, and then use all the other profits to grow the business. Scaling, even up to a mid-sized enterprise, requires capital, and to see those massive returns you dream of, you’ll need to make sure you are putting in both the time and money to reach those bigger and bigger markets.
As You Grow Your Team, Play to Each Person’s Strengths: Solo entrepreneurs learn very quickly what they do better than anyone else and what they dread doing. Whether you are best at sales, leadership, finance, operations, or another aspect of the job, reserve the elements of the job that are your strengths and begin to fill out your team with people who are great in the areas where you might struggle. Bring people on board whose strengths make your whole business stronger.
Be the Driving Force Behind a Positive Work Culture: Problem solvers and positive thinkers thrive in a small business: they can take even the most absurd and difficult challenge and turn it into an invigorating opportunity. On the other hand, a negative corporate culture can drain away all the joy even in a company that is doing quite well. Make sure that you, as the leader of your team, are the one being the most positive, having the most proactive solutions, and offering the most encouragement. This will establish a pattern so that your team members will recognize that getting things done and being positive about those tasks is a major requirement of this business.
Relentlessly See Problems As Information and Opportunities: Too many people expect a smooth path in their early years as entrepreneurs; when you expect everything to be rosy and perfect, you are worse at taking advantage of opportunities. So many successful companies result from a setback that causes them to re-evaluate the market; perhaps your product is selling poorly, but the feedback you get consistently is that people wish it had a completely different feature. Rather than feeling tied to whatever your current trajectory is when things are rough, focus your energy on drawing lessons from every problem and using that information to provide a truly unique product or service to the world.
Take The Ethical “Slow Route” Over Any Unethical Shortcuts: Working all the time can lead to burnout, which often creates entrepreneurs who are so exhausted that they will look for anything to make the work easier. When presented with a morally questionable shortcut, you need to have the strength and stamina to reject it in favor of whatever the more ethical path would be. Companies that achieve success quickly because of unethical practices often crumble in later years because they failed to build up their strong base, or even because they are accused of fraud or other crimes. Recognize that success often takes time, and be creative, but not unethical, with how you move forward.