Don't get me wrong, I don't mean to mislead you. I'm not 14 years old with a global start-up, a life changing idea, and millions of dollars in seed funding. I am someone who started what became an award-winning web development agency with my business partner after college. The hardest part of it all was getting started; we had limited finances and were equipped with limited business acumen. All we knew is that we loved technology and design, and found a niche where that combination was missing.
For many entrepreneurs who want to be business owners, the first few steps are the toughest. Poor planning early on could set the precedence for the future of your business. Preparing yourself to the best of your ability will undoubtedly improve your chances of success.
As you start your business, consider these six tips that I wish I had known from the beginning:
1. Be specific.
"I want to help the world," and "I want to make x amount of money this year," is not enough. How? Why? Who? Spell out all of these details, even if just for yourself. Write a business plan to practice voicing the important criteria and developing a mission statement. Think about your product or service, market, and costs. Consider external factors such as accounting, employees, and overheads, even if it sounds crazy for you to think that far ahead. Do not make the mistake of thinking you know everything about what it will take to make your product/service successful right off the bat.
Make executive decisions to address any shortcomings. Though you will learn to fill some gaps yourself, for others, decide if it's worth time, money, and effort to do it yourself, or find other resources.
Most importantly, think about your end game. What is the purpose of this business and how do you, if you do, want to exit it years from now? Write this plan as if you will present it to someone who might invest in you. The more you specify, the better you will be in creating and implementing an efficient plan going forward.
2. Put in the work.
And be prepared to wait until it pays off. My partner and I spent days at a university's 24-hour library to get my initial launch materials ready because we lived somewhere with limited internet. One summer I worked 5 additional jobs in order to secure enough finance to hire an intern and employee. This is all sweat-equity. It is tough; gratification is seriously delayed, and most times, you will be the only one who knows how hard you work. All that you do in this stage, and going forward, is for the better benefit for your business.
3. Sell yourself.
You are your best marketing. Get the word out there; tell your friends and networks. In the last three years, 98% of our jobs that I've managed have come from referrals. If you don't talk about what you do, no one else will know what you do.
4. Be realistic. Revisit and revise.
This stage applies to all components of your business. Sometimes a plan needs to change, and that's okay. The important part is that you notice what's working and take effective steps to amend what isn't. Sometimes a strategy that seemed amazing at first doesn't work anymore, or there are people on your team who aren't beneficial to the overall goal. There are hard decisions to make, but quickly addressing them will serve you better in the long run. Everything that you do is a learning process. Look back on what you've done, even if it makes you cringe, and improve when going forward. Your strategy will continuously evolve--make sure you do too.
5. Time is valuable.
As you continue on your journey, never underestimate the value of your time. You might find that you want to do everything yourself because you think it saves time and money. But when looking at the bigger picture, allocate yourself and your resources so that time is used efficiently.
6. Understand your limits.
Many budding entrepreneurs are attracted to the "work for yourself" ideology, than actually working for themselves. Being your own boss is great, but it comes with great self-discipline. If you constantly need appraisal for your actions, consider whether if being in business for yourself is the right step. Sometimes you'll be the only one patting yourself on the back.
Most importantly, consider your mental well-being. Always work towards having adequate balance. This doesn't mean work and life have to be separate entities, but do consider the threshold when one does not benefit the other.
As I continue to grow, I always return to these six principles, and I am confident that these will give you a solid start on your own business. All the best to you.