What do WalMart, Apple, Microsoft, and Starbucks have in common?
Much like your neighborhood mom and pop businesses, they, too, were startups at some point. They didn't just appear out of thin air.
When Apple first began as an idea, Steve Jobs had to sell his VW bus for $750 to develop working capital to create some of the first Apple products. It was a startup that began on April 1, 1976 when Jobs drew up the first partnership agreement.
It's now a $554 billion company.
In 1971, three teachers each invested $1,350 of their own money into a small store known as, Starbucks Coffee, Tea and Spice. Through hard work and the eventual introduction of Howard Shultz in the 1980's, the company would eventually go public in 1992, proving itself to be one of the most successful IPOs of the year.
It's now an $82 billion company.
Inspired by the success of a dime store he once owned, Sam Walton would open the first WalMart in 1962 in Rogers, Arkansas. Competitors thought the idea of offering lower prices and better value would never work. Eight years later, Walton began to expand outside of Arkansas. By 1970, 38 stores were opened with $44.2 million in sales.
By 1990, after a great deal of hard work and determination, the discount retailer would become the top retailer in the U.S. with $26 billion in sales. The company is now worth well over $223.5 billion.
The difference between a startup and an incredibly successful business these days is a few years of hard work, vision, determination, timing, and the upfront realization that 90 percent of all new businesses fail. Sure, the odds may seem stacked against you, but it's those with determination that see future rewards. The vast majority of successful Fortune 500 companies were once startups, too.
Here are six ways to up your chances of succeeding in the long-term.
I always believe the sign of a successful business owner is an ability to spot mistakes quickly, correct them on the spot, and help ensure it doesn't happen again.
No. 1 - Have a business plan
Don't wake up one morning and decide to start a business without a plan in place. You will fail unless your ducks are in a row. Coming up with an idea is often the easy part. Once you decide to bring it to life, you must decide how it will be funded. What strengths and weaknesses do you bring to the table? Are you confident enough to make a startup a reality? In my book, a solid plan is mandatory. Failure to plan will lead to immediate failure.
No. 2 - Accept Criticism
None of us are perfect. Take as much feedback as you possibly can from competitors, customers, associates, and friends. They may see something that you don't. They may open your eyes to something new that you may not have seen. You don't have to agree with all of the critiques or follow suggestions, but the more feedback you get, the more information you have to make better decisions.
A time-tested way to succeed in almost anything is by finding out the recommended course of action from others that are doing what you're doing - and repeat. Learning how to be a successful business owner is a long process of trial and error.
No. 3 - Put down the Kool-Aid
Some businesses are full of "yes men" who will never fault you or point out errors. They'll just yes you to death. The press, analysts, friends, and family can reinforce a grandiose sense that you're doing well, that "you've got this," and "no one is better than you." Take it with a grain of salt. The only way to build a successful business is by avoiding the "hype" and "noise" and focusing on your customers, partners and suppliers for a fairer view of just how successful you truly are... or are not.
No. 4 - Understand your Legal Priorities
If you fail to understand the legalities of business, you will find yourself knee deep in a legal mess. It's never too early to start building a relationship with a legal professional. This is a must for any business. A well-trained, well-educated attorney will help handle any current legal issues and may be able to predict issues down the road, as well.
For example, when starting out, you may want to incorporate or form an LLC, establish a trademark for a brand name, or logo, perhaps seek patent protection. Once you're off the ground, written contracts with employees, partners, and suppliers may be necessary. Failure to properly document any agreement could lead to your first legal battle. Having a good attorney on hand is essential.
No. 5 - Understand Accounting Rules
Once you're up and running, making good money, as hoped, an accountant is a necessity, especially if you have plans to become a public company. Your books will be open to intense scrutiny. Any poor accounting will lead to immediate mistrust and a potential loss of business with customers and suppliers.
Whether it's through word-of-mouth, an investing club, or even a process of non-stop CPA firm interviews, it is an absolute imperative that you find a competent Certified Public Accountant (CPA) that specializes your line of work. Your CPA must be qualified. Unless you enjoy accounting - or have the time for it - hire a competent accountant.
Not only can a good accountant correctly structure your business from a legal and financial perspective, that person can create a strategy for your business that will allow you to keep more money; help you make smart decisions; and recommend other team members who can help make your business more profitable, according to the excellent advice given by www.BiggerPockets.com.
No. 6 - Relax, Relax, Relax
No one ever said starting a business was easy. It's not. It's stressful. But you must remember to relax along the way or you will burn out quickly, as will your business. Stop worrying and enjoy, too. Just remember to approach your new business venture in a smart, well-educated manner to prevent potential errors.
I work very hard running a commercial real estate company. But I know how important it is to take breaks. It's part of the reason I pen this blog on a weekly basis. It's my way of refocusing and distancing myself from the regular day - for at least a little while. As with most professionals, a lot of us spend a considerable amount of time planning, visiting, and working only to realize weeks have gone by without any time for ourselves.