A quick Google search will turn up hundreds of results on how to best build your new business. There’s no shortage of business thought leadership articles and lists available, but what works for one entrepreneur won’t always be right for someone else. How do you determine what will work best for you?
It takes a little of this and a little of that – and a whole lot of help from expected and unexpected places. The Business Advisors at the Entrepreneur Fund have been guiding the region’s business owners for years, and we’ve learned some universal truths along the way.
If you’re thinking about building a business from the ground up, check out these Dos and Don’ts to be sure you start off on the right foot and continue on a trajectory for growth and success.
Lightbulb! You have an idea. What next?
The stars aligned, and a great business idea came into your mind. It’s there to stay, so you keep thinking about how to take this idea and turn it into something lucrative. You think there are some definite possibilities, so it’s time to explore your options. Start by testing the feasibility of your idea to see if it stands up to scrutiny.
DO: Test your product or service in small, low-risk ways. That means doing free demonstrations, giving away free trial services or getting involved with festivals or pop-up stores. Your first goal is to get feedback from customers to discover the best ways of solving a problem or adding value. Before you make any significant financial commitments, spend some time refining and perfecting your idea, and building a proof of concept. If you can make a few sales and demonstrate that your idea has legs, you’re off to a great start.
DON’T: We do not recommend making any major financial commitments without getting real feedback from the marketplace. This is really important. It’s great that you’re willing to invest everything you’ve got – but pause for a moment. When you take the time to understand what your customers want, you can be sure to invest in what you really need. That way, you won’t waste time chasing money, unraveling commitments or adding unnecessary stress to your life.
You’ve got what it takes to build a business, right?
There’s an idea in your mind, passion in your heart and some level of business savvy in your skills and expertise, so you’re off to a great start. Some of today’s most successful business owners started off just like this, and they had the persistence to see their dreams become reality. Does that sound like you? Or maybe it sounds like who you’d like to be. Good.
DO: Take some time to discover your personal strengths and weaknesses. As a small business owner, you’ll end up wearing lots of hats. That may sound cliché, but it is absolutely true. You’ll be handling sales, marketing, human resources, accounting, leadership, management and the overall vision and direction of your company. We encourage entrepreneurs to understand themselves, so they can be better leaders. Get feedback from co-workers, colleagues and superiors, and check out tools like Meyers-Briggs, DISC and StrengthsFinder. When you know where you thrive and where you need help, it makes delegating that much easier.
DON’T: Try to do it all. We mean it – and we know you’ll try to do it all anyway. You know the list of all the things that business owners manage. The truth is that you don’t have to do everything on that list if you build a team of experienced, supportive people who have varying skill sets. Contract out your marketing to a firm or to your friend with some graphic design experience. Hire an accountant. Work with a trusted business advisor who can help make sure you’ve crossed all your Ts. Use what you’re already good at to strengthen your business and empower others to help fill in the gaps.
Getting the financials right
Building a business from the ground up is an exciting and sometimes nerve-wracking endeavor that requires financial stability. As you look to get your business started, it is important to be sure you have the stability to cover an entire year of personal needs.
DO: Get really good at budgeting. If you’re not already, you will be soon. Use tools like everydollar.com to help you understand and tighten up your spending. You’ll experience ups and downs during your first year in business, and you can’t count on your business to pay you until things are more stable. Until then, sticking to a budget to ensure financial security at home brings peace of mind.
DON’T: Set your expectations too high. The first one to three years will be bumpy, so be patient with yourself. Give yourself permission to figure things out in the first year. You’re smart, ambitious and incredibly driven. You’re not programmed to accept failure but cutting yourself a bit of slack as you’re getting the ball rolling is completely acceptable. You’ve built the support network you need to help you navigate the ins and outs of starting a business.
Get started on the right foot
Understanding your product or service, yourself and your financials are smart first steps toward getting your business off to a great start. The next step? Building a network of peers and advisors you can trust. Entrepreneur Fund Business Advisors have extensive business experience; some are business owners themselves, so we understand what it takes to get your business off the ground – and we can help you plan for and drive the results you want. Connect with us to meet with a Business Advisor in your area.