When I started my first company, I had no idea what I was doing. I winged it every step of the way, every day. Finally, I got smart and started reading. I learned a lot about building a successful business from the likes of Jim Collins, John C. Maxwell, and Seth Godin. That, combined with the knowledge and experience I picked up along the way, has taken me far in the world of business. Today I’m an experienced entrepreneur running a successful roofing business that’s growing like there’s no tomorrow.
Now it’s your turn. You have an idea that could change the world — or at least make it a little better. You know you’ve got to take the plunge and start your business, but where do you start? How do you make sure your business succeeds?
These are questions that all new entrepreneurs ask themselves before diving into the world of business ownership. And while there’s no one answer for every situation, there are definitely a few common mistakes that new entrepreneurs make.
Here’s a list of the most common, along with some tips on how to avoid them.
Not Testing the Market
The best way to figure out whether your product or service is viable is to test the market. This means finding ways to understand what people are looking for, determining how they communicate their needs and desires to the marketplace, and then discovering whether your product or service fills those needs and desires or not.
There are many ways to test the market: surveys, focus groups, open houses, mailers, etc. Your sample doesn’t have to be large. Even one or two test customers can provide valuable feedback that will guide you in honing your consumer offering. This feedback is invaluable in helping you determine what direction your company should take moving forward.
Not Having a Strong Business Plan
As soon as you’ve decided on what kind of product or service you’re offering, you need to write a business plan. A well-written plan includes many sections that force you to examine your business idea from all sides. It also forces you to take a clear-headed approach to how much time, money, and other resources are required for your start-up business.
If you’re approaching the bank or the SBA for a loan, the first thing the loan officer will ask for is your business plan. This document proves to them that you know what you’re doing — even if you’re not quite sure of that yet yourself!
There are plenty of resources to help new entrepreneurs create a solid business plan. I recommend starting with the SBA (Small Business Association). It offers all sorts of free resources to help new business owners get started on the right track.
Quitting Too Early
It’s easy to get discouraged when starting a new business. Things often go awry, and setbacks are common. But that doesn’t mean you’re on the wrong track. It’s important to remember that every business starts out this way. The key is to remain flexible, learn from your mistakes, and incorporate those lessons going forward.
Remember that the start-up process often takes longer than anticipated, even if you wrote the best business plan ever. Be patient and go easy on yourself. Make sure you give the process enough time to work. If you need help getting specific tasks done, enlist the help of a professional in that area. That’s what they’re there for!
Not Taking Risks or Feedback
You’ll face many challenges as an entrepreneur. But you knew that. If you weren’t okay with it, you wouldn’t be starting a business, right?
You have to be willing to take risks and try new things in order for your business to succeed. However, there’s a fine line between taking risks and being reckless. If you don’t understand what the business needs or how your decisions affect the overall plan, you may waste a lot of time and money on things that don’t support the bottom line.
You have to take risks occasionally. But it’s critical to stay open-minded and willing to listen when others offer feedback or advice. Friends and business associates often see things more clearly than you because they look at the situation from a distance. They’re often able to offer a different perspective or a better solution than the one you were contemplating.
Underestimating the Value of Time
Many people see business ownership as the ideal lifestyle. They put in a few hours each week to keep the plates spinning but then spend the rest of their week on the golf course. Entrepreneurship doesn’t work that way. When you run your own company, every hour counts.
In the beginning, you’ll be busier than you ever imagined possible. In order to keep from burning out, you need to set aside dedicated time for yourself, your family and friends, your health — even your hobbies. It’s essential to prioritize your most important relationships to keep them healthy. Otherwise, the stress of neglected relationships bleeds over into the business, clouding your judgment and warping your ability to make good decisions.
Schedule time with your spouse and kids so they don’t feel neglected. Schedule some downtime for yourself while you’re at it. Keep yourself as healthy as possible. You’ll need all your defenses to make this thing work. And you’ll need the support of those closest to you too.
You Can Do This!
There are no guarantees when starting a new business. It’s risky and challenging but also very rewarding! Just remember that the more prepared you are, the better your chances for success. You can do this!
If you need help or advice, I’m here for you. Just contact me to schedule a consultation.