Starting a business for the first time and worried about failure? As an entrepreneur from the age of 14, I have experienced every variation of “high” and “low” in the world of business, and along the way have gathered some valuable advice, which I believe can benefit all entrepreneurs embarking on this challenging yet rewarding journey. Here’s a list:
1. Be passionate about what you do You don’t have to love every aspect of your business (and you probably won’t), but you do have to be fired up about it. You’re going to devote a lot of time and energy while building it into a successful enterprise, so it’s really important that you truly deeply enjoy what you do, whether it be running fishing charters, creating pottery, or providing financial advice. Make sure you’re on the right track by asking yourself whether you feel excitement when you think of the business, and if it is worth the sacrifice of your time and money. If your answer is “no” to any of those questions, then it probably isn’t right for you.
2. Don’t do it alone You need a support system while you’re starting a business (and afterwards). A family member or friend that you can bounce ideas off, and who will listen sympathetically to the latest business crisis is invaluable. When you’re starting a business, experienced guidance is the best support system of all, so finding a mentor in your industry will also give you the opportunity to learn from someone who has already been through the startup process.
3. Get clients or customers first Don’t wait until you’ve officially started your business to line up clients, as without them, your business will not survive. Spend time in the commonplaces of your potential market in order to network or connect with people over online social platforms, such as LinkedIn, then set up meetings to build on these contacts and provide potential future leads. You can never start marketing yourself too soon.
4. Start your business while you’re still employed How long can most people live without money? Not long, and it may be a while before your new business actually makes any profits. Being employed while you’re starting out means you will have money in your pocket to invest into the business, as well as to ensure you are able to keep up with your monthly living expenses.
5. Write a business plan. This is a key step before starting your business, as it provides you with invaluable information. Creating a business plan will allow you to better understand both operational and financial goals, providing crucial budget and marketing strategies. The main reason for doing a business plan first when you’re thinking of starting a business is that it can help you avoid pouring your time and money into something that will not succeed.
6. Seek professional help On the other hand, just because you’re starting a business doesn’t mean you have to be an expert on everything. If you’re not an accountant or bookkeeper, hire one (or both). If you need to write up a contract, and you’re not a lawyer, hire one. You will waste more time and possibly money in the long run trying to do things yourself that you are not qualified to do.
7. Get the money lined up Traditional lenders don’t like new ideas and giving money to new businesses that do not have a proven track record. Save up first, as well as approach potential investors. Work out your financial fall-back plan first, and it will ensure you do not hit a snag while building your business due to running out of money.
8. Be professional from the get-go Everything about you and the way you do business needs to convey to others that you are a professional running a serious business. That means your professional “suite” should be complete and on point, including quality business cards, a business phone, and a business email address. Most importantly, you will want to conduct yourself in a courteous manner, treating everyone as if they are your next client.
9. Do your research You’ll do a lot of research writing a business plan, but that’s just a start. When you’re starting a business, you need to become an expert on your industry, products, and services, if you’re not already. Joining related industry or professional associations before you start your business is a great idea. It will keep you informed on new information in the market, and help you keep track on competitors actions.
10. Get legal and taxes right the first time It’s much more difficult and expensive to fix a mess afterwards. Does your business need to be registered? What about VAT? Will you have to have Professional Indemnity Insurance? How will the form of business ownership you choose affect your legal and tax situation? Learn what your responsibilities are before you start your business and operate accordingly.