In my line of work I encounter many entrepreneurs, a lot of whom are serial entrepreneurs. I’ll share a few of my key findings based on their experiences starting businesses. As you read these tips, consider the actions you can take to positively impact your own business.
1. Start now
I hear business contacts and friends say things like this all the time:
“I want to start my own business.”
“I have a great idea, I should start a company.”
“I could do this job so much better than my boss, and I don’t like working for others anyway.”
Well, your time is now. People delay taking risks, and they find a dozen reasons to do so. But the main reason is this: they are uncomfortable with uncertainty. They are scared of the unknown. They sometimes are too cautious or lack self-confidence. If you truly have a great idea, bet on yourself. I won’t tell you that you won’t regret it, but I can almost guarantee that not taking a smart risk will be worse. If you want to start your own business, take the first step this week: come up with the company name, register your LLC or take any other concrete step.
2. Have a plan and a contingency plan
Acting on your business idea does not mean that you should act on it without careful consideration of the risks involved, preferably before you get too far along. Find business partners, identify your widget or service exactly, have brainstorming sessions with friends or family members and outline a preliminary business plan. Be prepared for roadblocks and, if you have the time and energy, create a contingency plan. What’s your exit plan if this goes up in smoke? A contingency plan can help if your initial plans face a significant challenge and you are unsure where to turn.
3. Set your timeframe
I see many people get scared in the early stages of a business plan and retreat to jobs at which they feel safe and comfortable, though perhaps less happy. Others are so determined to actualize their ideas that they are unable to objectively evaluate when it is time to stop trying and call the endeavor a good, but failed, learning experience.
Set a time frame – for example, twelve months – for how long you will try your business idea. Make sure to identify specific times (preferably specific dates rather than “every 3 months”) when you will evaluate the time investment and if you’re where you need to be in your business plan. If you give yourself one year, that is not set in stone. If things start picking up in the 11th month, you should probably keep working on the venture for a while and reevaluate the timeline.
4. Create a solid foundation before you focus on growth
Entrepreneurs are ambitious! They also want to show themselves and the world that their business is successful in just a few months. Set your pride aside (also known as checking your ego at the door) and focus on creating a solid foundation on which long-term growth is possible. The wider and better quality the foundation, the more it will be able to hold as you grow vertically.
Are you ready to start your business? Outline three concrete steps that will get you started and try to complete those steps (or set them in motion) in the next seven days.
Do you already own or run a business? Please share your own thoughts and advice.