There is a lot of information out there about how to get started as an entrepreneur.
Much of it is well-meaning but mostly misses the mark in terms of what it means to run a business here in the digital age.
Many sources tell you to start with a business plan. Starting there is largely unnecessary unless you’re planning to court venture capitalists, investors, and other sources of funding.
And let’s be real – you don’t have a business plan unless you know your idea can generate revenue. You might be excited about your idea right now, but this doesn’t automatically make it a huge moneymaker.
If you want to master you first year as an entrepreneur, you need to…
Get Your Mindset Right
Here’s something they probably don’t teach in business school – building a business requires a long-term mindset.
If you do it right, you’re going to be spending a lot of time learning and growing in your first year (and hopefully validating your business idea – more on that later).
Since overnight successes are a virtual myth, it’s important to make decisions that will support your long-term goals.
- You should spend some time building towards your goal every single day.
- You should avoid short-term financial decisions that will put your business at long-term risk (i.e. taking on a lot of debt).
- You should learn to manage your time well and understand that some sacrifices will need to be made (i.e. you probably won’t be able to attend every celebration, birthday party, or wedding you’re invited to).
- You should invest in yourself – read, listen, watch, attend. Get into books and audio courses, get advice from successful people, watch informative videos, attend networking events and conference in your industry, and so on.
The above list is just a starting point. In business, shortsightedness can come back and bit you in the butt later, so a strong mindset is a must.
Suspend Your Ideals
Per HSBC, 64% of entrepreneurs surveyed by them believe it’s their duty to have a positive social and economic impact on society and 74% gave to good causes in the preceding year.
You want all your vendors and suppliers to be locally-sourced and eco-friendly. You want them to be ethical in their dealings and on top of their game, never causing any trouble or delays.
It’s good to have a vision for your business. It’s nice to think about the people you’ll impact, the difference you’ll make, and the nature you’ll preserve.
But if you’re not open to feedback, and you insist on doing things your way, you won’t get far.
Things rarely go perfectly in business. Yes, even your favorite non-profit organization probably didn’t start under the most ideal of circumstances.
Never lose your vision for what you want your business to be. But be flexible with the approach you take.
If you’re getting caught up in the details of what you stand for and what you believe, and that stops you from validating your business idea, you’re prolonging your journey towards a successful business.
Research Your Competition
Not the first to market with your idea?
Don’t worry about it – this is a good sign.
First, it means there are hungry customers in the niche you’ve chosen.
Second, you can learn from what others are doing. No need to reinvent the wheel.
Third, you can identify what’s missing in the marketplace. If there’s anything important others aren’t covering, you can fill those gaps.
Even if you only look at three of your competitors and analyze their products, you should get a better idea of how to price, market, and sell your offer.
By utilizing tools like Alexa and SimilarWeb, you can even begin to get a sense of who your target audience is – age range, location, education level, and so on.
As great as your idea might be, it’s almost guaranteed that not everyone is going to buy it. You think they will, but they won’t. So, by researching your competition, you can determine how your offer fits into the market and give it a better chance at succeeding.
Validate Your Idea
Validate your idea sooner rather than later.
Don’t go out and get an expensive logo designed. Don’t print up business cards. Don’t plan a launch party.
Before you do anything else, see if you can sell whatever it is you’re planning to sell. Better yet, pre-sell it before you put effort into making it, then deliver on your promise.
If you can’t sell anything, you’ve got a bigger problem than you may even realize. What problem? You don’t have a business.
There are many approaches to building a business, and if you want to, you can start with building an audience before selling anything. But this is a much longer path to revenue. Plus, what happens if you spend years building an audience, several months creating a product, and then no one buys? Is this a risk you can afford to take?
Why not create an offer that people respond to, and then build a business around that offer?
By validating your idea early, you’ll waste a lot less of your time, energy, and resources.
Stop Trying To Do Everything Yourself
The sooner you can get into the habit of collaborating, building a team, working with others and delegating responsibilities to skilled individuals, the better off you will be.
Employees work for money and other people. Entrepreneurs have money and other people work for them.
Many new entrepreneurs have perfectionist tendencies, so they end up doing everything themselves. This might be manageable for a while, but at some point, it will become a recipe for burnout and stress-related health concerns.
If you can’t hire anyone full-time, then have people on Upwork and Freelancer apply to your job postings and have them handle smaller tasks that eat up your time and don’t allow you to focus on high value tasks.
You shouldn’t hire until you have your cash flow figured out, but that goes back to what was said earlier about validating your idea.
First, start selling something. Once you’re generating revenue, determine how much you can afford to allot to your team.
Per Fit Small Business, 46% of businesses fail due to incompetence, 30% due to lack of managerial experience, 11% due to lack of experience. The rest was attributed to fraud, natural disasters and neglect.
Let’s face it – 87% of entrepreneurs fail because they don’t know what they’re doing!
If you think you can go it alone, give up. You may be equipped with the knowledge to get a business off the ground, but you almost certainly don’t have the experience necessary to keep your business afloat over the long haul.
Seek mentorship from those who’ve accomplished things you haven’t, or those who are on the path to getting there.
You could find other business owners in your locality and ask for their help. You could join an online community and pay for coaching. You could join an entrepreneur organization that offers support, funding, and education. There are plenty of options, and many aren’t even that expensive.
Get help from someone who knows what they’re doing, and you’ll greatly increase your chances at success.
Your first year in entrepreneurship will go by fast, and if you’re investing in your personal growth, your enthusiasm and excitement will carry you through any challenges you encounter.
The question is not how you fare in a year. The real question is how you fare over the long haul. Will you have the energy and resources to continue? Will you come to rely on your employees, and not just your own efforts? Will you stick with the process knowing that your business may not be profitable for several years?
If you keep investing in your personal growth and in mentorship, there’s a good chance you’ll persist in the face of challenge. But if you don’t adopt a long-term mindset, it’s easy to become discouraged by short-term results.
Author Bio:- Eric Czerwonka is an entrepreneur and co-founder of Buddy Punch, a software company founded in 2013 that provides time tracking solutions for startups, companies with employees, as well as anyone
with a remote team to manage.