6 Things You Need to Hear Before Opening Your Own Business
You did it. You dreamed, you researched, you planned, and then you took the leap. The big leap – in faith, confidence and security. Deciding to open your own business is the first major step on your journey into the big unknown of entrepreneurship.
You’ll be your own boss, and you’ll sink or swim based on the decisions you make – plus plenty of other factors that are well out of your control. At once terrifying, exhilarating and likely a whole lot more work than you bargained for, here is some rarely told wisdom you’ll need to get you through your first year in the world of small business.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you.
- If your product falls in the forest and no one hears it, do you make any sales?
You may have ideas more revolutionary than those conceived by Leonardo da Vinci and Steve Jobs combined. And after sinking your heart, soul and life savings into developing your product, it may be developed to perfection. The fact is, customers are still hard to find.
Some aspiring entrepreneurs assume that “if you build it, they will come,” but nothing could be further from the truth – at least for most of us (this guy’s overnight viral success is exceptional). Marketing needs to play a key role in your launch and digital presence. Without it, you will sit in the forest alone.
- Your competitor’s product is inferior, but he’s still earning more than you are.
Yes, you will likely have competition. If you don’t yet, and you begin to taste some success, then it’s safe to assume that copycats will start coming out of the woodwork, so be ready. Recognize that you aren’t good at absolutely everything, and you cannot expect to be. Remain realistic by identifying your weaknesses and getting help to fill in the gaps. If you’re a big picture person, recruit an online business manager or crackerjack virtual assistant to manage workflow, your CRM and the project management details.
If you’re fantastic at networking and sales presentations but a deer-in-headlights when it comes to finance, find yourself an outsourced CFO and relax. Your competitor might be better at marketing, management, the sales funnel, or maybe he’s simply working harder or leaner. Investigate and hire reinforcements.
- You must resist “shiny object syndrome.”
Yes, your business can grow into a niche that doesn’t exist yet or pivot into a new definition over time, but avoid being too tangential and running with every new idea that you run across. Stay focused. Sure, it’s a good idea to attend conferences relevant to your professional space and network, learn and take notes. But don’t allow the afternoon speaker to convince you to completely revamp your strategy or core competency. Even if there are cookies at the session.
Avoid taking on projects or clients which don’t fit your model. You know what you do best, and even though it’s sometimes tempting to take on 70 projects at once (as entrepreneurial spirits, after all, we love adventure), stay close to your skillset and the core services you are trying to master and systemize.
- When your friends invite you to lunch, you shouldn’t go.
Especially if you work from home, you will become a target for picking up other peoples’ kids from activities and baking for the community fundraiser. Not that you should avoid being generous, helpful and sociable. It’s just that people think that “working from home” is synonymous with “chomping down Doritos while binge-watching Orange Is the New Black.”
You know this isn’t true, so ensure that others know it, too. No, you don’t have to be obnoxious about it, but if you turn down social invitations or “obligations” routinely, people will get the idea quickly. You just aren’t available. Because you’re working.
- It’s lonely at the top.
The downside to making all the decisions is that you have to… make all the decisions. You have no one to blame when things go wrong. You can’t check your pricing strategy with your partner, your boss or your board. You’re on your own.
Or are you? Join a mastermind or networking group, fast. Or consider working out of a hub or shared work space. Find people you trust, and contribute to the group. They’ll ask your opinion on marketing, logos, supply chain logistics, manufacturing, shipping, intellectual property challenges and pretty much every other issue we face as entrepreneurs. Share your knowledge, and they will share theirs.
- Some of this is going to suck.
You founded your business to pursue a dream, answer a societal need or provide yourself with a workable, flexible schedule. Although the small business utopia you originally envisioned likely didn’t include invoicing, ordering office supplies or answering the phone, face the facts – you’re going to have to wear all of these hats, at least initially.
These are not necessarily fun tasks, and many of them are well outside your personal field of expertise. But it all needs to be done, and until you’re ready to expand and hire support, you’re the jack-of-all-trades. Get used to it.
On the other hand…
Here’s the good news. Small business success is on the rise. There has never been a better time to strike out on your own, and the technology available today (free online phone numbers, free website builders, free cloud storage, free online billing systems) empower you to hang a virtual shingle anywhere in the world.
It’s going to be awesome. Just know what you’re in for, and you’ll be fine.