From the Kauffman Foundation’s Sketchbook – Three Things!
This week we are celebrating the 3rd annual Global Entrepreneurship Week, started by our hometown Kauffman Foundation. With all the focus on generating great ideas and starting up businesses, I wanted to pass along some great advice from business owners and entrepreneurs who made their jump in the last few years.
Making that jump to start your own business takes a lot of guts and the more you can learn from those who have done it, the better off you’ll be. To that end, I did an informal interview with a few of my Peer Group Advisory Boards and asked them simply:
“What’s the best advice you would give someone who’s planning to start a business now?”
Here’s the summary of their responses in no particular order.
Enjoy the upside to owning your own business – you’re in charge and you get the freedom and control to do what you want to do. Additionally you have the opportunity to build something that’s all yours.
Building a business is complex and you aren’t going to be an expert in everything – don’t be afraid to ask for help along the way.
Find a mentor. Someone you can bounce ideas off of, who can help you get perspective and hold you accountable.
You’ve got to be flexible…the market will change and your understanding of the market and your business will change as well. Be prepared to adjust your course.
Do what you can to find multiple revenue streams, more ways to generate money. If you only have one product or service, it’s likely you’ll get stuck and it’s good to have something to fall back on.
Even though you’re in a hurry to get started, take the time up front to really plan things out. Your upfront costs and decisions can make or break you. Take the time to make sure it’s money well spent.
Understand your financials and get accounting and payroll help as soon as you can afford it.
Have patience, things will take longer and cost more than you think
Make sure you have enough financial runway so you’re not panicked or have to shut down if things take longer than you expect to get off the ground.
Whatever business you’re in, you’re in the business of marketing first – if you can’t position and market your product / service effectively not much else matters.
Make it your focus to add value with every contact you have (clients, networking contacts, pretty much everyone).
Be clear on what you’re getting into when you start a business: Long hours, challenges outside of your comfort zone and a lonely path. It’s a tough challenge (but worth it when you succeed).
Get comfortable with risk and uncertainty. It will be a while before you can count on a regular paycheck (like possibly 12 to 18 months).
Make sure you’ve got family support and they’re excited about what you’re doing.
Build connections (real relationships) – networking and building the right win-win relationships is crucial to long term success.
Give yourself a clear go / no-go date to help you manage the bumps in the road. If you have a bad month early on, you still have time to recover because you haven’t hit your date yet.
Be clear on why you want to create your business…if you’re not excited about what you’re doing, no one else will be either.
Make sure you create and work off of a written business plan (can be as simple as a couple of pages, but a plan that covers where the money comes from and where it’s going).
Starting something isn’t easy and it isn’t quick – it takes hard work to succeed.
Have faith in yourself, when things get tough you have to push through.
Your business has a gestational age…despite your full commitment few will take you seriously until you’ve been around at least 9 months…sometimes much longer.
Read the E-Myth and be aware of your mix between Entrepreneur, Manager and Technician (and understand what that means).
Setup an advisory board for your business – people you trust who will tell you hard truths and encourage you.
Figure out if you have the disposition to be an entrepreneur. Look for clues in your past – if you’ve never taken ownership and pushed to make money independently it will be tough to succeed in your own business.
Passion trumps perfection, you can’t wait for it to be just right you have to get out there and start making things happen.
There’s nothing as challenging or as rewarding as creating your own business. And a big part of that challenge is getting your new business off the ground. It’s not for the faint of heart, but the above advice can help you succeed in the critical first year.
What advice above resonates with you? What’s the best advice you’ve heard for entrepreneurs? (Or business owners in general?) Share your thoughts in the comments below.
Shawn Kinkade Kansas City Business Coach