When I first started out in business 18 years ago, the internet wasn’t even a thing yet. Facebook didn’t exist beyond a few colleges. MySpace had just been introduced, there was no Gmail…
…and there were no smartphones.
How times have changed.
When I think back to how I started my business, I am sometimes amazed that I even got it off the ground. There are so many aspects that make it easier now…at least in some ways.
Still, there are a few things that I wish someone had told me before I started my business.
This seems like it would be a no-brainer. Nothing worth doing should come easy, right? But I think people tend to sugarcoat just how stressful it can be. That’s why it’s vital to have a good support group in place who will have your back throughout the process. Knowing you have people to catch you relieves a lot of the pressure.
It’s in the details.
While this is true for just about your entire business plan, it is especially vital for any legal documents you have in place. You may be overwhelmed by them, but you need to take the time to look over everything and make sure it is legally sound. Budget for a lawyer to help you out, at least in the beginning.
Work smart, not hard.
“Hard work pays off.” That’s drilled into us repeatedly throughout our lives. While it is true, what people fail to mention is that working smart is just as important. Looking for ways to double down on advertising, reaching people with minimal effort, and using targeted marketing are a few things that could have saved me a bunch of time in the beginning.
Very few people starting a business, do so with a plan to eventually adapt it in some way. They may know that change is inevitable and have a vague notion that it could happen in a few years. But it’s not something that one expects right away. You should pivot if the market calls for it and to have a game plan that can be implemented in case of problems. Do whatever it takes to move forward and grow…be ready for it.
This is one that seems to be more important now because diagnostics are easier to access. But questions like “how much does it cost to obtain a customer and how much can that customer bring to the business” are vital to figuring out your ROI (Return on Investment). You should have a firm understanding of this, so you know when to cut your losses or change your strategy.
Celebrate the little things.
It is so easy to get caught up in continuously moving forward and keeping your eyes on your goal. Unfortunately, this often means that you forget (or worse, ignore) the smaller victories along the way. Taking a moment to acknowledge little triumphs can be a great motivator to keep going, as well as a sign that you are headed in the right direction.
You may think that you will remember all the ups and downs of the first few years because it is all fresh and in the moment. Trust me, even two years in and I was forgetting things from the first year. There is a lot going on when you’re starting your business. Journaling is a way to keep your thoughts in order, record what works and what doesn’t, and can serve as a reference later.
It takes a LOT of time.
That’s another no-brainer. Of course, it will take time. But I underestimated just how much time would be necessary to attend to the little details. If you don’t have the luxury of other people to help you out, you are probably quite wrong on your time estimates. And I do mean that throughout your business plan, from the day-to-day minutiae to reaching your ultimate goal.
I think there were times in the first few years that if anyone had said this to me, I would have replied with a sarcastic, “yeah, right!” But they would have been right. If you’re starting your own business, you are doing so because you want to help people, or at least you have a product or idea that you want to share with others.
That should be something that should make you happy and want to keep going. Yes, it requires hard work and everything else, but if you’re not having fun as you’re building your business, you’re doing it wrong.
So, there you go. I’m telling you the things that I wish someone had told me before I started my business. As I look over them, I think it boils down to having the right headspace and attitude from the beginning, and knowing when to compartmentalize everything as needed to reach your goal.
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