Starting a business takes time, hard work and a tremendous amount of patience. It also helps to have resources and insight along the way to point you in the right direction.
We’re huge believers in understanding what makes other entrepreneurs tick so you can bring your business to life as effectively as possible. That’s why for an entire year we dedicated our entire focus to interviewing 101 entrepreneurs from different industries, locations and goals. This page is dedicated to the top lessons we learned.
Work/life balance was the biggest challenge right out of the gate. When I went full-time with Southern Swallow in late 2011, I had a number of clients lined up with multiple projects in the pipeline on day one.
What I didn’t have, though, was a plan for how I’d keep my friendships alive. I was living in a 300-square-foot studio in the Upper East Side of New York City, and I would spend days in my apartment, chugging away on projects. Weeks would go by and I wouldn’t see my closest friends.
I finally started to hit a wall when I realized that I was being left out of social plans. I had rejected enough party and dinner invites that my friends just started assuming that I was busy. After having what I called at the time a “quarter-life crisis,” I wrote a long journal entry answering three questions:
Unexpectedly, that journal entry guided the next few years of my life, as I worked towards having greater balance between my work and social lives. I’d suggest founders consider the same approach before they hit a wall. Prioritization, as I mentioned before, is one the biggest strengths a founder can have.
The larger principles of how to be a successful entrepreneur are useful in any region, in any place. And as long as you are good about following those principles, you’ll be successful. I think three of those principles are:
If you follow the first two steps, you’re going to be creating value, but creating value isn’t sufficient. As a business person, you need to capture value. You need to understand your revenue model and how money comes in the door.
No one is going to fund your idea, until and unless you are Peter Theil or Elon Musk.
All the best in your journey. If you are struggling to get ahead in the race I have a small advice for you; I have never met any successful person with a very easy past.
Number 1: Everything can be figured out. When I started out, I had a lot of time on my hands but very little money. So in between clients, I took every online course I could think of: bookkeeping, creating your budget/general ledger, developing a business plan, creating a WordPress website, how to code (simple coding), email marketing, PowerPoint, Keynote, Excel, you name it.
It made me smarter, and more flexible with my business because I wouldn’t get stuck waiting for someone else to do something. Or stuck because I thought something was harder than it was.
Number 2: You have to be patient. “Overnight success” is a huge joke. Everyone wants to be an entrepreneur, but very few people have the patience and stamina to make it a reality.
Number 3: Get used to falling down. I don’t like the word “failure” – since it feels so final. I call it falling down. When something doesn’t go the way you planned or expected, it’s like falling down. You pick yourself up, dust yourself off and start over again.
Make no mistake about it – you will fall down A LOT. There will be dark days when you fall down every single day of the week and it feels like nothing is going right. But that’s where #2 comes in – be patient when you know you’re on the right track, because…
Number 4: Things get better. One of the things I did early on was create a “Good Things” jar. Every time I learned something new, or had a new success, I would write it down on a big piece of colored paper and put it in the jar. On the days when it felt like nothing was going right, I would pull out the jar and go through all that I had accomplished in the last year. It made me feel a WHOLE lot better and helped me double down on what I was doing.
Identify what you are good at, identify what is your competitive advantage, focus on those things and build on them.
Then, focus on developing a relentless Overcome Mindset above all else. IT will be hard. Get rid of unnecessary drama. It will drag you down. You will meet people and problems who will become major obstacles and headaches on your path. The easy thing to do is quit. The harder thing to do is drive forward, put a smile on your face, and figure out how to get to the other side. This mindset is what leads to success.
I would advise two things. First, embrace your journey as an entrepreneur not as a job but as an identity. When it is an identity, you embrace the process of becoming a better entrepreneur – just like a mother tries to be a better mother and a golfer works on his golf game. This allows you to engage in a much different way and look at improving as an entrepreneur.
Second, I would find a group of people who will be honest and candid with you about your idea. It is one thing to be passionate about it. It is another to talk to a bunch of smart, honest people who will help you make sure your idea is different and viable. If more entrepreneurs did this, I believe we would have more successful entrepreneurs today.
Like every other entrepreneur, I am challenged by a) the number of ideas I have every single day, b) the very rapid growth we are facing now, and c) cash flow!
Funnily enough, I honestly believe that you face these issues even when your company is worth billions of dollars with a massive structure. Perhaps as an entrepreneur, you face them more frequently or at least more times. In my case, fortunately I have a CEO who is a level headed person with an innate ability to see which of my ideas will never see the light of day and the honesty to tell me so, he also has a keen operational eye which means we are always one step ahead of the curve.
This has proven to be the most invaluable point in facing the growth challenge. So my advice to any entrepreneur is and has always been:
When you have a goal-oriented, driven attitude, you will start to attract the right people who have the capacity to help you through this journey.
Being an entrepreneur is extremely difficult and you will always need a small group around you who will push you to do better..
Having the right mindset and a tight support group working together in sync will allow you to accomplish more than you ever could imagine.
As an entrepreneur, you need to understand your leadership style. Your strengths should inspire action and define leadership within your startup.
Passion: I’m fueled by the service my startup offers to the world and I love what I do, I’ve merged government and technology, two of my favorite things. If you have true passion for your startup, you’ll turn your idea into reality.
Vision: Entrepreneurs don’t just have ideas, they have vision. Challenge yourself by exploring and testing your ideas. Many entrepreneurs have achieved their purpose and goal by setting a strong and clear vision, and by pursuing it. Go for it!
Resilience: Failure is part of entrepreneurial culture. But it’s how you react to obstacles and setbacks that defines your success. Great leaders get up and dust themselves off. An author I follow, Eric Greitens, says no entrepreneur escapes pain, fear and suffering. Yet from pain can come wisdom, from fear can come courage, and from suffering can come strength — if we have the virtue of resilience.
Naturally, running a company has helped me get a lot better at this. There are a few crucial elements to achieving success in finding this balance, based on what I’ve seen so far:
The best way to find your ideal customer is to never stop networking. There is a great book called “Never Eat Alone” by Keith Ferrazzi, that summarizes this very well.
Additionally, there is a lot that can be said for being honest, for always working with integrity and respecting everyone. In an interview with YPO Financial Services last year, I had some suggestions on how to make connections count. I’ll list those here:
Everyone makes mistakes but one of the biggest mistakes you can make is making the meeting about yourself.
1) It’s a lot of work, so base your business on something you’re incredibly passionate about, and don’t chase the money. You probably won’t last long when things aren’t going your way, if you’re only about the money.
2) Things don’t have to be perfect before you start. Before I started Wealthy Gorilla, there were people I knew who were in the process of launching their online businesses.
They are still in the process of launching those online businesses…
Waiting for the right moment, or for things to be perfect. It’s ridiculous. People love progression, so just start, and let the progression happen naturally. Seeing the same ‘coming soon’ pages up for two years straight is just depressing.
3) Don’t have a scarcity mindset. Once you start making money from your business, don’t be afraid to re-invest the majority of it. You’ll grow a lot quicker that way. Sure, it’s nice to have money, but they’ll always be more to be made. So don’t be afraid to re-invest.
I’m a big believer in keeping a positive outlook as the #1 trait that makes any entrepreneur successful. There will be challenges, difficult times, unanswered questions that are unnerving and so much more – so, keeping positive is key to staying on course, and finding the right solutions.
I wrote a piece on Medium last month titled, “Two Words That Make You A Better Founder” about how I wasn’t always good at staying positive but found ways to develop that over time – perhaps others will find it helpful!
My #2 and #3 top traits for entrepreneurs to be successful are:
It doesn’t mean they know how to hire people and manage them, how to develop a marketing strategy or how to develop a set of metrics that will enable them to run the business properly. It is critical to know where your expertise lies, and where it doesn’t. Get help with those things that are important but outside your primary area of expertise.
Otherwise getting clarity and focus and then creating a system around the few essential things and ignoring the rest.
The three pieces of advice I would give to a new entrepreneur are:
My first piece of advice would be as I outlined earlier—“Don’t take your eye off the ball”. Be careful that you don’t do delegation by abdication. By all means hire other people to take care of stuff that is not your core skill area, but always ensure that you are on top of what they are doing.
Set up some form of KPI (key performance indicator) reporting so that you always know what is happening with your money, your customers, your team and your products. You need to spot trends quickly by looking at the big picture.
The second piece of advice is to learn to do things that you don’t enjoy doing. Many business people I have worked with over the years hate things like reading financial reports, or negotiating with suppliers, or attending roadshows etc.
It is perfectly understandable that people will tend to stick with doing what they love and avoid things they don’t enjoy, but if it is critical to your business, you have to learn to face the discomfort and dive in. Even if it is alongside someone else who knows how to do it better, you have to take the opportunity to learn and familiarise yourself with all aspects of your business.
The third simple piece of advice is to tell you to learn how to say “No”. This is one of my biggest faults, and caused by me always feeling the need to be liked by everybody and not to displease or let anyone down.
I always thought that saying “No” to people would result in them having a negative perception of me, and I was completely surprised to eventually find out that the opposite was almost always true. I still struggle with saying “No” these days, but with practice and experience, I am getting better at it. And I am happier as a result.
Get a COACH. Get a MENTOR. I have been blessed to coach people from all walks of life in WINNING more in life… physically, mentally, emotionally, relationally, spiritually, professionally, and financially and I am humbled and grateful for the impact that I have been able to have on so many people.
I don’t take this calling on my life lightly, but I know without a doubt, I would not be who I am today if I didn’t have coaches and mentors in my life. THINK BIG! YOU HAVE WHAT IT TAKES! I BELIEVE IN YOU, BABY!!
When you have a clear vision of your “why,” work doesn’t have to feel like work. My biggest piece of advice to other entrepreneurs is to not just find your ‘why’, but also keep it in clear sight. Put it in a frame, wear it on a bracelet, post it on your fridge.
When things get hard, your ‘why’ can get blurry. Always keep it in clear focus to help you through it.
Starting a business is always hard. When you’re no longer working for someone else, you have to be your own boss. You have to set your own deadlines. You have to train yourself to focus on what’s needed and shut out everything else. That’s a lot of hard work in itself. Then there are all the practical aspects of developing your product or service and getting people to invest in it.
Part of handling time and resource constraints is getting that there will always be time and resource constraints, so you can either accept that fact and do your best or you can let the time and resource constraints get to you and affect the health of your mind and body.
In my experience, it’s crucial to keep my body and mind moving. While I sit in a wheelchair, I’m moving around all the time, I’m focusing on my breath, I’m tapping into my vitality and focusing on the present moment, whatever is here in front of me.
I look for people who have a similar work ethic and goals. As a small business owner, I started out doing everything myself – from high level to low level jobs. I have been surprised sometimes by people who come to an interview and tell me everything they don’t do. I think, “Hey, I’m the CEO and if I need to empty the trash, I’ll do it. Why shouldn’t you do that, too?”
On the flip side, I love it when someone comes in and just rolls up their sleeves and takes over a project after I give them some direction. We’re still new and figuring it out along the way – and maybe that persons idea is better/faster/more efficient than how I was doing it.
I only take on new clients or volunteer work if I can say “yes” to these three questions: 1)Is it good for my business? 2) Is it good for me personally? 3) Is it good for my family?
Personal tips include focus on creating experiences with family, not buying “stuff.” It’s easy to live richly without being rich if you focus on it! I also have an office downtown, and when I shut that door to go home, I also shut off my phone. That way WORK is Work and FAMILY is FAMILY.
A major part of being a startup and an entrepreneur, whether you have been in business for 6 months or 6 years, is that it takes money to expand, launch new ideas, or manufacture products that can help up-level your business.
For those of us who don’t qualify for VC money or business loans (or don’t wish to go those routes) crowdfunding is a fabulous way to raise extra money to create or test a new product or idea. The additional bonus that has a striking impact on your business is that a campaign helps you identify your biggest fans, advocates and cheerleaders.
Over the long term, the people who support your campaign can help you achieve many more things if you build and foster those relationships.
Patience: Success doesn’t happen overnight.
Persistence: There are boundless setbacks. It’s not the falling down that matters, but the getting back up that counts.
Profits: The best way to ensure an enduring business is to focus on the bottom line. A healthy balance sheet makes for a healthy business. It’s also important to gauge the long-term cost effectiveness of a strategy; don’t give up a longer-term opportunity simply because you’re after a quick profit.
Are you your own customer? Would you buy your service? The answer should be yes, and then you have to make one for yourself.
Just make one of your thing, or perform your service once. Only then see if it’s worth your time and energy to do it a lot more, and only then see if you can scale up and serve others.
Don’t get hung up on an idea that doesn’t fly. Move on, and you will make room for something better.
Before I would start a business anywhere, I would research this question: Is this city growing? Is it vibrant? If a city’s prospects for growth are dim, if it is stagnant or worse, bleeding jobs or population, you need to move.
To paraphrase Warren Buffet, I’d rather be a mediocre developer in a brilliant city than a brilliant developer in my hometown of Lancaster, California. I know nothing about Philadelphia—it may be a terrific town—but the first thing I would do is verify its rate of growth and future prospects. The where you develop is far more important than the what you develop.
Taking that first step to transform your idea into a business can feel scary. With any large task, you need to break it down into manageable pieces and tackle them one by one. Don’t give yourself excuses and let yourself procrastinate.
Test your idea as soon as possible. Start talking to your future customers to get feedback on your idea and see what they are willing to pay for it. Refine your assumptions and build a first version. From there, just keep going.
To me, Texas is a damn great state to start. I would start with just the state.gov website depending on what business they’re looking for to make sure that whatever requirements they need to be met, are met. From a bigger picture standpoint or strategic standpoint Texas is great. There may be some businesses where it’s not good for it. I doubt there’s very many.
To me the big thing is what is my business, what do I want to provide, what do I want to look in to do, and then work backwards from that. Okay, if you’re product is X then where is X going to thrive? Where is it going to be the easiest to sell, store, maintain, or train people how to use? Obviously there’s a lot of intangibles there that are question marks that are going to drive those decisions.
I think a lot of times people try to work forward and in business I think it’ important to work backwards in a lot of instances, where we are essentially saying this is where I’m trying to get, now how do I get there?
I work backwards from that. I do the same thing with dog training. That’s one of the things why I believe so strongly in that principle and that theory is that I know what my finished product needs to look like as a finished trained dog, so now how am I going to get there and then starting from scratch.
Ultimately, just again like I said, being persistent. That’s without a doubt the number one attribute that you need to have if you’re going to be a business person, to be successful is you’ve got to get up everyday and kick life right in the balls. That’s it! Thank you!
Why do you want to start a business? Understanding your intentions will help you determine what goals you want to set, how far you’re willing to go and why.
How far can I go – financially? And if I want to sustain longer, what would I need to be prepared? These are real questions to think ahead of time and be prepared. Knowing my financial lines helped me make better decisions. Know when to step up and step down.
Why you and Why now? Understanding your uniqueness helps you determine your value and potential. Even if you have a good intention, budget and motivation, if you can’t articulate why you’re unique that’s an issue. It’s also harder to fight against those who disagree with you if you don’t believe in your own uniqueness. It shouldn’t be something that could be replicable.
For anyone who wants to start a company, I would say this: Focus on solving a problem that you KNOW is a real problem that HAS to be solved.
The caveat to that is that you really have to put a lot of effort into understanding what that problem is and being realistic about your approach to solving it. After that, the only thing that truly matters is execution.
There is no silver bullet for marketing, just a lot of hard work. We believe the business gift market has great opportunities for us because companies really want to align their values with the promotional products they give away.
We intend to build this business using a combination of marketing tools at our disposal, starting with marketing with old-fashioned relationship building, but then supplementing our efforts with key event participation, social media, advertising, etc.
Focus. At multiple points in your journey, you will come to realizations that you just can’t do everything all at once. Smart people have great ideas, but what can be the difference between success and failure is how you focus. Focusing your resources, focusing your energy and focusing on what you can do now that will deliver the most impact.
This is never an easy decision, and it shouldn’t be, but often you have to step back to reassess – especially with a startup that is moving fast and things are constantly changing.
The fact that it’s a blank canvas every day and you get to paint on it; dream about possibilities, apply your own talents and passions to the craft, and do what you love to do. Mostly, though, it’s the opportunity to work with exceptional people both internally and within the offices of our clients.
The control over your own destiny and being able to see the impact of your work. Early in my career, I consulted with large Fortune 500 companies and we still work with many of those companies. However, I realized that being employed by the large enterprises wasn’t what I wanted out of a career.
My interest level and enthusiasm tends to be inversely related to the structure and bureaucracy of an organization. As I’m fond of saying I prefer to see the ripples I make in my pond than to be pounded by the waves of the ocean.
This goes for anyone, not just people in AZ. If you want to start a business, the first place to start is with yourself. Asking yourself questions: Why do I want to start this business? Is it just because I think it is a good idea and will make money or does this excite me? Is this something that will allow me to use my true talents? If money was not a factor and I could do anything I desired, would I choose this? Be honest with yourself. Going down the entrepreneurial path has tremendous rewards it also can knock you flat on your ass.
All the strategy in the world won’t matter if you choose the wrong business for the wrong reasons and it isn’t aligned with you. This is what I believe. And if you are going for it, why not go for it with a business that lights you up?
The other place to start would be to find a mentor. It is imperative to have a mentor and surround yourself with people that have walked the path you are about to go on. This will save you from wasting your time as well as fuel you to keep moving forward.
Being an entrepreneur is a gift and I like gifts that make me feel positive emotions get better with age and increase in value – of course if they are sparkly, I like that too!
We track everything, down to the penny. It all adds up! A lot of sacrifices had to be made throughout the process of getting the business up and running. I remember reading back in the day, livestock was currency. So, I think of money like sheep. What am I trading my sheep in for? Will it advance our goals or set us back? Everything we spend is carefully put into consideration.
It’s similar to what I put into my body. I always think, will this cleanse me or clog me?
In business, times do get tough and knowing that up front gives me the mindset that it will be tough and to keep moving towards my goal. All business owners need to keep the prize in mind and to fight through the noise and obstacles that are in the way between us and our goals. Starting a business on paper is easy, making the business work and be successful is hard work and dedication.
Stay positive, join groups with other like-minded people who are also positive. Just realize you are not the first person that encountered tough times in starting a business and you will not be the last. The tough times only last for a little while, just work through them and they will end.
The best way to find your ideal client, in my opinion, is to first declare it and set your intention clearly on who you truly want to be around. What are the intrinsic characteristics of those amazing people you’re meant to serve (I call it DECLARE YOUR IT FACTOR).
Second, start hustling! Meaning, identify your target audience and find places online and offline where they hang out and be visible. Speak their language so your ideal clients can hear you and be your brand so they can connect to you.
Understand that there is no balance—you will be constantly out of balance, but you need to be aware of when things swing too far in one direction. I am constantly battling family, work, and health and I try to be very aware of where I am in the moment. Awareness is very important.
You need to be honest with your loved ones and vice versa. My wife (and children) is very good about telling me when I’m failing at home and it pushes me to take a step back. My body tells me when I’m pushing a bit too hard or need to reset to a more active lifestyle.
Finally, be present in whatever you’re doing. If it’s family or personal time, try to shut things down for that short period of time, otherwise, it’s somewhat of a waste. I don’t look at my phone in the morning until I’ve gone through my routine including helping with my kids, working out, and/or prayer. It keeps me sane.
You have to have a vision for where you want to go and be able to break that down into individual pieces. Something like the space race is a good example.
Getting a man to the moon is an overwhelming task when we hadn’t even been to space but it’s a solvable challenge when broken down into the pieces that make it up. Practice doing that everyday in all parts of your life.
Initially, I would encourage all your readers and young entrepreneurs to “do their homework” before starting their businesses. That means putting together a detailed business plan that identifies issues such as cash flow projections, product differentiation, competitive threats, marketing, staffing, industry forecasts, etc.
The failure rate of startups is very high but by producing a high-quality business plan, the odds of being successful are greatly increased. My other advice for your readers and young entrepreneurs is to make sure to NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK and tell anyone and everyone about their business to generate interest. You never know who might supply you with a sales prospect, offer good advice, etc!
4 important things:
Dare to dream and think big. Understand what about in your business you feel passionately because when things are difficult, you will need to remember why you are working on your business.
If you can, find people, or business partners, that believe in your vision and have complementary skills to you. Then, remember that lots of little steps taken every day that will help you to succeed.
Vision, strategy, plan and implement.
From the very beginning you need to realize that people are going to tell you that you are going to fail. People are going to tell you that you are crazy. People are going to suggest going a safer route. The best pieces of advice I would give are:
Be bold, think about disruption. Create a business plan, set up a company, listen to input from people, find partners and move your idea as far as you can, create value, before you look for investments. The value of your idea will be determined by the actual tangible value you have created. It can’t be just a business plan on paper.
Keep innovating and keep evolving. Don’t be scared. Have a great life partner who can share your passion, risks and keep lifting you up, when you are down.
1. No debt.
2. Don’t spend like you already made it.
3. Daily Goals.
If you start and operate your business with no debt, you have increased your chances for success and staying in power.
If you don’t spend like you already made it, live and spend frugal in everything, then it gives you a better chance of making it! And when you do make it, it feels better! You know it’s real!
Daily Goals is so cliche, I know, but it’s how you make sure you are spending your time on what is important and needed to be accomplished today.
Daily Goals allow us to see how far we have come and where we are going. Go for it!
First, be passionate about what your business is offering. Believe in your product or service.
Second, no matter how good the product or service is, you have to focus on selling it. So many people are afraid to sell so they avoid selling and instead focus on improving the product or service. No matter how good your product or service is, a business cannot avoid sales. Focus on selling.
Third, get yourself a good business coach, it’s well worth the investment. Whether or not you have a business coach can make the difference between having a failed or successful business.
To become a successful entrepreneur, the most important thing you can do is just start. You have to be proactive to turn your dreams into reality.
Ideation starts business plans but action makes them grow and sustains them. Being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 deal. You’re always on. There’s no break, no downtime, and everything has to be done in a certain way to ensure success. I approach time as if it’s the rarest of commodities. I handle time constraints by doing as much as I can with the time that I have.
There’s a quote from Deepak Chopra, “Instead of thinking outside of the box. Get rid of the box.” This is the mentality I possess when I’m faced with any constraint.
In the beginning there’s no such thing as a balance – and I don’t believe there should be. If you want to be an entrepreneur, you must be ready to make some big sacrifices.
No one has ever built a large company by working from 9 to 5. With that said, I have gotten much better at taking the weekends off over the past year – but for the first 3 years of the company’s life, it was 7 days a week – early morning to late night.
Find out what your customers want.
Really do your research. Ask people, post surveys, ask other business owners in your market. Do everything you can to find out exactly what your customers want.
Go get it.
Once you find out what your customers want, you need to find a way to build what they want in the best, most effective, most financially reasonable way possible. Most entrepreneurs mix up the steps. They build the product or service and hope their customers will want it. Many people do that, and it’s okay as long as you learn from your mistakes and make changes, but it’s a whole lot easier if you do step 1 first.
Give it to them.
Once you know what your customers want and you have build the product or service they want, you have to give it to them. You have to have the distribution and the marketing. You have to make it convenient. You have to educate people so they know enough to know why your product or service is better or different than anything else they’ve heard of before.
Find a mentor or group of advisors that you can trust. Get connected with as many entrepreneurs as you possibly can. Find someone who is successful and talk to them as much as possible. Find some people who have failed and talk to them as much as possible. Learn as much as you can from people who have tried and succeeded, as well as those who have tried and failed.
Next – talk to as many customers or prospective customers as you can. Make sure this great idea you have is really solving a problem for them. Is your product or solutions really something they would want to buy? Even better yet, get some of those customers to sign an order for the product or service you’re planning to build your business around.
Having this kind of validation from potential customers makes business building a lot easier.
Grit: Being an entrepreneur will take you on an emotional roller coaster, with almost intolerable highs and lows. Regardless of what happens, keep pushing.
Hustle: Nothing will be handed to you, nor will anything be easy. You will need to work creatively to make things happen.
Books: Reading and learning new things will help you tremendously in your entrepreneurial career. Read as much as you can before going to bed.
You need to determine the traits of your ideal client first. Think about what they like to do, where they shop, what clothes they wear, at 10:00 am what would they be doing? What do they do for entertainment?
Before you do any type of marketing, do your research and determine what your demographics are, who your ideal client is, and your specific goals. Don’t waste money on programs that say they have the answer. Dig for the answer yourself. Find a coach – but find a good coach. Ask for their credentials. That was my biggest mistake which set me back a year at least.
If you can’t stop obsessing about the idea and keep coming back to it, go for it. Before you dive in, realize that it will be very time consuming and will cost more money and take longer than you think, so don’t give up your day job immediately. And last, find a great co-founder.
I think the best advice I could give is to just do. You can make anything happen, so plan a little bit, then do something, and since mistakes are bound to happen, learn from them, fix whatever needs fixing and do something else. It’s a continuous process of figuring out what works and what doesn’t and the best way to learn is from experience.
I think a great place to start is mentors. Find people in Oklahoma who may have expertise in your area of interest and reach out to them. Usually, a lot of grown entrepreneurs are generous and willing to offer their advice and experience to the next generation, but if they aren’t then find someone who is.
Talking to people is a huge part of being an entrepreneur, so this can help build your speaking skills and make you a better entrepreneur.
Everything starts and ends with great time management. For entrepreneurs, the work never really stops, so we have to be intentional about putting work down and enjoying life.
I’m still working on getting good with this and finding balance, but I try to be mindful of the importance of leaving space in my calendar specifically for connecting with friends and family.
Starting the business itself wasn’t the hardest part; like lighting a fire, it’s keeping it lit that’s the challenge. A tight budget meant we had to do everything ourselves despite a very small team, including getting our name out there and into retail.
We relied on bloggers and word of mouth for exposure, I personally looked after the product distribution to start, and we used the money we did have to drum up business through trade shows. We also made sure that we did our research and spent considerable resources into product development so that when we launched we were confident about our product.
My advice to entrepreneurs is simply to start. Many people have aspirations or ideas of owning a business, but much fewer act on these ideas. The process of getting started can be overwhelming, but don’t let that stop you. Everything is manageable when attacked one step at a time.
If you try to figure everything out before you get started, you will quickly get discouraged because you likely will not have all the answers before you begin. Start with the easy processes which are laid out online: business formation documents, tax ID documents, business bank accounts, domain setup, website design, etc.
Even if you are not familiar with these basic business setup processes, extensive information and support can be found online. Additionally, the cost for these first few steps is very low. While you are finalizing these early processes, you can simultaneously be finalizing more strategic plans: sales strategies, service/product development, financing (if needed), etc.
Start with a business plan. There are a lot of work and you may not follow it to a “t” because life happens and plans evolve. But it helps keep your both feet on the ground and figure out if you really want to get into that particular industry.
Work hard and be nice to people, Philadelphia is a small city and everyone knows someone. Bad mouthing and bridge burning can only hurt you. Being kind takes minimal effort.
Reach out and help someone else whenever you can. Helping other people can really benefit you as well. Whether it’s helping to sharpen your skills or it changes your perspective, enabling you to see things in a new light. Helping people encourages self-growth.
Lastly I’d say, know from the beginning. No one owes you anything and nothing worth it is ever easy. Owning a business is WORK but if you love what you do, you won’t mind it so much. Also, get someone to help you with Taxes and Quickbooks—you’ll thank me later :)
I’d say, start with your why and map out where you are vs where you want to be. Look at your resources and see how you can leverage them to meet your goals.
If you find gaps in your resources, such as a partner or a lawyer, (1) Google, (2) ask around, and (3) research. Test your idea as soon as possible. It doesn’t have to be perfect. Feedback is critical to the success of your idea. Once you have a solid idea, figure out how it will function. We have great resources in Illinois for business owners and entrepreneurs, especially out of Chicago.
Well, remember that it’s easy to start a business. It’s very hard from there – and that’s why most businesses/startups fail. So I would first say, make sure you’re really committed to whatever you want to do. You’ll be tested in more ways than you can imagine. Be ready for that.
Just start already. Too often people are hesitant to start, they’ve thought about it forever. My number one piece of advise, is to just do it already and stop making excuses.
Find time between 7PM and 2AM to work on it if you have a full time job – in the end it will be worthwhile. Start by truly flushing out the market fit of whatever idea you have.
All too often I see passion projects turn into businesses where the founder never really thought it through in terms of the greater market at hand and what it ultimately entails to make the idea successful.
You have to make time, just like you would at work, for your personal life. Whether that means scheduling a call with your mother or booking a date night 3 weeks in advance with your significant other.
You have to prioritize your personal life just like you do to your business. I am a slave to my calendar in the best way possible – if you took it away from me I would have no idea where to show up or who I was meeting!
Your business model should be designed to make money from the beginning—this is the best advice that I have followed. The goal of a small business is to be profitable from the get-go. Rather than raise money and attract investors up front, I chose to bootstrap Inkwell.
I reinvested the money Inkwell made back into the company. The idea is to grow your business organically; you don’t want to hemorrhage money along the way. I advise bootstrapping your business as long as you can, and once you have the revenue to prove that your model works, you can then go out and get investors.
Get out and meet other entrepreneurs. Many times, you will be much better off with a good co-founding partner. You can’t be afraid to talk about your idea.
Honestly, having people rip off your idea is the least of your worries, the biggest cause of failure for aspiring entrepreneurs is that their ideas never even get started down the road to becoming a real thing. Maybe you can have an NDA signed during an in depth discussion, but I would recommend to at least openly talk about your concept from a high level with others to see who else is might be passionate about being a part of your venture.
Somebody that has a genuine interest in being an entrepreneur (not just riding the band wagon) and solving the problem you want to solve will beat any average want to be competitor almost every time.
Solve a problem better than anyone else. Provide more utility than anyone else. Offer more customer service than anyone else. Make your product and/or service easier than anyone else. Then stick to it.
Never lose sight of the fundamentals, but keep pushing your own envelope too to better provide value and service to others. Remember. Persistency. Consistency. Nothing else. The formula is easy, but the output is hard because it requires hard work. You need to be willing to put in the work.
Always stay FOCUSED and BALANCED (those mean different things for different people). Some call it life/work balance. I honor this so much that I got these words tattooed on my forearms. Gary Vaynerchuk also speaks a lot about this balance and how it means different things for different folks.
For me, it means hustle as much as it takes, work as much as possible, sleep later.
Study the industry you want to enter, read books on starting a business, find a similar business and get a job there, or shadow a successful business owner. I was Vice President of Sales for a successful training firm for over two years, before I began my own. So when I launched my firm, I already knew how to structure and run a training organization.
The key is to learn and understand the business inside and out so you can avoid common mistakes. Also, realize that starting a business is hard work and success will take longer than you think. I’d also strongly recommended talking to your partner about the sacrifice involved with starting a business.
In other words, starting a business is about sacrifice. How much are you willing to give up to have a successful business? Make no mistake, there is a cost to success. If it was easy to achieve more people would have it. Make sure before you take the leap that you are willing to sacrifice, because if you aren’t willing to sacrifice, you will lose out to a competitor who is.
The first piece of advice I’d give someone starting a business in Philadelphia is to start small i.e. grow the business one zip code at a time. Every zip code has a different vibe, so be sure to personalize the message to match the personas of the zip code.
The second piece of advice is to team up with the colleges and universities. Philadelphia has incredible schools i.e. University of Pennsylvania, Drexel, Temple, etc., work with their business schools, attend their events, and be helpful to their students, and it will position the business to get exposure and new business opportunities.
The third piece of advice is to work with startup organizations, both that the city provides, as well as what the private sector provides, to get business ideas, plans, space, money, etc., to grow the business. Philadelphia has one of the best startup scenes in the country, so be sure to take advantage of all the opportunities.
When you’re running your own business, it can be difficult to keep your head up at times. For me, I have adopted the mantra, “Something is better than nothing.” If I just do one thing every day to progress towards my goals, then I know I’m on the right track.
And, those little steps definitely add up to great things over time! As far as habits go, my days are pretty routine, I like to know what I’m doing each day and when. I also write my goals daily and keep a prioritized to-do list.
My advice to anyone starting a business, is to first come up with a business plan and find someone that perhaps is doing the business you wish to do and reach out to them and pick their brain. You can never have too much information.
A great starting place would be the program SCORE which is made up of retired CEOs and business owners that can give you a wealth of guidance.
Two things come to mind.
(1) To let bad business partners go unless they have more Knowledge, better skill sets or has more resources with a shared vision. Don’t have partners. It’s okay to partner up on deals, joint projects, but not overall business partners as I had to learn this lesson the hard way.
(2) Be willing to walk away from a deal, never be too desperate, all money isn’t good money. The way this has made me a better person. I have mutualism in all of my partnerships so it’s not one-sided relationships. Some of the best decisions I have made has been some of the non-decisions, as I could take some major losses by getting involved with the wrong brand of person or deals.
Starting a business can definitely be challenging and it’s not easy. However, there really is a clear and defined process through customer discovery that can be followed. Finding the pain point, the appropriate solution, and the market opportunity is key.
You also wear many hats in a startup which can help with resource constraints. Knowing your own abilities and weaknesses can help guide where you find additional resources. I am strong on the technical and product side but weaker on the marketing side.
So, I quickly found a partner that can help with marketing. I also earned a specialization on Social Media Marketing from Northwestern University on Coursera to try and overcome my marketing deficiency. Not so I could lead marketing at Odeum but more so I could at least talk with my CMO and understand what he was doing.
Pound the pavement. Like I said earlier, the idea of being an entrepreneur is really cool. You have an idea, or create a great concept.
But actually turning that idea into something tangible is really hard work, and it’s a lot of work. Once you get started, the idea and concept becomes far less important than doing.
I would plan and talk it out with someone you trust. Don’t just blab to anyone because for some reason, people like to deflate other people’s dreams or belittle them. Keep faith in your dream and goal.
If you have money, you are way ahead of the game so maybe hire the experts who can catapult your company. If you are on a tight budget, take little steps, do your own publicity, always get yourself out there joining groups both locally and online.
Become adept at social media. A tight budget is not a business killer. Sometimes it is a great motivator.
My advice would be to start now. As the great Chinese prophecy says, “The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.”
In reality, the best advice I can give to someone wanting to start a business is to tell their idea to anyone that will listen. This will help you refine your idea, grow your team, and force you to start.
The advice I would give is to not build a business around location. It becomes too restrictive. I’m more about location freedom.
Having said that, I believe no matter where you are planning to start a business, you need a good idea. The only way to know if the idea is good is to test it out. Your market will tell you if is good or not.
Secondly, make sure whatever business you are pursuing is what you are passionate about. Do not start a business because of the promise of it making you money. Money-focused startups, tend to fail easily. There is not enough “juice” – passion – to keep it going.
Thirdly, hire a coach. I think this is one of the things I would have done a whole lot sooner. It would have saved me time and money and from lots of frustration. This does not mean that you might not experience the frustrations and the loss of time and money, but it reduces the amount significantly. It is an investment.
My advice to anyone would be to ask for help from friends, neighbors or colleagues when you need it most. I have found that when you ask for help, there is someone who is willing to pitch in.
At the same time, make sure you do your part to help a friend/family member when he/she needs it. What comes around, goes around….
The first piece of advice that I would give anyone starting a business in Nevada would be to focus on customer service. We are a hospitality focused community, so excellent customer service is a requirement.
Customer service should happen at every level. It is the CEO replying to an email within 24 hours and the janitor smiling as your client walks back. There is no department for customer service- it is your people.
The second piece of advice would be to embrace the emerging markets in Nevada. We are on the cutting edge of tech, cannabis, and so many other industries that connecting to what is happening here with other industries is a great way to discover win/win opportunities.
Which brings me to the third: capitalism does not have to be win/lose. A rising tide floats all boats and there is so much business for everyone that focusing on creating win/win opportunities for your brand, your team, your community, and your shareholders is the only way to endear yourself to our business community.
My advice would be to surround yourself with people smarter than you and more motivated than you. Surround yourself with a diverse group of people. This is the fastest way to gain more dots (insights) to connect together and solve whatever problem you’re trying to solve.
Surrounding myself with different groups of individuals changed my life, and I highly recommend you do the same. The first step is make smart, motivated and nice friends.
Best way I think is to start small and grow organically, things must happen at the right speed. I don’t believe in magic from PR, it’s a good tool at the right moment, but it won’t magically get new users or customers.
As Paul Graham says, initially do things that don’t scale, that means to me, work closely with a bunch of customers, adapt your vision and product until you find the desired product-market fit, then customers should come organically and you can scale.
In our case, we are 100% inbound, we attract users with good content and those that keep engaged will convert to customers at the right time.
Along with all the wonderful wisdom, insight, and philosophy that helps entrepreneurs like these become successful are… tools! What kinds?
How about accounting software, online business planning, incorporation services, and access to affordable legal advice? Use the link below to check out the startup-friendly resources and our reviews to see if they’re right for you.