I decided to jump right in, head first, and the water was…surprisingly warm. Alright, alright, that’s the optimist in me talking. It wasn’t always warm. In fact at times it felt much like a cold, bottomless abyss with a whirlwind vortex that would suck me in and spit me out, leaving me haphazardly scrambling for dry land. That might sound a bit dramatic, but starting your business all on your own can be quite lonely, intimidating, and demanding.
Being an entrepreneur can also be extremely exhilarating and cathartic. It provides freedom and an empty canvas from which you can paint and create as you see fit. But you need to be ready to make that commitment and stick with it. It’s a crazy ride with twists and turns, and if you are still struggling don’t worry, it will all come together if you are committed, have passion, and make sound decisions. Easier said than done, right?
One morning when I was feeling a bit demoralized I saw someone post this quote on LinkedIn that really resonated with me: “One cannot be prepared for something while secretly believing it will not happen” – Nelson Mandela. Reading it gave me a swift kick in the behind and later that day I got two leads at a networking event. It just goes to show that you never know what the day will bring, so I try to remind myself to be open and enthusiastic about possibilities no matter how my morning begins.
Although I knew it wasn’t going to be easy to start a small business in a new town, I still wasn’t sure what to expect, despite all of the research and planning I had done. I mean, there are so many small to mid-size businesses in this area in need of some serious HR intervention and support, right? The answer is yes, but finding those businesses and then really connecting with them to learn their needs and help them understand the importance of policies, employee relations, or compliance can be challenging.
Whether you want to hang that “Now Open” sign or launch your new website, being prepared for the unknown is crucial to the success of your new business. According to Bloomberg 8 out of 10 startups fail within the first 18 months. That said, I suggest you ask yourself some personal questions before you start writing that business plan of yours. I have 5 tips for my new fellow thrill seekers who want to avoid being a part of the 80% crash and burn club. Before you jump in, ask yourself the following questions:
- Why am I starting my business? Think about the answer long and hard. And I don’t mean from an MBA 101 point of view. I mean, what is it inside of you that longs to go on this adventure? This new journey should enable you to do what you enjoy doing and satisfy the inner thrill seeker in you. When times get tough you will want to channel this energy and remind yourself why the heck you took the risks you took to get here.
- Am I ready to help others and not make it all about me? The majority of your first year (and beyond) will most likely be full of networking and creating relationships with other entrepreneurs, not just customers. You want to identify those power partners early on so that you know where synergies exist. Much of this experience really revolves around helping others build their business and being a contributing member of your community. When you meet these people, don’t make it all about you. Learn about their business, what their target market is, what makes them tick. Be genuine. In addition, find ways to give back to your community which will strengthen relationships and almost always pays long-term dividends. Want to read more on this topic? Check out this cool article in the Huffington Post: Huffington Post Blog
- Do I know what I am getting myself into and do I have a plan? Much of this will need to be answered in your written business plan, but it’s good to start brainstorming first. What are your plans for growth in the next year, 3 years, five years? Will you be hiring any employees and if so, are you aware of the laws that apply to you as an employer? Will your business be self-funded or will you need to seek additional capital, and if so have you done your financial projections? What is your marketing plan and budget? Have you done a SWOT analysis?
- Am I willing to put in the work, take risks, tap into my creative side, and stay in touch with my customers? Many people start their own businesses because they believe it will allow them more flexibility in their life, and for many it does. However, that takes time to build. As a new business owner you will need to be “on” all of the time, always thinking of creative ways to market your business and attain TOMA (top of mind awareness) with your customers. I am currently reading a book called The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron that I highly recommend. The book takes a unique approach to higher creativity and has really helped me harness my creative talents which have inspired ideas for my new business.
- How will I differentiate myself and communicate my value proposition? This is probably the most important of all. If you do this right, the rest will follow. What channels of communication will you use? If you are new to social media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter etc.), learn it because you will need it. Know what separates you from competition and learn how to communicate that in a way that people will remember. People are triggered by different actions, stories and words, and once triggered you have their attention. Learn your audience and how to communicate to them in a way that sparks their unique interest so they will remember you.
Good luck and cheers to a healthy and prosperous new year!