I’ve found that starting a business is one of the most exciting adventures that you could ever embark upon. Like most things, the first time you try, you learn the hard way through trial and error. Here are some of the most important lessons I’ve learned from starting my company thus far.
Never Lose Sight of Your Customers
Your business strategy must be aligned with creating value for your customer base or it won’t last. You should always be in touch with how you are solving your customer’s needs. There are several great ways to monitor your customer feedback loop, such as reviews, monitoring social conversations and surveys. An easy place to start is by Googling your business name for reviews and seeing what comes up. Don’t put too much weight in one-off comments, but look for recurring themes. If your company is so young that there isn’t much feedback out there yet, ask for it through surveys or by contacting customers directly. Most are excited to share their experiences, and their feedback is invaluable.
Equip Yourself With the Right Tools
Knowledge is power and when you’re starting your own business, there is so much out there that can help you. I was amazed to see how many tools — many of them free — there are to help entrepreneurs. Google has an amazing suite of cloud-based tools (Google Drive, Docs, Calendar, etc.) that allow you to work effectively from anywhere. WordPress templates allow you to build your own custom website without having to spend thousands of dollars on a web designer.
If you are not sure where to start, Bizetto.com is a great resource for finding all the tools that you need to start and run your business. You can compare everything from hosting companies to payroll services, credit cards and more. They also have a great blog with information about starting a business. Another great resources is SBA.gov. You can post questions in the discussion forums to speak with other business owners.
Network, Network, Network
You will be amazed how many people out there are willing to help you. Networking will help you get free advice to improve your business, open doors to potential clients and even help you find employees. The startup community is extremely supportive, so be sure to engage with it. LinkedIn has worked well for me in terms of connecting with people, joining groups and finding clients.
No matter what type of business you’re in, you should always be looking to test new things. You owe it to your clients to stay innovative. By testing small, you are not risking much and you have the opportunity to create enormous wins. Before you test, know what you are measuring and how you are going to measure it. Don’t overcomplicate things.
Know What You Are Signing Up For
Starting and running a business is no small feat. You can find yourself spending all of your time at work or thinking about work. Before you dive in, you need to have realistic expectations of what your life is going to be like outside of work. If you are the type of person who will dive in and do nothing but focus on your business, be sure your support network (i.e. family, friends, etc.) are on board with that. If work-life balance is important to you, make sure you carve out time for life outside of work.
Focus on What You Do Best and Let Others Do the Rest
Boring stuff will consume the vast amount of your time if you are not careful. When you start your business, you can get overwhelmed with the excitement of finally being able to do what you love. However, what many entrepreneurs don’t realize is that there’s so much operational work, like accounting, legal, payroll, employee management, ordering supplies etc., that it can consume your day. It’s important that you keep yourself organized, but also let the pros do what they do. Don’t waste hours trying to figure out the tax code to save a few dollars. Time is your most valuable asset, so you should outsource or hire an outside resource to do anything that does not fall within your core competency. This will give you the time to focus on what you do best.
By no means are these all the answers to running a successful business, but they have served as a great foundation for mine.