Starting up your very own business can be an exciting time, filled with dreams and wonderful thoughts of sitting on the beach, sipping on margarita’s and surrounded with your best mates. However the reality of that whole situation is, well… unrealistic. Most people, including myself at one point, think that we can build these successful businesses, jet off around the world and retire at the age of 25, purely by slapping a few photos of our “amazing” products online.
In reality the process of starting, and successfully running, a business takes a lot of hard work, focus and determination. Life will test you along the way, as a question of your worthiness and desire, of which you’ll continuously be asked to break down those obstacles, and move forward. The quickest way to starting up a successful business is to first understand that your mission is to help people, if you can highlight a common problem that people face, then it becomes easier to identify and provide a solution for said problem. Once you’ve understood this, everything else becomes much easier.
Things you’ll soon learn as an entrepreneur
Whether you’re looking at starting up a side business, or leave your 9 to 5 entirely, there are many things you’ll need to learn in order to successfully run a business. These tips will help you bypass months of learning, and thus save yourself a lot of time, money and headaches. With that in mind, let’s begin this list…
#1 – You don’t need to reinvent the wheel
A lot of time can be wasted trying to come up with the next Uber, Spotify or Facebook, when in reality you just need to pick a proven business model and run with it. If there’s anything you should get from your very first business; it’s experience. There’s no better teacher than when learning from your own mistakes – and there will be mistakes! That’s why there’s no point wasting your time trying to create the next big thing, because even if you do come up with that revolutionary idea, you probably won’t even know what to do with it.
If you’re struggling with ideas on what kind of business you should be starting, then I would suggest monetizing either something that you’re good at, or a hobby you enjoy doing. If you can do something which you’re both good at and enjoy doing, then that’s even better! As the great Jim Carrey once said, “You can fail at what you don’t want, so you might as well take a chance on doing what you love”.
#2 – You won’t please everyone
Not everyone is going to be your ideal customer, and many more people just aren’t going to like you, that’s just how it goes. Not just for you, but for everyone. Except maybe the Rock, and Tom Hanks. But I know for myself personally, I once offended someone in my entrepreneur group because I used the word “Fuck” in a post. Issue is, I swear a lot in person so why wouldn’t I write it into my content? At the end of the day you can only be yourself, if something as simple as a curse word is enough to make someone despise you – then you wouldn’t want to work with them anyway.
Likewise the best personal trainer I’ve worked with gets a lot of shit online because he just says it how it is. He doesn’t beat around the bush, and he’s not afraid to say what needs to be said. At the end of the day, he gets results and his clients shake off any excuses (and fat) they initially went in with. Why does he get shit? Because he’s blunt. He says things that can be controversial at times, and it rubs some people up the wrong way. Does that mean that he’s unsuccessful? Certainly not, in fact there’s plenty of people that choose to work with him because they appreciate the way he is. For many, a personal trainer with a no-bullshit attitude is just what the doctor ordered.
#3 – The customer isn’t always right
Following on from the previous point, we’ve often been told to believe that the customer is always right, and it’s complete bollocks. There are going to be plenty of people that you meet who will purposely try to screw you over, lie and deceive you. In that situation, you’ll need to stand your ground. Don’t get me wrong, there are both good and bad ways of going about it, so you’ll need to be careful with how you phrase certain things, but don’t cave into your client’s psychopathic behaviour, if they’re pushing you too far then you’re well within your rights to walk away.
#4 – You need to get the basics right
It can be very easy to spend hours, days or even weeks perfecting your logos, colours and website, however none of these things are going to make you money. Well not yet for the website anyway, but the point of this is that you need to make sure that the basics are done right, instead of focusing on the aesthetic features of your business.
Going back to an earlier point, your primary intention in business is to help people. If you can figure out what your ideal clients want & need, you can provide the respective solutions to those clients. Once you establish the problem that you are solving, you can then determine your marketing, pricing, finances, on-boarding processes, client management and sales.
#5 – It takes hard work
There’s a growing cliche going round whereby you should work smart, not hard, but that’s an unrealistic expectation of running a successful business. In most cases, passive income doesn’t exist. Unless you’re investing in stocks, it’s very unlikely that can earn money without putting the shift in – at least in the beginning anyway. On the topic on passive income, most ‘passive income’ strategies require a lot of upfront time and effort, which inherently means hard work.
#6 – Keep your business plans private
Two things in life should be kept private; your relationships and your business. A lot of hot air is wasted telling friends and family about what your next moves are, and for what? All you end up doing is setting yourself up for failure, or even tripping yourself up in the process. There lies no benefit in announcing your business plans to the world, before putting in the work first in order to ensure that it’s a realistic outcome.
Not only do you get perceived as being “all talk”, by revealing your business plans you also give others the opportunity to beat you to the punch, and do it for themselves. I know, I know, I sound like a right fruit-cake right now, acting paranoid about the prospect of people stealing my ideas, but I speak from experience that even close friends can turn on you given the opportunity to better their own lives. Keep things to yourself and let your bank balance do the talking, although it’s best to keep that part quiet too 😉
#7 – Cash flow is king
Talking of your bank balance, we come to the age old saying that “cash flow is king”. Without a tight grip on your finances, your business will strangle itself before it’s even had a chance to get off the ground. Taking care of cash flow requires two things, reducing your costs and increasing your revenues. It also requires management of the liquidity of your funds, as by having the entirety of your assets invested in stock or equipment, you run the risk of not having enough cash to fund unforeseen expenses, thus running yourself into debt or even liquidation. Keep an eye on the cash pool!
#8 – It can be very lonely
Running a business can be a very lonely, and depressing experience. Although the prospect of working flexible hours in your underwear sounds great, it’s worth noting that it’s not always fun and games, and you will find yourself in situations where you feel like absolute shit. Without the safety net of having clients lined up, and no colleagues or managers to support you, there’ll be times where you feel like it’s you against the world.
Also you may find that your parents, siblings, partner or friends just don’t support you in the way that you thought they might have initially, yes they might be advising you with your best interest at heart, but at the same time you don’t share the same goals as them. In times like these you need to push past all of the negativity, and surround yourself with people who share your vision.
#9 – You’ll probably need help
Speaking of people who share your vision, you should probably invest in a mentor. Here’s why. All of the obstacles and trials that you face when starting a new business, can be eradicated with the help of someone who’s already been there, done it and gotten the T-shirt. Instead of just winging the whole process, and getting insignificant or underwhelming results, you can hire an individual who will be able to advise and guide you towards running a successful business in your industry, in a fraction of the time it would have taken you otherwise.
When hiring a mentor, you’ll want to make sure that this individual has actually gone and done the thing you’re trying to achieve. You see, social media is currently plagued by a huge amount of people who claim to be ‘experts’ and mentors, who have actually just copied their content from other ‘experts’, experts who probably copied from someone else, who copied from someone before them and so on. Find someone that knows exactly what you’re going through and what you need to do in order to reach that next level.
#10 – You need to network
Admittedly this is something that I struggled with when starting up my website & marketing business. To give you a brief explanation as to why that is, it’s because I started working for myself due to physical (and mental) health suddenly deteriorating whilst working my 9 to 5. Without the possibility of working anywhere other than from my bedroom, I knew I had to be starting my own business. Given my poor health, I lost any confidence I had and as such didn’t leave my house for around a year. This held me back in so many ways, most notably as it meant that I wasn’t networking.
Networking is arguably the greatest way to market your business, and is something that I would recommend to any entrepreneur looking to grow their business. Get outside, meet new people, find out how you can help them, sell them the solution & repeat.
#11 – Stick to what you know
Want to know the amount of times I’ve heard the phrase, “I could probably do it myself”, when pitching a website or marketing strategy to a potential client. Yes Karen, you probably could do it yourself, but you wouldn’t want to. Why? Because that’s not your expertise, which means that in order for it to be done at a good standard, you’ll have to learn everything that I’ve spent years learning, all whilst you neglected the tasks that you’re actually good at.
Consider this… In the time that it would take you to learn a new skill, how much could you have otherwise earned if you’d spent that time doing what you’re actually good at? Exactly. Don’t be afraid to outsource certain tasks to capable freelancers and continue working on what you know.
#12 – You need to focus
As an entrepreneur, it’s not uncommon to have a million new business ideas running through your head at times, and it can be very tempting to run with each one, but that’s a sure-fire way to kill off any chance of success, as businesses take time to build and if you keep jumping to and from different ideas, you’ll never build them up to a point where they can manage themselves.
This is not to say that you should only ever have one business at a time, as obviously it makes sense to establish multiple income streams, however you need to make sure that the business is consistently bringing in large profits before outsourcing the management. Alternatively you can sell the business before starting another.
#13 – You’re playing a long game
Not matter how often experts, gurus or influencers try to convince you that you could be making over $1,000 in just two hours, these short-term (and often bullshit) tactics are going to be holding you back when it comes to building a successful business. A business worth owning will require focus, hard work, consistency and patience. If you continuously try to make that quick buck, then you’ll naturally ignore the work required to build a long-term business.
For instance I spend a lot of time writing content for my blog, which is a long-term tactic to help increase the amount of website visitors I get per month, which I will then convert into paying customers. However if I were to focus entirely on flipping merchandise, then yes I might get sales at first but then I will have to keep selling T-shirt after T-shirt, month after month. It will basically be like i’m stuck on a hamster wheel, spinning away, and when I stop – the wheel stops. That’s why content marketing in this instance, helps to build a platform that in the future will run itself, giving me more freedom to focus on other tasks (or even outsourcing sales entirely!)
#14 – You’ll need some ‘me time’
This might sound weird given that we already joked about sitting on the beach doing nothing, and having flexible hours as an entrepreneur, but the reality is that work can often get the better of you. I know that I personally didn’t sleep for three days once, albeit that’s quite extreme. So with in mind you’ll need to arrange for some ‘me time’ in order to avoid burning yourself out. This personal time could be a specific day of the week, or a certain part of the day. For instance you might want to take mornings off just to get your head right for the afternoon. Alternatively you might feel that the Monday to Friday workweek is most suitable for you, whereby you take weekends off.
Over time you’ll begin to understand what your body can and can’t do, and you can manage your workload accordingly to suit your needs, which may include; meeting friends, hanging out with family, partaking in hobbies, getting shitfaced or looking after the kids – preferably not one right after the other!
#15 – You’re gonna want to quit
There’s a common misconception that running your own business is easy, and that everybody can do it – but that’s simply not true. It’s not for everyone, but that’s not to say that you should give up when things aren’t going so well after a week, month or even a year or two. Life is going to test you, and it will do it often. Just know that for each obstacle you greet and overcome, you’ve just added some valuable experience that you can take forward with you in the rest of your business’ journey.
There is no deadline for success (well, other than death) so don’t beat yourself up when things aren’t moving as fast as they can, simply assess the situation and establish what you need to do to correct it. If that requires getting help then so be it. Just don’t give up.
Running a business can be difficult, it can test you physically, mentally and socially, but that’s not to deter you from starting a business. With the right will, determination, focus and consistency, I’m sure you’ll be able to set up and run a successful business or two for yourself. As Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t have to be great to start, but you have to start to be great.”
Are you thinking of starting a new business? I’d be interested to hear more about your ideas in the comment section below