You can count me as one of those experts who paints a fairly rosy picture of entrepreneurship. I do so because I truly believe entrepreneurship can be a fulfilling, happy and lucrative endeavor.
But, as is the case with any positive enterprise, there are also pieces of the puzzle that one doesn’t often see. Here are my top five things that you need to know, but may not be told, before starting your own business.
1. You will need more money than you think: One of the main issues entrepreneurs face when starting a new business is that it does indeed take money to make money. And the first question, of course, is where does that money come from? The usual suspects are yourself (savings, cashing out), friends and family, credit cards, SBA loans or a loan from your bank. The good news is that banks want to lend— it is their business, after all. It’s therefore your job to make your venture as solid as possible.
But another issue that often crops up for the new entrepreneur, as far as financing goes, is figuring out the amount of money that will actually be needed to launch the venture. This amount will likely be more than you suspect. You will need enough to open the doors, buy product, get inventory, market the business and pay yourself for at least 6 months, which is the minimum amount of time it takes to start, get the word out, get business and start the money cycle.
And as is the case with anything that requires a worthwhile investment— things will go wrong, mistakes will be made, unforeseen problems will arise. That is why you need to be prepared financially.
2. Make sure your e-presence is robust from the start: You must have a good website and a strong social media presence when you launch your business— this is not something that can wait for later, nor can it be done poorly. Nab the Twitter and Facebook domain names for your business as soon as you know what that name is. Get a good-looking website up and running before you have your grand opening party. You may even want to have some videos to post on the site and an e-newsletter ready to go for day one.
These days, your customers will find your company online as much as they will offline, maybe more so, so your online offering has to be top-notch.
3. You’ll need to use all your skills: Whatever your specialty at work is and whatever skills you’ve learned along the way, you’ll need to use those in business right from the very beginning. When you start, your resources and help will be limited, and you’ll wear a lot of hats. Whether you’ve always been good at accounting or have a knack for marketing, don’t discount your tried and true abilities even while you learn new ones.
4. You will need to get customers, pronto: Before you launch, no one knows about your new business, and you don’t have a built-in base of customers. You need to let everyone know that you exist. One way to start is by contacting everyone you know. Online platforms such as your website, Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn can help spread the word as well. Marketing and PR are another way, as is Pay-Per-Click. I suggest you come up with a multi-pronged approach to bring in customers before you launch.
5. Don’t forget to be patient: As you can see, it takes time, faith and perseverance— you must keep at it every day and stay true to your plan. It almost always pays off, especially if you were ready right from the start. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and your new business won’t be either.
About Steve Strauss
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss.
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