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Five Things I Wish I Knew Before I Started My Own Business
In honor of Small Business Week, I have been asked to write down some thoughts on my journey as a small business owner. It has been a fun and wild ride and one I am very glad I chose to pursue. I am sure when other established small business owners read this they will smile and nod in agreement on many of the points I list below.
It is important to point out that there isn’t just one way to build a successful business. With that said, the following are some things to think about if you have plans to start your own business or you are in the early stages:
- Have a Mission You Are Passionate About. One of the best lessons I learned was at a conference early in my career. The presenter was speaking on the very popular phrase of that time called the “Experience Economy.” The story of Disney. The fourth stage in the history of economic progress1. From there I built a clear mission as to what I wanted to accomplish as the owner of a small wealth management firm. For me, it was the client’s experience, every interaction he or she had with my firm from start to end, that became more important and meaningful than any specific service I offered or good I sold. I do not think the Experience Economy should be every business owner’s mission, but I do believe every business owner should have a mission they are passionate about.
- Have a Business Plan. I often talk to young people who want to get into this business. The first thing I ask them is to see their business plan. I would estimate only 25% or so have a real business plan. Of those, only 50% have a successful business plan (you didn’t know there would be math, did you?). Thus, only 1 out of 8 had a working business plan. If your plan doesn’t include an in-depth marketing plan, it isn’t a plan. Too many young business owners think you just hang a shingle and everyone will just rush to do business with you.
- Know What Differentiates You From Your Competitors. Speaking of a marketing plan, how will you be different (or distinctive if that buzz word works for you) AND how will you communicate that to potential customers. It amazes me to see a restaurant fail and then inevitably a new restaurant from the same genre opens in the same space, only to also fail. They usually don’t have a marketing plan and they don’t get the word out on how they are different than the one that just failed. Being different or distinctive isn’t enough. It has to be communicated to your potential market.
- The More Detailed Your Plan Is, The Better. Seeking Professional Advice Can Help. When I decided to pursue this, I put all my focus on my business plan. I spent months on this detailed plan. The only problem is it wasn’t detailed enough. If I had it all over to do again, I would put much more focus on my business structure, both from a tax and liability aspect. I wish I would have sat down with a lawyer or tax professional, if not both, and received professional advice versus thinking I knew best. Oh, I knew S-Corp vs C or LLP, but I didn’t know it all.
- Establish a Network of Bright Minds That Can Help You Learn and Grow. Finally, I have found most businesses have ceilings that may be broken through if you want it bad enough. The most helpful way, I believe, is through a coaching program. An ego can be very dangerous in business. Listening to other bright minds on ways to improve your business is only wasteful if you have a closed mind.
I am very glad I started my own business 18 years ago. Best business decision I ever made. I wish any person who has recently or is about to start a new business Godspeed. If you would like more information or have questions about any of the points made in this article or your new business, give our offices a call at (817) 717-3812.
Want to know what qualifies me to write this article? Read my bio here.
The information provided here is for general informational purposes only and should not be considered an individualized recommendation or personalized advice.
1 “Welcome to the Experience Economy” by B. Joseph Pine and James H. Gilmore. Harvard Business Review.