Starting a business isn’t easy. Nothing ever goes as planned. You put in more hours than expected. And there’s a lot of trial and error along the way.
The funny thing? Business owners are more than willing to go through all of this when chasing their dream. But, that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t go back and change some things to make the beginnings of their startup run more smoothly.
From my own personal struggles and mistakes, here are nine things that I wish I had known before starting a business.
1. Your business is your first priority.
Here’s one of the biggest a-ha moments I’ve experienced as a business owner; you only spend a small percentage of your time doing what you love. Instead, you’re going to spend a majority of your time doing business oriented tasks like marketing, networking, developing strategies, and administrative tasks like invoicing and payroll.
In other words, if you open-up a bakery because you’ve always loved to bake and you have a knack for it, you have to realize that you’re a business owner and not a baker.
2. How to manage cash flow.
Managing cash flow is one of the most important tasks that a small business owner must be aware of. It’s the lifeblood of your business, after all. But, so many business owners start spending money carelessly on unnecessary expenses or trying to build a product that no one really wants.
Make sure that you justify every expense and create a monthly budget so that you know exactly where you money is going.
3. Start an email list...asap.
Never underestimate the power of email. It’s the most effective way to communicate with customers and generate leads for your business.
Start building your email list from day one. In fact, start building your list before you even launch your blog or any social media accounts. It’s that important.
To get started, try these simple tactics;
- Create incredible content.
- Include an “Email to a Friend” button.
- Host a contest or giveaway.
- Segment your lists so that you can send the right message to to the right person.
- Partner with another business for a co-marketing event or offer.
- Gather email addresses offline at trade shows or industry events.
4. Get the Right Tools
There are an endless amount of tool, many of which that are free, that can help business owners launch and maintain their business with ease. If I had known about these tools I would have saved a ton of time and money - and reduced my stress level - since that can assist me with everything from invoicing to market research to scheduling social media posts.
Need some suggestions? Here are 200 amazing and essential tools and resources that every business owner should possess.
5. Focus on helping people, not making money.
I get it. You have bills to pay. But, starting a business simply because you think it’s going to make you a millionaire is one of the surefire ways to fail.
Always keep in mind that your business isn’t about you and your bank account. It’s about helping people by making their lives better.
As Amazon founder Jeff Bezos has said, “Focusing on the customer makes a company more resilient.”
6. Have multiple streams of income.
Worrying about how you’re going to pay your next bill or your employees will keep you up all night. I learned that best way to give you some peace of mind is to have multiple sources of income that are independent of each other. This can include freelancing or consulting on the side, cashing in on your hobbies, or finding a part-time job. There are hundreds of options to consider.
This doesn’t mean that you neglect your business. It means find something that you easily do when you’re in a pinch so that you can reduce stress by being able to pay for your essential expenses.
7. How to plan for taxes.
As an employee, it’s easy to take for granted taxes. As an employer and business owner though, state and federal taxes are 100% of your responsibility. Not accurately planning for your taxes can get you in trouble by the IRS or prevent you from growing.
Not knowing to save 30 percent of my net profit each month to pay quarterly taxes forced me into a perpetual cycle of paying the prior year’s taxes plus penalty fees and interest,” says Jonathan Passley, the owner of PDR Web Solutions. “This restricted cash flow prevented me from being able to invest money back into the business to hire additional employees, buy equipment, and make marketing choices.” I personally like to make payments each month, it makes it easier to keep track.
8. The importance of your pitch.
Everyone needs an elevator pitch. And, you need to be able to make your pitch at a moment’s notice. I can’t tell you how many times I've run into a prospective client or investor randomly and lost them because I wasn’t prepared on the spot.
“The goal of an elevator pitch is not to explain your entire business in 15 seconds,” reminds Dario Meli, Quietly. “The goal is to be concise enough with your vision that the listener is curious and enticed enough to smile and want to continue the conversation. Keep it high-level, hint at your experience, indicate success to-date so they know you’re serious, and most important, leave a little mystery. Not confusion—mystery.”
9. Build a relationship - one person at a time.
We all know the importance of networking. But sometimes we get more concerned about collecting business cards and gathering social media followers as opposed to building meaningful relationships. To prevent that, focus on one relationship at a time.
Whenever you meet someone at an industry event or through a LinkedIn Group, learn more about that person. Follow them on social media. Share relevant information with them, ask them a question, or offer feedback.Having these types of relationships are more valuable than having hundreds of inactive friends or fans on social media.