Great! You’re starting a business! You’re making your idea a dream, and your dream a reality! The sad reality is the majority of new businesses fail within the first year. So how do you keep from becoming another statistic?
Having helped hundreds of start-ups I’ve noted a few commonalities in the most successful businesses. I’ve distilled it down to a short list of 10 Things:
- Time is not your friend – I never knew what being crunched for time was, until I started my own business! Time is something we can’t regain once we’ve lost it. The key is to maintain a sense of urgency and keep on task. There are a million distractions that can keep you from the most important priorities, that’s why you’ve got to create a plan and stick to it. Prioritize your to-do list with emphasis on mission critical items (what I like to refer to as “the big rocks”.)
- Get and stay organized – This goes along with the first item. Use a calendar. Block off time to do the major items on your t0-do list. Use your calendar and keep track of every appointment. You think you’ll remember them, but once you’re under a time crunch appointments can be easily forgotten. Use task lists to keep track of your priorities.
- Delegate – Believe it or not, even as a early start-up or solo-preneur you can still delegate your work. If you don’t have family or friends to help you, consider using a low-cost service like www.fiverr.com or www.upwork.com to handle tasks that you aren’t equipped or have time for. Just remember, it’s critically important to accurately and thoroughly explain your requirements.
- Invest Where it Matters – Cash flow is always an issue when you’re starting out. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t spend money on things things that matter to your long-term success. For example, hiring a virtual assistant may feel like an extravagance, but if they can help free you up to work on important items it may be worth. When deciding if an expense is worth it, consider where you’ll be with/without it. If it’s a high priority, you’ll find a way.
- You’re Never Really Off – The thing about owning your own business, it can provide you with flexibility to work when you want. But just know this, the work HAS to get done for you to succeed, so avoid indolence and procrastination. When you start your own business, you’ll have to put in a lot of hours and effort until you get established. Vacations will be rare at first and you’re going to want to take your laptop and smart phone so you can keep on top of things. Don’t feel guilty about trying to keep on top of things, if you can’t relax you’ll be defeating the purpose of the vacation in the first place.
- Don’t Think Profitability, Think Cashflow – As the saying goes, “Cash is king!” When you’re starting out, cashflow is critical. Margins may not be what you’d like them to be in the short-term, but if cashflow is sufficient you can stay afloat.
- Get a Mentor – The great thing about really successful people, most want to see others succeed too. That’s one of the reasons I recommend that every entrepreneur have a mentor. Preferably someone who has done something similar to what you’re intending. Mentors are great for getting ideas, insights and motivation. Time invested learning from someone who understands how to build a successful enterprise is never wasted.
- Stand Out or Get Out – Build a brand worth remembering. Make sure that what you’re building is remarkable. If you’re not sure how you are different from your competition, you need to do more work on your branding, messaging and positioning. If you’re not sure how to do that, contact me. And if you’re not willing to invest the time and effort to stand out, you might as well get out now and save yourself stress.
- Work ON Your Business, Not Just IN Your Business – It’s very easy to get bogged down in the day-to-day responsibilities of running your business, but it’s critically important that you carve out time to think about the bigger picture. Schedule time to work in seclusion away from the business so you can focus on the big picture. Spend time thinking about the major challenges that you need to overcome in order to progress your business.
- “Done is Better than Perfect” – There are facets of your business that you absolutely have to get right – articles of incorporation, regulatory compliance, accounting, your brand idea. But there are a lot of tasks that you have to get done quickly. Again, time is not your friend! There are some things that you just need to get off of your to-do list, so you can focus on your big rocks. As General George S. Patton famously stated, “”A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.”