The day-dream is common. Starting a business that grows into a multi-million dollar enterprise. Hiring people to do all of your work for you while you play golf and lunch with friends. The reality is more common. Pouring more and more of your own personal money into the business while getting a pittance in return. Working until midnight every night. Watching your health and friendships deteriorate while your waistline expands.
Yet, as an entrepreneur, I have found that despite these realities, starting a business can still be rewarding and even fun. There are just several things I wish I had known and done before I began my own business. Here are some of them:
1) Figure out why what you’re offering is different and wanted by your customers. Many people start businesses because they are interested in the product they are selling. Yet, they may not be filling a need of the consumer. For example, selling tennis balls is not necessarily a good idea just because you like tennis. Many companies sell tennis balls. Instead, offer something different that a consumer may want. Maybe tell the consumer why certain tennis balls are perfect for a certain consumer or offer special kinds of tennis balls that nobody else has.
2) Write a Business Plan. Although a seemingly unnecessary step, this will help clarify your thoughts and will give you a roadmap of where you would like yourself and your business to be in the future.
3) Figure out positions and responsibilities beforehand. When beginning a business, you are responsible for everything. Invigorated by the excitement of a new enterprise, you will at first have enough energy to do it all. Several months into it, however, as you again stumble home from work at midnight for the forty first day in a row, your enthusiasm will begin to wane. Yet, you will still be so bombarded with small details that you will have to begin work at 6 am the following morning. To save both your health and your business, decide beforehand exactly what responsibilities will be yours, what responsibilities will be your partner’s and what responsibilities you are going to give to any future employees.
4) Write an Operations Manual. At first, you may have only one or two employees. They will learn the business, do multiple tasks and will make your life much easier. And then, one of them will move away, have a baby or simply quite. How are you going to have the time to train someone else? Write out all of each employees responsibilities and a step by step process of how they should execute them. This will save you invaluable time in the future.
5) Hire employees not friends. When you are just starting out, it is easy to hire those around you. You know and trust them and don’t have to look for other employees. However tempting this may be, do not do it. Inevitably, there will be tensions and disagreements between you and your employees. If they are friends, these tensions are amplified exponentially. Keep your professional life professional and your personal life personal.
6) Ask Questions. Every day, you will have more and more questions arise. How do I pay sales taxes in different counties and states? How do I pay employee taxes? Think of different people who will know the answers and don’t be afraid to use them as a resource.
7) Delegate, delegate, delegate. Many business owners are natural perfectionists and live by the creed, ‘If you want it done right, do it yourself’. No so. You simply will not be able to do everything yourself. Figure out what and to whom you can delegate tasks and then do it.
Finally, and most importantly, figure out what you want from life! Do you want a large income, lots of leisure time or to simply be your own boss? If you know beforehand what you want out of starting a business, it will be much easier to get i