Starting something new (especially a business!) can be overwhelming, intimidating and downright scary. And since I have already written extensively about this topic, I decided to reach out to the CarolRoth.com contributor network of business owners, experts, advisors and entrepreneurs to find out their best advice for new entrepreneurs. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.
You may notice some similar ideas listed, but I kept them separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.
Going it alone is great. But if you want to build a company rather than just a solo gig, starting out solo is probably not going to work. A strong partner in business is essential for ideas, to challenge you, and to fill the gaps in your experience.
It is hard to pick up a trusted partner after things get started, so think twice if you are not already joined at the hip in business when you start out.
2. Slap Overwhelm Down!
It's easier said than done, right?
For most entrepreneurs, one of the biggest challenges comes from within and a 'to-do list' the size of a giant's arm!
The best advice that I can offer is to be methodical in your planning. A rational approach can go a long way in helping your concept become a reality.
3 things that you can do:
1. Prioritize (leverage your strengths)
2. Leverage Technology (it's there to help)
3. Seek Help (outsource the activities that drain you and take up your time)
3. I Thought I Heard a "NO"
Don't be afraid and don't be too possessive about your work or company. You must surround yourself quickly with people that share your passion for your work and move forward with ideas. As a new entrepreneur, strive to be influenced by some of the greatest minds in the business industry. Use this knowledge and add your own experiences to build your path.
4. Time is Funny, Honey, & Money
Time is Funny - Catch yourself overworking? Smile and do something else. Take breaks, use a watch if you have to, turn on your version of disco, and dance! A biz balance buddy helps.
Time is Honey - Give yourself enough rest and peace that you give the people you meet with for your venture your sweet, unhurried, focused time. You don't need to meet everyone.
Time is Money - Outsource processes that would take more time to be an expert at than is worth it - like designing your own website.
5. Know Your Numbers!
When seeking funding from potential investors, be sure to know your financial numbers, your market and costs of production. And above all, know what your business is worth - its valuation. Many entrepreneurs place an excessively high valuation on their business.
6. Market or Die!
Many new entrepreneurs open their doors, hang out their shingle (docs and lawyers too) but don't market or promote their new enterprise! It's surprising how many newbies don't plan for any promotion, marketing, public relations or advertising. Yet, they expect people to buy their product/service. You must promote in order to SELL! Marketing is what will make your new business take off. Test different marketing ideas. No marketing is the #1 reason new businesses fail.
7. The NEXT Great Idea
You don't need a million dollar idea - just model someone else who's been successful and add your own twist to it (better service, transparency, etc)
Ex #1: Microsoft (Excel vs. Lotus; Word vs. Word Perfect, Explorer vs. Netscape) - they just did it "better"
Ex #2: Samsung Galaxy and the iPhone
Or, find a problem and solve it - people will pay you (outsource) to handle their problems.
8. Get Out of Your Head
If you have a vision of doing something really BIG, then there is a way to make it possible. Too frequently, we lead with our heads. And then, we hold ourselves back, stay small and try to avoid failure. But when you're deeply connected to WHY you're doing this, then you lead from your heart. Your heart always shows you the way. Sometimes, it appears BIG and overwhelming. So, realize that when it feels uncomfortable, then it's probably the right action to take.
9. Don't Go it Alone
Many entrepreneurs believe that their business should be self-sufficient and not require the services of others. This is a sure recipe for failure! Begin your business by planning to bring others aboard – whether they be employees, contractors & subcontractors, or virtual assistants – as soon as possible. This includes budgeting for the expenses involved. You'll rest a lot easier knowing that someone else is there to do the things that you don't know how to do, don't do well, or don't like to do.
10. Your Own Boss? Really!
I hear it all the time. I want to be my own boss. I tell my students that if that's their reason for wanting to be an entrepreneur, they are better off in a job. My reasoning and personal experience as the founder of three successful business' tells me that when you own a business, the business has a tendency to own you-24/7. You answer to customers, government, employees with "issues", your family and just maybe, if you are lucky, you can make an independent decision for yourself once in a while.
Any small business must launch from day 1 with the mindset that one day you will be the size of Apple (even if size is not your goal). Too many small biz downfalls occur as a result of not tending to each and every aspect of your business equally. Yes, you will have fires to put out, but you cannot neglect sales for accounting or accounting for inventory or marketing for hiring. Plan to devote equal time to each aspect of your business every day. As one segment grows, so too will the rest follow.
12. Never Stop Learning
Once you start a business and get a few clients, it's easy to rest on your existing knowledge. What differentiates the best business people from the average, however, is consistently learning and evolving.
Read industry publications and blogs, stay up on the latest tech and developments. Remember: there's always something new to learn and try. Trust me, your business and your clients will benefit from your efforts.
13. "Squirrel" Retained Earnings
Only 1/10 of 1% of species that have ever lived on earth survive today. Maybe entrepreneurs can learn some powerful strategies for survival from them. Squirrels store nuts so they’ll have food throughout the winter. Those that do not store sufficient amounts risk losing their lives. Nearly every business experiences “long, hard winters” at times. I recommend retaining a minimum of 75% of net income each year, which would go a long way toward assuring survival during tough times.
14. Focus, Focus, Focus
My advice is simple. Stay focused on your goal. It's very easy to get distracted, sidetracked, and/or bogged down in minutia, as well as possibly influenced by meaningful, helpful people. However, stay on the main highway to your goal; don't get off an exit too soon. Don't stop before the miracle. Focus, focus, and re-focus.
15. Define Your Market!
Rather than pursuing a very broad marketing effort, consider honing in very tightly on your niche. You need to know who your customer is and where they spend their time. Then, go meet them both online and offline. This takes trial with error, but in the end, it will save your precious resources. Never stop creating!
16. Strengthen Your Strengths
As you start your business, keep in mind that if you will strengthen your strengths and hire your weaknesses you will grow quickly and have a very happy team of people working for you. You can't do it all yourself, so leverage yourself quickly, grow, have fun and be profitable. Also, remember, you aren't in the business of doing what you do, but instead, you are the marketer of what you do - that's an important business distinction!
17. Everything is Beta
There's an overwhelming feeling when you first launch that everything has to be perfect. That perfectionism can hold you back and keep you stuck for a long, long time.
Everything is beta. Allow yourself to move forward. Realize that your website, your mission, your copy... and pretty much everything is going to shift and grow over time.
By calling it 'beta', you give yourself permission to evolve.
18. Honestly Ask Yourself
So, you want to be an entrepreneur?
Ask yourself and only accept from yourself honest answers:
Do you have the time?
Do you have the drive?
Do you have the funding?
Do you have a tough skin?
Do you have tenacity?
Do you have a great idea or business model?
Do you have marketing skills?
19. Do This Now!
As an entrepreneur myself, here is my short list of do's & don'ts.
1. Write down every conceivable worse case scenario that your journey may take you and absolutely share it with your spouse, who must be as committed as are you or you will be in deep trouble if the project fails.
2. Make sure you have the funds from savings, selling assets and least preferred credit lines, but
3. Initially borrow from family, friends or raise money from investors as this is the kiss of death.
20. Learning From Failure
Don't be afraid to take risks. Those who don't take risks do not fail, those who don't fail do not learn and those who don't learn do not eventually succeed. The key is to take calculated risks without being afraid of failure and learn from it.
21. Questions Create Possibilities
As you start out, it's tempting to look for the answer and the "right way" to do things. What if instead of looking for that answer, you were to ask questions instead? Have you noticed questions create more possibilities and provide useful information, whereas answers stop all creating? Great questions are: "How does it get even better than this?", "What else is possible?" and "How could this turn out even better than I imagined?" Then, wait for the universe to send the info you've asked for!
22. Commit to Knowing Your Numbers
A lot of new entrepreneurs lack finance knowledge. That need not be a barrier to entrepreneurship - so that's the first tip - but to really kick ass, you have to learn to read a balance sheet, project your sales (hint: they won't grow in a straight line at a 45 degree upward angle), and know the difference between net profit and cash balance. So, obsess with the numbers until you understand them enough to talk about them with people who need to know - banks, investors, and VCs.
23. Reverse the Risk
I started my business just after 9/11 in Manhattan and I didn't know how to get clients. I asked a mentor and he said that I had to reverse the risk of working with me. I didn't have an office, website, or even business cards at the time. I created a presentation "Innovations In Financial Services" and sent it to everyone I knew. The Managing Director of one of the largest consulting firms in Japan came to NYC to meet me. They were a client for 10 years. Give value up front and offer a guarantee.
24. Go With Your Gut!
Starting a business is difficult enough, but if you don't believe in yourself, it will be 100 times tougher. Entrepreneurs must be leaders and leaders need self confidence so others will follow. Yet, everyone you know will give you advice and expect you to take it. Remind yourself why you are launching your business and make your decisions based on your gut. It's your business, so it has to be your gut directing it. Better to make a mistake doing it your way--it's just a lesson learned.
25. Tough Love Advice!
1: Doing a particular function in the corporate world, like marketing, doesn’t mean that you can do it for your own business. You're too close to it to do a good job strategically.
2. DON’T TRY TO DO EVERYTHING YOURSELF! You can’t.
You WILL fail.
3. You WILL NOT get to do what you love full time. You'll be spending more time running, marketing and selling your business.
4. Taking care of yourself IS taking care of the business. YOU are the business and the brand.
26. Sticks and Line Scratches!
This should be the most liberating experience you have to date, but make sure you put together a solid business plan, step by step, and have some experienced entrepreneurs review it for feedback. Last, but certainly not least, COUNT THE COSTS! Know what it will take to run your business each week, month, etc. with the best estimate available. Be realistic and practical.
Thanks to: S Capri Edwards.
27. Done is Better Than Perfect!
Hear ye, hear ye, new Entrepreneurs! Take this principle to heart: Done is better than perfect!
When planning advertising for your business - pay attention to the details, yes, but if you never get the ad DONE, it can't bring you any visibility or any business.
Working on your website with a designer or technician (or you're doing it yourself)? Get enough information up there so that people know you're a real business, but don't wait for perfection!
Get it out there - do it now!
28. Clarity of Purpose
Having crystal clarity as to your purpose is essential. For without clarity, you will be restrained as you walk your entrepreneurial path, because you will not see the hurdles or potential hurdles keeping you from your purpose. The lack of crystal clarity is the most common and ongoing challenge I find in working with clients and even with myself. The clearer the target, the easier it is to hit it and those hits are your successes.
29. Fear Passion Organically
The title of this post is just a funny way to compress the 3 key points I have had to understand as an entrepreneur. First, you will always work on getting past FEAR. One hurdle over, another shows up, so get used to the feeling. Second, people respond to your PASSION, so let it show! And third, don't be so hung up on a vision that you won't allow things to evolve ORGANICALLY. Some of the best roads in the journey are those unplanned - take them!
30. Hire a Coach/Pay for Expertise
I'm a DIYer by nature. Overcoming the 'need to do it all myself' has been one of my single most important lessons in running my own business. Investing in coaches, mentors and experts has continued to be the best investments that I've ever made to build my business. Coaches, mentors and experts have supported me to make huge leaps forward. Coaches are a dime a dozen these days, so find those who specialize in your unique business area or target niche!
31. Flex Your Head Muscle and Gain
Recognize your opportunities!
We must all begin entrepreneurship from what we know... and how we believe that it will best serve anticipated customers.
However, reality is often less co-operative with plans than we could hope.
So, it's wise to be aware of the possibility of flexing skills (to create variations on our original customer-service ideas) in order to serve the customer's needs and wants. Then, our skills are being used, whether or not in originally-anticipated ways.
32. Practice S.E.L.F. care
Each day (no matter how busy you are):
S = Sleep soundly
E = Exercise sanely
L = Love, forgive, and be grateful
F = Fuel your body with nutritious foods
33. Have a Disaster Recovery Plan
Disaster recovery planning isn't just for IT departments. Are you a risk taker leaving the "comfort" of salary & benefits to start a business? Ground yourself in a solid business plan. Have it reviewed by a trusted advisor. Now, create your "what if financial or physical disaster strikes?" plan.
Just like reputation management plans in social media, planning for the unexpected allows you to better maneuver these roadblocks with a shrewd sense of action, staying the course to success!
34. Do You Have a Big Idea?
Success depends on having a big idea; otherwise, you’re nothing more than a copycat, selling the same stuff, in the same way as everyone else in a race to mediocrity. Without a big idea, you are left to compete over price and that’s a hard way to make a buck. Being like everyone else may work for local brick and mortar stores that survive on convenience, but if you’re on the Web, you better have a big idea that differentiates your brand, because your competition is only a click away.
35. Don't Be a Lone Wolf
Avoid burnout and reach out. Decide what you love and do best and find others to do what they are great at. Collaborating is more than just working together. It is an opportunity for co-creativity, sharing the load, and having fun. All great minds don't think alike, thankfully. They think interdependently.
36. The One Hour Marketing Miracle
1. What do you want to sell?
2. Who do you want to sell it to?
3. How are you going to sell it to them?
Then, Do This:
1. Gain wisdom from someone with experience.
2. Do not spend time or money on a logo, colors, a pretty website or any in depth branding stuff.
3. Prove viability - talk to people who you want to sell to & see if they ask if they can buy it.
Keep selling & invest in a pretty website.
Or, ignore this, fail and then, try it on your next business.
37. Don't Take it Too Seriously
You will probably get plenty of advice of how seriously you need to take your new business venture. Just a word of caution in the other direction- I have seen so many new entrepreneurs who cannot stop talking about their business and boring their friends to death, driving them away. Everybody talks about work, but they do so as one of many items. Don't be so obsessed that you lose your friends.
38. Your Worst Case Scenario?
That may seem negative, but it is a lifesaver. What will stop you from going forward? A tsunami wipes out your materials? Customs locks up your stock in a warehouse? Someone beats you to market? Or personal setbacks- there is a death in the family, you have a serious illness, or you lose your best employee? If you know what the worst might be, then you can allow for that in your planning stages. The more serious you are about knowing what will stop you, the more likely it is you will succeed.
39. Make a Plan. Now Change it.
You need a plan when you go into business. You also need to realize that if you're doing great, you'll change the plan in no time. Success in business is dependent on your ability and willingness to adapt to new information and understanding.
40. The "Swelled Head Mentality"
The "Swelled Head Mentality" is believing that you will be instantly rich the moment that you open your new business, because millions of new clients will be clamoring to buy your new product or service. And so, you start spending like you are already rich. Then, those bills for the fancy car, wardrobe and giant house start coming due, and you have no money to pay for it. It's great to dream big for your business, but wait to spend the money until you actually have it in your hands!
41. Focus on ROI
Focus on targeted marketing in multiple mediums (not just one or two), and always keep an eye on the Return on Investment (ROI).
42. What Detracts Extracts Energy
Entrepreneurs of all makes and models should concentrate on revenue production. Time with non-revenue producing areas detracts from increased gross revenue. This can also have the effect of stultifying creativity. Enter the magic of outsourcing. Most outsourcing companies, for tasks like payroll, human resources
, and on and on exist because they too know that time taken away from entrepreneurs working “on” their business casts them into the world of working “in” their business.
43. Humility & Bootstrapping Rule!
When starting a new business, especially for those first time entrepreneurs who want to make it rich yesterday and get bought by Google... think "Humility." Start slow, lay a foundation with a solid plan, get a ton of feedback for your idea, and above all, keep overhead low. The world is littered with companies that overspent and did not to their homework to come up with an intelligent business model. Remember... it's not how much money you make, it's how much you keep!
44. Study Your Target Market
My advice to new entrepreneurs is to do their homework and study their target market buying behaviors. If you are targeting a specific market, then you need to make sure that where you are marketing is where your target market is getting their information from. If their buying behavior is to go on-line and shop, then you need to be where they will find your links to go on-line and shop. Do your homework and learn your target market's buying behaviors.
45. Using Barter to Boost Sales
Businesses can utilize barter to boost sales production. Savvy business owners are discovering that bartering is a great vehicle for moving excess inventory, using downtime, attracting new customers, and generating barter dollars that can be used for business expenses.
If a business uses a barter exchange like IMS, it can use those trade credits to “purchase” things offered by thousands of other members.
John Strabley of IMS
46. Control Your Growth
My best advice would be the following: Stay small and control your growth. When running a business, there are always going to be peaks and valleys; the key is not to grow too big too fast. If you over extend yourself with too much inventory and/or staff and you encounter a large dip in sales, you can bankrupt your company very fast.
Bonus Tip: Get out of your own way. Small business owners love to try and do everything themselves, i.e. hire a professional artist to do your logo, not your nephew.
47. Show Off Those EARS
Educate others on your products or service. The more people know about you, the more your business can grow.
Amaze your clients or customers. Go above and beyond expectations. Why be ordinary? Make your business extraordinarily unforgettable.
Respond to all communication in a timely fashion.
Smile when necessary to show potential customers or clients that you are approachable. A client or customer will make an assumption about you before learning about your product or service.
48. How are You Going to Get Out?
This may seem like a premature question, yet my work with CEOs indicated differently. The question, "How do I get out of this business?" fundamentally changes ones thinking and decision making. It may be 1-30 years from now, but the decisions made with this question in mind change choices and outcomes for the better. "How will this decision impact me leaving?" Take it for a test run and experience the difference.
49. Founder & CEO
The #1 thing new entrepreneurs should do is gather mentors early. It can be intimidating to ask for guidance when you don't have a fully-formed idea, but waiting until you have that means that you've lost the opportunity to leverage the wisdom of mentors in creating your product and avoiding pitfalls. And people who've been through this before are much more willing to help than you'd think, so don't be afraid to reach out to people and ask them to be a mentor!
Carrie Mantha of Indira
50. Failure Isn't All Bad
In order to be successful, you must learn to fail quickly. Decisions will never be easy, but you need to make them quickly or else nothing will ever get done. Don't be afraid to make the wrong decision; just keep throwing stuff at the wall until something sticks.
51. Know Your Market!
Do your research and know your potential market inside and out. The internet is full of resources. Also, contact any trade associations affiliated with your product/service. Find out everything that you can about the industry. Then, hold focus groups. Use what you learn from both of these before you move forward. Listen to what people tell you, even if it's not what you want to hear. Sometimes, "outside" ideas are better than or expand on yours. Be open to hearing people's suggestions.
52. Avoid the Equity Trap
All startup companies should consider using a dynamic equity model to divide up the company. In a traditional fixed model, equity is granted based on anticipated contributions; dynamic models are based on actual contributions. First, assign a value to all possible contributions (time, money, ideas, relationships, etc). Next, to determine equity splits, just divide the value of one person’s contributions by the value of all of the contributions. Voila! The perfectly fair split!
53. Look Overseas for Customers
The world loves American products, so your best customers might be overseas -- under-served market, less competition. Exports supported approximately 9.7 million U.S. jobs in 2011, with 97 percent of all exporters being small businesses. Discover exporting opportunities by contacting Export University or the SBA's Export Assistance Centers. The future of entrepreneurial success rests with success in exporting.
54. Leave Home, Become a Success
The one piece of advice I’d give to new entrepreneurs is to move! Let’s face it; your family and friends may try to talk you out of becoming an entrepreneur because they don’t understand your dream. Plus, they’re probably filled with fear, which you could catch if you don’t get away. Send your family and friends lots of love and then, pack your bags, hit the road, and setup your business in another state or country, preferably one that appreciates and understands entrepreneurs.
55. Be Unique!
Paving your own road, no matter how much success others have in your area, will be the sure-fire way to create success! I have seen many entrepreneurs try to copy or model another and wonder why they are not finding the success like others. Most of the time, it's because they are doing or offering something that doesn't FEEL right. Follow the thread of joy and FEEL joy with everything you do, and you are sure to find the fulfillment, joy AND success that is unique to who you are!
56. SPECIFIC = SUCCESS
Pick ONE small segment of a SPECIFIC group of people.
Know EXACTLY their SPECIFIC struggles and desires.
Provide RELEVANT solutions and fulfillment.
Go all out.
Once you get known, expand your audience.
Don't start with a big "I can help everyone" mindset, because you'll fall flat on your face, get discouraged and quit.
Specific = Success.
57. Learn from Your Own Experience
When I started my business, I signed up for a lot of courses with business coaches and experts.
While taking classes can show you the ropes and prevent business mistakes, it's easy to get caught up in taking too many classes and not having enough time to implement. You only need to take a few classes before trying out what you've learned. And don't be afraid to learn from your mistakes. Your success will be your personal road map, not the replication of someone else's formula.
58. Keep it Simple Because...
Whatever your endeavor may be, make sure to keep it simple because complexity will slow you down and force you to waste precious dollars upfront on nonessential items that create unnecessary overhead and possibly lead you to failure due to lack of funds!
59. Magical Fortune: Cybersecurity
Find a topic with increasing value & use 4 pillars to manage COMPLEXITY, CHANGE & RISK. For example: $1 trillion trying to cleanup illicit cyberspace activities = greatest transfer of wealth in history = innovative security defense solutions needed. Apply TMVi Think-Do Tank method to Your Cyber Security endeavors by asking: What TECHNOLOGY is involved? Whom are you MARKETING? What VENTURES are in place? How do we integrate answers & pull together as an INC?
60. Ready, Set, Launch!!!
Have everything ready before you launch. Imagine the monetary loss, to say nothing of the embarrassment you’d suffer, as a result of having to turn away potential business because you opened before everything was in place. A good finish always begins with a good start.
61. Everlasting Selling
It's not about selling your product(s) and getting your prospective clients to buy them.
It's about you selling you.
If they will buy you, they will buy anything you are selling.
Be real, be sincere, be honest and always make it a win-win for both sides. If you do this, they will always come back for more and your client/sales will be everlasting. Unfortunately, these qualities, which should be a given, all too often give way to 'Greed'. When that happens, everyone loses.
62. Don't Do Your Own Books!
If you start a business, work on your business. Let a professional do your books. Those countless hours that you try to do them and end up going for help anyway can be used to grow the business.
63. Leap Before You Think
Take action before you think you're ready. Opportunity waits for no one. Perfectionism is an opportunity slayer. When I created my prototype, the SnuggWugg®, it wasn't perfect. I could have thought, "Huggies won't give me the grant; I'm not prepared." I did my best, created my website & took a chance. It paid off by $15,000. I got the grant. Recently, I pitched the Wall Street Journal; was it perfect? I don't know, but I landed the piece. Throw fear and perfectionism aside; they are enemies to success.
64. Hooray for Accounts Receivable
What would you rather earn this year: $10K paid promptly or $150K paid slowly? A lot of my income comes from projects that take a long time to pay; they are heavily back-loaded, involve multiple stakeholders (for example, subcontractors for one of our favorite North American governments), or other factors. Having a sufficient war chest of cash does more than help you survive your startup; it allows you to take on gigs that most people can't and become much more successful.
65. Tip for Success in Business
Always think long term.
66. Your Product is Not Important!
Understand that what you sell or provide is not what is important to your Prospect or Customer/Client. What is important to them is what you can do for them - solve a problem, meet a need, alleviate a pain, increase revenue, decrease expense, etc. When you communicate, don't describe your product/service, approach from the prospect or customer/client viewpoint. Instead of "we offer X", say "we can do Y for you".
67. Forget the Big Retailers
It doesn't matter how good your product is... large retailers will NOT want to deal with you, so don't waste your time. They're not brand builders & won't spend time/energy/training on their employees to educate the public on your product. It's nothing personal; it's just the way it is. Shelf space is precious; products have to have a certain sell through to warrant their inclusion. Do yourself a favor & focus on selling your products on line... better margins & no packaging issues there anyway!
68. Hire Before You Need to
One of the best pieces of advice I got when I was starting was to hire support and operational staff before you realize that you need them. The reason is that your role as entrepreneur and business owner within the first few years should be to promote your business and build contacts. Support staff may seem like an unnecessary cost, but the less time you spend on administrative tasks, the more time you have to spend on revenue generating projects.
69. What's the Game Plan?
Okay, so you have decided to be an entrepreneur...now what? Too few people take the time to create a viable strategy to survive & thrive & that's why so many businesses fail. I am not talking about the business plan you show to the bank to get initial financing, that's a given. I am talking about taking the time to think about where you want to be in 3-5 years? Then, develop & implement systems & processes IN THE BEGINNING to secure your success. PLAN to succeed by envisioning YOUR future.
70. Make the Commitment to Succeed
Expect that you will grossly underestimate the amount of time and money you'll need to be successful. You'll either get a better product or an idea for a supplemental product if you don't give up. Do something every day to improve upon existing products or create new ones. Exhaust every source you can to improve your business plan. Securing funding is really hard to do. The better your plan, the better the odds are you'll find an investor.
71. Extra Inventory? Donate It!
Donations from corporations make it possible for non profits to receive free merchandise. All they have to do is send off their donations to gift-in-kind organizations like NAEIR, which redistribute donations of new, overstock and discontinued products to member schools, churches and other nonprofit organizations in need of supplies. Donating companies benefit from the enhanced tax deduction, which enables them to receive up to twice-cost federal tax deductions.
Gary Smith of NAEIR
72. Get Support!
Surround yourself with people who support you, believe in you and inspire you. Entrepreneurship is a journey and you will need support in the good and the bad times. Support can come from other entrepreneur friends, an accountability buddy, a Virtual Assistant, a local networking group, Facebook connections, a coach and even family and friends.
73. Know Your WHY
To tap into a power beyond your physical ability, you must have a strong WHY you are building a business. When taking the leap of faith into entrepreneurship, one must go way beyond the money. Expect setbacks, expect the naysayers, and expect not having things go according to plan. These challenges are all a part of the process and a strong WHY will keep you going.
74. Money & Time: The Oops! Factor
Whatever your next objective or endeavor is, plan on it taking three times longer than you think it will--and costing two times as much as you thought it would, all things considered. Yes, you are smart, driven and successful--but even the best of the best underestimate the time and cost factors of their ideas and new ventures! Whether it's hiring a new employee, getting your new product launched or securing a new vendor, it will almost always take longer and cost more than you think it will!
75. Show Me the Money!
YOU are not Priceline. Set a price and stick to it. If not, you are going to end up doing a ton of work for nearly free. Talk to customers, have an idea of how much your service should cost and go for it. You can't build a business by doing everything for free or for pennies. You should be so confident in your services and ability that people don't mind investing in you. Be reasonable. Be successful and be upfront with your pricing.
76. Top Questions for Entrepreneur
Ask & answer the following four questions:
* Can I offer something or have I done anything unique that no one has done before?
* Is there an area in my field that is untapped or unfulfilled?
* Do I have much competition?
* Can I put a new twist on my subject matter that will appeal to a broad range of people?
Answer these questions to see if you can launch a successful business. You should be able to say "Yes" to questions #1, 2 and 4. The answer should be "No" to question #3. Good luck!
77. Are You Going for It?
Whether you are just starting a business or have been in business for a while, it’s necessary to have a strong foundation to build on. You need a one page business plan so that you know where you are going, a marketing plan so that you know 'how' you are going to get there and goals to keep you moving forward. And, there’s a difference between being busy and being productive, so take consistent, focused action and you will achieve the success you want. Don’t listen to naysayers; just go for it!
78. The Fourth Protocol
There are three business protocols (activities) that add up to an all-important fourth one. The fourth will sink you, if you don't control it from the start. The first is time spent making/producing your product/service. The second is admin work: taxes, payroll, supplies, etc. The third is marketing. You must do all three on a daily/weekly/monthly basis, and that comes down to the Fourth Protocol: Time Management. Successfully budgeting time for each of these activities will lead to a successful business.
79. Test the Waters!
My best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs is to test the waters before jumping fully into running a business. Testing the waters involves having a trial run or beta testing your business idea for a few months. For example, you could create a product or launch a service and give a handful of potential customers access to it in exchange for feedback or testimonials. In doing so, you'll be able to find out whether your business idea is truly viable and establish whether there's a market for it.
80. Business Partnership Don'ts!
My advice for new business owners is to NEVER enter into a partnership with someone you don't know intimately. And if you do enter into a partnership, make sure everything is in writing and legally binding. 50/50 partnerships are never recommended. One partner should maintain a majority in the event that there is a tie in decision making; the majority holder will have the final say. When forming joint bank accounts for partnerships, be sure to set them up where BOTH parties need to sign everything.
81. Allow for Imperfection
I think the best advice that I have for new entrepreneurs would be to not hold out for perfection. You'll make mistakes. That's fine. Getting something out there that's imperfect will always be better than holding out for perfection and never getting anything out there. By the same token, know that the niche that you serve today undoubtedly will not be the same niche you serve in 3 months or 3 years. And that's perfectly okay.
82. George Soros Thinking Style
I run trainings based on strategy elicitation, which is trying on other peoples’ thinking styles. The most useful thinking style is that of George Soros, the man who made $1bn by betting on devaluation of the pound sterling in 1992. He is an individual thinker and his questioning style works well when applied to changing situations. If you’re looking for bigger ideas or better solutions, find better questions to ask - where better to find them than from already successful entrepreneurs.
83. Get Your Self-Talk Straight
Self-talk is defined as what you think and say about you and what you are doing--both in your head and in conversation with others. Sabotaging self-talk can chip away at your attitude, energy, passion, creativity, and bottom line. Ideally, you want self-talk that’s positive and supportive, encouraging in the face of challenges, and fully aligned with what you desire. Create an awareness of your self-talk to make sure that it doesn’t become the silent killer of your goals and dreams.
84. Focus Kills Competition
As a small business owner, the key is not to stretch yourself too thin. Know what you can provide and do it better than anyone else. If you add too many services, you'll be mediocre at many and a master of none. Only the best stand out in the competitive world of business that we live in now. There's no room for decent, good, or pretty good - only incredible.
85. Entrepreneurship isn't Freedom
Entrepreneurship does not equal freedom. A small business owner works longer hours, makes less money, and has very little stability for a long time. Think long and hard about why you want to start a business and if you're willing to do absolutely anything to make it happen. If you start a business for the wrong reasons, in our competitive economy, you will be weeded out. You'll need unrelenting passion and a dash of craziness just to survive.
86. The Little Tugboat That Can
One of the best pieces of advice that I received was to remember that as a small business, we can make decisions faster, outcomes faster and at times, easier than a large company. Large companies have many internal rules, politics, and usually larger expenses. The small business representing the tugboat has much strength. Research your industry well and have a strong business plan to be the tugboat that can have a business that will succeed.
87. Don't Stop Marketing!
"If you stop marketing, they stop watching." ~ JMH
My Top 5 Marketing Tips:
Know your audience and engage them with what they like to hear from you or your business.
Use creativity and diverse graphics, media and copy to engage the customer.
Span your strategy across various channels of media (print, web, social media, video, affiliate marketing).
Keep your "personal business" off of Facebook when you are trying to sell yourself as a professional.
88. Don't Quit
I'm celebrating 25 years in business this year and I find new challenges every day. I've made it this far because I refuse to quit. When something knocks me for a loop, I get up, dust myself off and get right back at it. After all, where would the fun be if everything went right all of the time?
Being an entrepreneur can be very frustrating at times, but it is also a way to live an extraordinarily rich life.
Don't quit. Learn the lessons in your setbacks and failures and put them to work.
89. Sleep on It!!!
The best piece of advice I can offer to new entrepreneurs is: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Once your business becomes exposed, you will become everyone's BEST friend. They will offer you anything and everything, but you must react NOW! Don't do it!! Anytime someone gives you an offer with a time limit, do not react. Simply explain that you need to consult with your attorney (even if you don't) and will get back with them.
If someone wants to work with you, they will wait and not pressure.
90. Give Away Your Business
Many entrepreneurs have asked me, “How do I figure out what kind of business to start?” I say, start by doing something you’re good at (i.e. baking cakes) and do it for free for a while. Bake 10-20 cakes and give them to a few coffee shops, deli’s and other restaurants. If it gives you a thrill (especially when you get positive feedback) and you feel that you could do it forever, you've found your calling. The next step is to create your business plan and figure out how you will make money.
91. Think Like a Potential Buyer
I would say the best advice is to focus on what people really want, not what your business can do for them. It sounds simple. But as business owners, we tend to suffer from the curse of knowledge when we talk to potential buyers, instead of just explaining how our product or service can solve their problem. So, before you write copy or spend money on branding, ask yourself this. Have I made it super clear what results people can expect after they work with me or buy my product?
92. Advice to Ensure Your Success!
Rock star super successful entrepreneurs out there are resilient. They understand that every bump in the road is an opportunity to learn and go forward in a more effective manner. They know how to fail fast, learn from their mistakes fast and move forward fast. They are so passionate for their business that they will move through any obstacle and no bump ever becomes a block. They bounce back quickly. They are committed to success and bounce high and fast. Resilience is the key.
93. Cutting Loose Underperformers
One of the costliest mistakes that entrepreneurs make is in not letting go of underperforming employees as quickly as warnings signs begin to appear. Entrepreneurs generally possess good instincts, but they are often hesitant to follow it when it comes to firing someone. But the cost of not taking action is too high. When you take into account the emotional roller coaster ride, money, decrease in productivity and morale, you can't afford to not take action. Your employees will thank you for it.
94. The Message Begins Immediately
Don't delay getting your key messages in order! This should not be considered just a public relations activity that can be postponed to a later date. These key messages inform all you say to your key audiences: customers, investors, business partners, potential employees and the media. That said, engage a professional communicator that can help you get these key messages in order. It's time and money well spent.
95. You Do Not Get an A for Effort
Remember the old saying: "You do not get an A for effort". In the world of entrepreneurs, it translates into: "if you fail to deliver results, you do not get paid". Lots of businesses fail to make a distinction between working long hours and delivering quality results fast. The secret is focusing on high value tasks and activities. Instead of creating busy work, these tasks generate revenue, set you apart from competition and deliver value to your customers.
96. Make it Work
Being that I started out the bottom to create a successful business, I would say that creating income sources outside of the actual business that you want to start is very imperative. Putting pressure on the business and your partners/employees to create revenue can be very stressful. So, one must find a way to support the business that will eventually support you. Sometimes, it takes time and/or money to sustain a business venture. Don't be afraid of change and learning.
97. Small Business Suicide
Two friends and I started our businesses about the same time. They both rented large class A office space. I rented a nice, less expensive, smaller space. One bought new furniture and equipment. The other leased state of the art. I bought nice, slightly used. We were all careful with our personal appearance. That's the first thing clients notice. When times got tough, I was able to pay my lower expenses. I'm still in business; my friends aren't. Keep your expenses below your budget.
98. The Triple P's of Success
Starting a business is very exciting. However, in order to achieve great levels of success, you need to align your business with your PURPOSE, your PASSION, and the PEOPLE around you. These three form the triple P's of success. When Purpose, Passion, and People are linked together, Performance, Productivity, and Profit will be natural results and therefore, huge success along with inner happiness will be guaranteed.
99. Love is Success!!
Love your purpose! You should love what you do and the fact that you were created to do it. Your success should rest on what you love to create and the opportunity given to you to perform it.
It is from this position of love that will make the turns and dips bearable. Looking at challenges through love will uncover the lessons to be learned and the strength that is in you.
Love the journey and your destiny.
100. Follow Your Dream
To quote the great Dr. King, I would encourage all business owners to “Have a DREAM”, to pursue it without hesitation or pause, to never surrender even when things seem the darkest, to always believe in yourself, even when all others don’t, to treat each new day as an opportunity & to always believe that success is right around the corner, as opposed to being deterred by your failures (most great business people will tell you that they have failed more in the careers than they have succeeded).
101. Each Encounter=an Opportunity
Networking isn't the only way to grow the business. Every single time you connect with another human being, you have a chance to broaden your customer base. Paying bills? Include your business card in the envelope. Standing in line? Turn to the person next to you and ask for their advice as a potential customer. All too often, new entrepreneurs use only the traditional means of finding new clients. The atypical means work as well, and often work better!
102. Take That Risk NOW
Are you an Entrepreneur? If you say yes, then my point will resonate with you. To truly be an Entrepreneur, you must be willing to take a risk. You might lose everything in the process- money, home, your former life. All is possible. Success is not a guarantee. But when you do what you love, that risk is manageable. Without risk, there is no thrill of victory that comes with success. Nothing is for certain, but risk is what makes you irresistible and thereby, success is available to you!
103. My Best Advice
My one piece of business advice is to live in the present moment. I have found that in business, it's really easy to get caught up in all of the things that didn't work in the past, and the scary stuff coming up in the future. The truth is, all you have is the present moment. If you can master staying in the now, soaking up your passion and connecting with all of the people you get to meet when you start your business, you will be unstoppable.
104. Outsource Your Time Suckers
With an average of 15% annual revenue growth in my roofing business through year 4, we were doing pretty well in a down economy. The year I outsourced everything except the parts I loved, we grew 35%. I hired great part-time people to do basic functions like bookkeeping/accounting, office management, and human resources. This was affordable, saved me dozens of hours monthly, not to mention the peace of mind I felt letting an expert handle things that zapped me of time and energy.
105. Inventor or Entrepreneur?
Today, one would define inventors as entrepreneurs. Perhaps they will be, but most are not, at least yet! The new inventor is one who creates, innovates and tries to get their product(s) into the consumer's hands through media and the ultimate goal of RETAIL! Associations & groups that help entrepreneurs don't always have the connections in the retail world, and know how to fend off the sharks which eat inventors alive! Watch out for the "offer"; if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!
Do you have a great piece of entrepreneurial advice that wasn’t included? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!