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Business Unplugged™
This blog features Carol Roth's tough love on business and entrepreneurship, as well as insights from Carol's community of contributors.

100+ Things You Need to Know Before You Start Your Business

Written By: Carol Roth | No Comments

As many of you know, I often talk about “Business Beer Goggling“- the phenomena of being so intoxicated with your new business idea/venture that your view of reality is completely distorted. So, to help you take off those beer goggles and sober up, I have asked the CarolRoth.com contributor network of entrepreneurs and experts to use their 20/20 hindsight and provide the one main thing that they wish they knew before they started their businesses. Their answers are presented below in no particular order.

You may notice some similar insights, but I kept the concepts separate, as something in the way one is framed may resonate differently with you.

1. FOCUS!!!

I wish I would have realized that the more focused and specific our company's niche, the more easily understood and referred our services would have been.

Everyone's heard the saying, "A jack of all trades is a master of none," but many people, when starting a business, don't take this to heart. Focus on what you do best and partner with others who can help you succeed!
Thanks to: Rocky Walls of 12 Stars Media.

2. Guiding Principles

Succinctly: I wish I had formulated my Core Values, prioritized them from most important to least, put them in writing for the world to see and educated my employees as to what each one meant.
Thanks to: Dr. Ron Arndt of THE DENTAL COACH.

3. If I Had Only Known!!

When I started my business back in the fall of 2009, I really didn't have a clue what I was doing or where I was going. What would have been a lot more helpful was more faith in my abilities and a lot less fear of failure. The lack of faith and the fear of failure slowed me down and almost got me to throw in the towel. Over time, I learned to trust my instincts, my experience and my positive outlook. One of my coaches told me that "words and beliefs become things".
Thanks to: Doug Hecker of 2 Excel Now, LLC.

4. Think Big; Think Small

I wish someone had advised me to think big (to realize that I had unlimited client possibilities) and to simultaneously think small (to limit my initial outlay of inventory/equipment) until I was earning enough to support myself and my plans. I also wish I had learned about places that could provide assistance, such as SCORE (the Service Corps of Retired Executives). Many a mistake could have been avoided if I had called upon the corps.
Thanks to: Marlene Caroselli of CPD.

5. All About Customer Service

If I had only understood the nature of customer service? My initial thoughts were – “It is my business and I will do it my way!” Now I know that more often than not, and within reason, I do it “my customer’s way.” This means integrating their suggestions, so I can serve them better.

6. What I Wish I Knew!

The list of things that I wish I knew before starting my own business is long! The number one thing that I wish I knew would be the impact of the name of your business. My advice- pick wisely!
Thanks to: Amy Diederich of Braithwaite Innovation Group.

7. What Most Media Outlets Want

I knew that when starting my book business, I didn't have a "mass made product" that would quickly sell. I went into the business with my eyes wide open, but I also assumed that more media outlets would value an educational and social-emotional product. I was wrong about that. Most media outlets (for kid products) are seeking cheap, fast, easily sell-able items that can be put on sale during the holidays, pushed quickly, etc. If starting an educational business, keep this in mind! It's not easy.
Thanks to: Shara Lawrence-Weiss of Personal Child Stories.

8. Broken Eggs from One Basket!

Placing all of my eggs in one client basket left me broke when the major account disappeared overnight! My ego and bank account didn't survive the telecommunications company merger. I failed to gather more eggs and ended up fried. Beware of becoming a speaking star in one corporation or you might end up with one scrambled mess! Too bad I didn't have a good egg speaker buddy who could have set me straight.
Thanks to: Linda Shields of Speaking With Authority, Inc.

9. Abilene

I wish I had known that becoming a Professional Musician would mean that I had to give up music!

Seriously, I'm so consumed with marketing, web development, graphic arts, networking and the "Business" side of the Music Business that I haven't played guitar without an Agenda in (what feels like) YEARS!

On the bright side, I have an understanding of current technologies and practices that would boggle the minds of Record Label Executives.

Internship, anyone?
Thanks to: Tony Barker of TonyBarkerMusic.com.

10. Keep it Simple

I wish I had known that simple = powerful. My tendency to over-complicate my business and my life has slowed growth more than anything else. When we get so clear that everything comes into focus, we kick off the weights around our ankles and soar. Simple goals, simple strategies, and simple execution have tripled my income in the past 3 months--all with less work and frustration. Keep it Simple.
Thanks to: Rosey Dow of The Prospect Profiler™.

11. #1 Requirement - Business Plan

A comprehensive business plan is an essential tool when either starting a business or buying an established business. By applying the necessary time, performing the required research, and actively managing the plan, it becomes a powerful resource to assist the owner in making intelligent decisions, measuring company progress, and achieving the strategic goals. Too few business owners have plans in place, but the ones who embrace the process often find the plan to be the roadmap for success.
Thanks to: Michael Fekkes of ENLIGN Business Brokers.

12. I'll Take Happiness Any Day!

If I had known that I would be this HAPPY and FREE being a solopreneur, I would have started my business years ago. I quit and walked away from a stressful, fast-paced career as a non-profit fundraiser. My life literally revolved around fundraising events, and the stressful work left me feeling emotionally, mentally and physically unhealthy. If you aren't happy with your job, then what's the point? It's a LOT of work having your own business, but I now wake up every day happy and grateful!
Thanks to: Therese Pope of Zenful Communications.

13. Be Prepared and Take Action

Seventy-five to ninety percent of new businesses fail within the first couple of years because of lack of business management experience. One of the things that inexperienced people who start a business don't realize is that things will always take longer, cost more and be harder than planned. I wish I had known that. But, I quickly learned to always add at least 20% more of those commodities. My advice is that you do the same right from the start and adjust as you need.
Thanks to: Diane M. Hoffmann of Hoffmann-Rondeau Communications.

14. Never Be Afraid to Ask

When I started my spa & beauty website in 2004, many vendors had high minimums ($1000.00 or more per opening order). Since I was working with over a dozen vendors, my inventory expenses were skyrocketing, so I began to ask about lowering mins to test new products. Many were receptive to the idea, which allowed me to bring in a wider variety of new fun products to the site. So, my advice is: it always pays to ask.
Thanks to: Lee Romano Sequeira of GoodtoBeYou.

15. Establish Yourself, Then Help!

The ONE main thing that I wish I had known BEFORE I started my business is when you are just getting started and trying to get your brand publicity, do not give potential customers too much to choose from in addition to your products. I tried to help people by allowing them to place their business advertisements on my website along with my products and it proved to be a bit much. It served as a setback, especially since I had not established myself yet. Once I became proven and known, this was O.K.
Thanks to: Kevin B of Kevin Benton Ministries.

16. Ignorance is Not Bliss

It all turned out fine in the end, but we got into a whole industry we were unfamiliar with and really didn't learn how hard it would be to make our product. We didn't start with the best manufacturer and it took us a long time to find the right people. It's better to do a lot more research upfront.

We also didn't spend the money to get the best licenses available. Big mistake! It's hard to get a second change to make a first impression. Come out of the gate strong with your brand!
Thanks to: Craig Wolfe of CelebriDucks.

17. Chickens and Eggs

I wish that I had taken enough time before starting off on my own to carefully research which businesses, individuals or charities were going after the same target market I was. Being a big believer in the power of partnerships in all phases of business, I could have saved time, energy and money by starting my marketing and brand awareness efforts by finding those perfect partners first! Charity alliances in particular give a new business "instant credibility". I now practice what I preach!
Thanks to: Patti Biro of Patti Biro and Associates.

18. Non-Smarmy Sales Tip

Approaching people and businesses with the end-goal of "selling" them something makes almost all of us uncomfortable. The best way to fill your pipeline, take the nerve-wracking out of your sales process and build relationships is through a newsletter.

You can simply add people every month to your newsletter - it's a nice, value-added way to introduce yourself without pushing your product/service.

Just make sure your newsletter is fun, interesting & has your reader in mind! Easy peasey!
Thanks to: Melissa Pahl of Twenty Marketing.

19. Fun = More Sales!

I wish I had known that "being fun to do business with", is the single most powerful, yet least understood, competitive advantage available today. Tom Peters states that 71% of all consumers would switch suppliers today if they could find one that was more fun to do business with. Being fun to do business with provides you with a distinct competitive advantage over your direct competitors. All things being equal, most people choose to deal with someone who is fun to do business!
Thanks to: Bil Todd of Immediate Impact Sales Coaching.

20. Self-Talk to Success

Anytime you begin something new, self doubt may occur. Each time a negative thought pops into your mind say, 'be gone' and physically wipe off each shoulder, smile and carry on. The things you might say to yourself, you would never think to say to a colleague or friend. So, be as kind to yourself as you are to others, especially with your self-talk. Listen and reframe phrases into the positive. With an "I will do it" attitude and a "stick-to-it" work ethic you will succeed. Go for it!
Thanks to: Craven Joan of Craven Communications.

21. Integrity Isn't Reciprocal

My first year in business was easy. I did what I promised and people paid their bills. Of course, many of my first clients were writers I knew. A couple of years into my venture, new clients found me through our website. When I first started doing books for those I didn't know, I continued using email and verbal okays. I did what I promised, but they didn't always. Once Bitten, Twice Shy, as they say. Have a formal contract with legal oversight and clearly share expectations. Document everything.
Thanks to: Lisa Pelto of Concierge Marketing & Publishing.

22. The Wild Ride

What I wish I would have known before I started my business is what a roller coaster ride financially and emotionally a business owner takes. All of the good things come at once- winning the contract, finding the new client and then, unexpected things happen that can present real challenges. The key is to focus on how you are helping others and that will enable you to go through the obstacles. We learn the most valuable lessons from the valleys, not the peaks of life.
Thanks to: John Paul Engel of Knowledge Capital Consulting.

23. Open Your Mouth!

Looking back over the last 32 years of business, it is clear to me that RELATIONSHIPS are the best marketing/advertising there is!

I have spent a LOT on advertising, and I have spent NOTHING on it. I have carefully tracked results. Inviting repeat/referral business is hands down the best way to grow a business.

So, I give the nod to business networking and the price is right!

Save your money, and open your mouth!
Thanks to: Sheila Van Houten of New Light Consulting Corporation.

24. Wish I Had Done this Sooner!

I wish I had become a writer sooner in my life. As it is, I am fifty and I started writing at 48. I know it's never too late, but when I'm pitching against folks who are in their twenties, that is a challenge!
Thanks to: Warren Bobrow of Wild River Review.

25. I Wish I Had Known...

and I now tell all of my business and coaching clients: clients come and clients go! Business is cyclical. It may not be a function of "the economy", or even "the season", but more about the individual's or company's focus and commitments.

So, expect business to go up and down and don't be afraid of it. Instead, plan for it.
Thanks to: Susan Klein of Success Technologies Inc.

26. People Power

In advertising, people are your product. Hiring the best is critical. Using personality assessments in hiring is important, but not enough. You must manage to an individual's profile, not around it. Birkman is exceptional and accurate; in fact, it is so precise and in depth that it only changes as a result of the death of a child or incarceration. So, I should have known better than to think that I could manage around the Birkman results. I wish I understood earlier to manage it instead.
Thanks to: Mark Tilghman of FORMO.

27. Start Selling

I had no idea so much selling is involved in publicity. First, I have to sell myself to get
the client and then, I turn around and sell the client to the media.
Thanks to: Miriam Silverberg.

28. Making a Million Ain't Easy

Hungry peasants living in the Middle Ages were comforted by thoughts of full bellies in heaven- thus, the idiom, "pie in the sky." Sometimes, I wonder whether things have changed, what with our hype-filled world. I wish I had known the ups AND the downs of business ownership. Like marriage or childbirth, you don't know what you don't know. Stressful? Sometimes. Rewarding? Often. Surprising? Always.
Thanks to: Victoria Ipri of Modello Media.

29. Do or Die

The #1 thing I wish I had known much more about when starting my business is the psychology of selling. If you are in business, your job is to sell to earn income. If you cannot sell, you cannot make any money. Therefore, the most important thing you can do is to learn as much about how to be a successful sales person as you can. Read every book on sales you can find. The success of your business depends on it.
Thanks to: Peter Geisheker of The Geisheker Group Marketing Firm.

30. I Thought I Could...

Time Bandits

With an MBA and 20 years of corporate experience, I thought I could run the company myself with little assistance. I quickly learned that while I had all the knowledge, I simply lacked the time and objectivity to do it all. In corporate life, I had schedules and days to dedicate to different pursuits, whereas a small business demanded a multitude of things everyday!

If I had known the time demands, I would have hired an admin assistant to handle more of the little things for me.
Thanks to: Debi Einmo of White Glove Services LLC.

31. Block Communications

My friend Janus, bless her heart, volunteered to send a press release about my blog to the Wall Street Journal. "Great Guerilla Publicity" I thought, "It'll be stellar if they carry the news". To my dismay, she sent the communications without my knowledge. On accident (she claims), along with my blog's screen shots, she sent an embarrassing picture of me dressed as Dr. Frankenfurter at a Rocky Horror Picture Show party. It's a Drag. I spent the whole morning putting out fires. Block Communications.
Thanks to: Glenn Naughty of Mighty Fleiss Radio.

32. Follow the Money

I wish I understood the importance of managing receivables prior to starting my business --negotiating favorable payment terms, invoicing in a timely manner, and following up on past due invoices.

I've learned that you can't be bashful about asking for money due you for services rendered. I've also learned that "We're managing our cash" is code for "We're not going to pay our bills in a timely manner."

All businesses run on cash. Make sure you get yours when it's due to you.
Thanks to: Bud Bilanich of The Common Sense Guy.

33. Just Do it Already!

You can spend months preparing to start your business, creating your marketing materials and planning your strategy. At some point, you just have to go for it. Enough testing the water with your toe- take a deep breath and jump in. You can learn and perfect as you go.
Thanks to: Susan Greene of Marketing Copywriter.

34. Business is Fun!

If I'd known how much fun business is, I would have started sooner. With all I've learned from the E-Myth, The Success Principles and Guerrilla Marketing, I now know business is fun - WHEN you have systems in place, when you know how to promote your business and when you can see there are steps to take to achieve your goals. It actually blew my mind when I discovered that people wanted to help me. In turn, I help a friend or neighbor with their business whenever I can and it's - yes, fun!
Thanks to: Jim Josselyn of Academy of Music and Drama.

35. I Must Value Myself

I wish I had known before I started my business that other people will value me at the same level I value myself and my services. Along with that, I wish I had realized that it is not impolite or egotistical to place a high value on me and my services.
Thanks to: Janet Christy of Leverage & Development, LLC.

36. Don't Waste Marketing Dollars

Starting in business, I had a relatively good idea of my demographic and pursued them with a variety of marketing strategies, only to find that what I thought would work proved ineffective. Thousands of dollars later, I learned that not all advertising works for all circumstances. While having tried TV, probably the most expensive, my most productive and least expensive advertising has continued to be face-to-face and referrals. So, "measure twice and cut once" when planning your marketing plans.
Thanks to: Myles Miller of LeadUP.

37. Think Like a Man (or, WWMD?)

I started my PR company in the early '80s after working at three boutique agencies. PR is (or was then) a service business and we as women were used to pleasing everyone--male bosses, clients, and media. Woman's Lib. was still new. I took on clients at too-low fees and over-delivered by far. A man would not have operated that way. Today, I sometimes still ask myself, "What would a man do in this situation?" I offer the same advice to some of my female colleagues.
Thanks to: Flo Selfman of Words à la Mode.

38. Could Be a Lonely Journey

I wish I knew that I would be the only one who would care a hoot about my business. Support from family and friends when undertaking the entrepreneurial pursuit is actually a rare bonus and not to be expected as the norm.
Thanks to: Bola Ajumobi of Slimy Bookworm.

39. Young Entrepreneurship

I must say that I think naiveté was my best friend when I went into business at 21. In 3 weeks, I was given a "cease and desist" order and got through it. Now many moons later, I am smarter, more cautious, still enthusiastic, and more wary, but still hitting it out of the ball park. I think being young and starry eyed is a great thing and if you can develop all of that after many years, you can't beat it.
Thanks to: Gayle Carson of Carson Research Center.

40. Imperfect Action Rocks!

I wish when I was first starting out as a solopreneur that somebody had told me that any action is action and to stop waiting for perfection. I think I easily wasted a year or more on trying to be perfect or to know it all. Now I know - and share with my clients and community every chance I get - that imperfect action beats perfect inaction each and every time!
Thanks to: Katy Tafoya of Success for Solopreneurs.

41. So Much Business

I wish I would have known just how much business there was. I was ready for the tactical side of things, but doing the books, marketing, sales, customer service, and secretarial work were all a bit of an eye opener. I had to go learn how to perform these mundane tasks. That ate up a large percentage of my time and left me with little time to enjoy what I was doing.
Thanks to: Chris Young of B2Cy Connection Solutions.

42. 2 A.M. Club

The hardest part about running my own business was being what I call a member of the 2 A.M. Club! Entrepreneurs want to be in control 24/7, but once the lights go out and the brain goes to sleep, we can rest. Ah, but for the 2 A.M. wake-up call - you awake in the middle of the night, at your most vulnerable, questioning your every move and decision. No matter how well things are going, nothing feels positive at 2 a.m. Best advice, realize that a new day brings everything back into perspective!
Thanks to: Vicki Donlan of VickiDonlan.

43. If You Market They Will Come

The one thing that I wish I had known when I started my business was how consistently I would have to market my business. I thought if I put an ad out or start a social site, I would get many consumers knocking down my door. I've learned since then that you have to consistently market your business over and over again. When people see you all the time, it stays in their memory and when they need that service, they will immediately think of you.
Thanks to: Eula M. Young, COO of Griot's Roll Film Production.

44. Who Knows You?

When I entered the professional world, I had no idea how important contacts and promotion were. In fact, I was embarrassed when people singled me out or praised my work. I thought, if I am good, people will find me. My background told me that it was bad form to promote yourself. How wrong can one person be? How will anyone know that you are available to help if you never tell anyone? I am put off by the non-stop marketing of some, but I realize that it is not who you know, but who knows you.
Thanks to: Mitch Carnell of SPWC.

45. Hindsight Can be Myopic

Starting a business without a clear idea to focus on is scary. In two years, I am reminded that we are always learning and adjusting. My long term vision is clear now. I admit that I only know what I know today. It is likely that two years from now, I will look back and see something that I cannot envision today. BEFORE starting my business, I wish that I knew that having visible and tangible results during the first appointment would be the key to securing ongoing, satisfied clients.
Thanks to: Denise Levine of Outside In Organizer and Makeovers.

46. Start With the End in Mind

I wish I had developed a long term vision for my business at the outset. Knowing what I wanted the business to look like after 20 years would have helped me set it up with an incremental plan to achieve my long term goal.
Thanks to: Glenda Shawley of The Training Pack.

47. My First Impression

I have learned that nothing is more important than the first impression when opening your business. People are excited about new concepts and ideas, so do not let them down. Have a walk through with friends or family while taking notes and listening to the feedback; it can mean the difference between success and failure.
Thanks to: Jerry Pollio of Franchise Futures.

48. Will Work for Free!

You will work non-stop when you start your business. You will work so much, you won't have enough hours in the day. Access the free labor that is available to you. Interns and people who need training are the best sources! Many people need new skill sets to be competitive. You can trade training for the work they do to help you out and for interns that need experience and a recommendation, who better than you to give it! Remember, you don't have to do it all yourself.
Thanks to: Lauren MacEwen of SM Cubed.

49. "Posers" vs. Professionals

When I started my business, I attended EVERY networking meeting in my area! I met all kinds of "professionals" that were working the free networking circuit "stalking their prey" & throwing up their business on anyone who would listen. I call these people "Posers."

I then invested in a high-end coaching program and found a completely different environment. Masterminding, sharing, JV partnerships, etc. People willing to help others succeed FIRST! I call these people "Professionals."
Thanks to: Vidette Vanderweide of Ditch Your Job Now.

50. How to Wreck Your Weekends

I thought I could handle all of the accounting necessary for running my company. Each month, I would say to myself, "This weekend, I'll get all the receipts loaded into the accounting program." Each weekend, something else was much more important.

Then, February arrived and from then until April 15, I found myself giving up all kinds of events because I had paperwork to do. Either do it regularly or hire an accountant.
Thanks to: Kathy Condon of KC Solutions.

51. Virtual Assistants!

I sure wish I had known how much help I could have gotten from VA's before I started my business. They've helped me so much since I began using their services! It's actually freed me up to work with clients, develop products, give presentations, and do more things I love to do!
Thanks to: Cena Block of Sane Spaces Productivity Consulting.

52. Don't Try Getting Fired

I started my own business because my employers fired me on the spot. It was the kick I needed and I dived straight in. It was a great experience in hardship, in learning on the job and in making mistakes that were costly. The right decision would have been to plan a start date, plan a strategy, plan finance and get assistance. The strategy would have been to read up and join marketing experts. The assistance would have come from networking. But, I'm still here, still working and still fighting.
Thanks to: Ernie Boxall of Balance Health and Fitness.

53. Success Attends the Persistent

Always think Long Term. Not 5 years, not 10, but even longer. Ask yourself, what could be the effect of the decision 20 years ahead? Never, ever make a major decision on a short term basis. And, never forget the need for publicity.
Thanks to: Rod Quentin of Quentin Publications Ltd.

54. Plan for Tomorrow

Plan for tomorrow, but live for today. Execute, work and enjoy your plans today! Plan for the long term knowing that you have many years to work your business. But while you plan for the future, you must live for today. Don't forget to enjoy the journey along the way. Success is how you define it. Every step in the right direction is success. It is not some ultimate achievement years down the road.
Thanks to: Paul Scheatzle of Bailey Rehabilitation.

55. Sure I Want to Help, but...

When I started my business I was eager, wanting to "help" clients and potential clients, and to be perceived as someone who went the extra mile- not a bad place to start. But, I was unaware of the presence/reality of time-wasters; people who, as it would turn out, were never going to hire me, but were going to inundate me with requests to do this or that before signing the contract. "Just one more thing and then I think we're set to go."

I have better boundaries now. Wish I'd had them then!
Thanks to: Jeannette de Beauvoir of Customline Wordware.

56. Who's the Boss?

I think the reason many of us enter our own business is the illusion that we will finally be in charge.

If you do it right, you find out very quickly that you become a slave to your clients/customers. I discovered that to get new customers and to keep them, you have to make it difficult for your customers to leave you.

When you own the business, it is clear who the real boss is...it's not you. All customers are not worth keeping. I now routinely fire bad customers. Then, I'm the boss!
Thanks to: Gerry Patnode of G.R. Patnode & Co.

57. Start Small/Don't Hire Big

When starting a new business, take baby steps when hiring. Don't hire a large staff when unsure of what your true staffing needs will be. Look towards outside part-time consultants to reduce overhead and recognize that entrepreneurial ventures do not require full-time personnel in niche areas.

Once business is up and running, then add staff as needed. It is almost better to increase your staff then have to let employees go. Adding staff increases morale as business grows.
Thanks to: Evan Saks of www.Create-A-Mattress.com.

58. The Power of Publicity

I wish I would have understood the power of publicity, how publicity can help build up your brand's name and your brand's credibility. I would have invested more in publicity first and then in advertising. Publicity has the ability to differentiate you from your competition, it makes you the "go-to" person - it makes you the expert. Publicity really makes you focus on the Why, the What, the How and the Who. Publicity helps your sales people sell better; it adds team pride to the entire company.
Thanks to: Bert Martinez of Bert Martinez Communications.

59. People are Like Ducks!

One main thing that I wish I had fully integrated before I opened my business is Jacob Braude’s saying, “People are like ducks … calm and unruffled on the surface but paddling like the devil underneath.” If I’d known that all of my clients and my employees were, deep down, insecure - I would have done more to help mitigate their fears.
Thanks to: Tom Porter of Business Lessons From Nature.

60. Understand Yourself FIRST

Forget schooling. Forget training. Until you understand yourself, you can't accomplish anything. And I say this being #1 case in point. I THOUGHT I knew what I was doing, but I was fooling myself by approaching things intellectually instead of listening to my TRUE self. It cost me endless time, money and effort. The key to success? Never force anything, and remember that everything you do must be like breathing - natural and seamless. It works - just wish I knew this years ago.
Thanks to: David Leigh Weber of Learn About Flow.

61. It's What Time?

When a person decides to begin their own business, they will commit two of the biggest resources they have--energy and time. As our company lifted off the launch pad, I started work by 7:30 a.m. and finished around 2 a.m., six days a week. Heck yes, I took breaks. The mailbox is a block away, the bathroom is across the hall, the company cat demanded attention, and yes, the kitchen is at the end of the hall. Total time away from the desk--under two hours. Extreme, but necessary to succeed.
Thanks to: Bill H Moore of Celtic Publications.

62. Kiss Your Free Time Goodbye!

Being an entrepreneur and having your own business means that your business becomes your work AND your hobby at the same time. There's little time left over for anything else!
Thanks to: Tom Churm of Online Alarm Clock.

63. Becoming "Pizza Man"

I wish I would have known how much a business affects a business owner's personal identity. I bought a pizza place thinking it was a good stepping stone into owning a larger restaurant, only to find out that to be successful I had to become "Pizza Man." I found that in order for the business to thrive, I would have to mesh my life with the business. I ultimately didn't want to be known for pizzas and decided to start a new business that I can identify with- not just use as a stepping stone.
Thanks to: Benjamin Lee of OUTFOX Prevention LLC.

64. MONEY and TIME

The one thing I wish I had known before starting my company is that it TAKES LONGER and COSTS MORE MONEY than you think. This isn't as bad as it sounds - you will learn a lot along the way. Remember to stay focused and be PERSISTENT!
Thanks to: Dane Short of Meridane Design.

65. Perception is Reality

I am in control of how others perceive me; knowing who you are and the person you want to be is what makes you successful. You put out how others should think of you by the way you conduct yourself, your attitude, your appearance and by what you say. Make sure you are always thinking–if I met someone for the first time, how would I want him or her describing me as I walked away.
Thanks to: Amanda Guralski of bizMe.

66. State Your State

It would've been good to know true costs of setting up business in my state vs. a state like say, DE where I believe there are no "Annual Report" fees that can cost thousands of dollars over the years. It's a joke. In IL, my LLC "Annual Report" consists of filling out 2 lines of paperwork (have never had any changes since I started 4 years ago) and sending in "FILLING FEE" of several hundred dollars. Seriously? There is NOTHING to "file"...it's a fee to have a fee. Value for one's $ here = zero.
Thanks to: Kendra Kroll of PortaPocket by Undercover Solutions.

67. Be the Referral!

It takes time to build a business. I wish I would have started looking for strong referral partners immediately! Clients love it when you can save them time by referring someone you trust to get the job done right. When you refer someone, most times they return the favor and learn from your customer that you are good at your job! When I don't have clients, I am networking, networking, networking!
Thanks to: Julie Seibert of Healing through Organization.

68. Seeking Success and Nice Legs

Busy concentrating on my desk, chair and computer needs, I totally overlooked the most important piece of equipment for every office, an exercise device. While my days, AND nights, are spent hammering away at the keys, I'm getting zero exercise. At this point, only my fingers are slender.

I wish I had known to invest in one of those nifty treadmill/computer combos. By now, I'd have great legs to go with a phenomenal business. If you plan ahead, you can have both!
Thanks to: Lauri Flaquer of Saltar Solutions.

69. Know What You are Getting into

Too many businesses struggle - or fail - because the founders forget that you need to know about the business of business. Technical savvy is critical, but if we don't have all 4 pillars of start-up success: passion, leadership, adequate funding and a good grasp of business fundamentals, chances of growing a sustainable business are slim. Although I had several successful start-ups, I had a couple of bad years when I opened a business that had a different cash flow formula than I was used to.
Thanks to: Barbara Kline of Breakthru Center.

70. It Was Retail!

I opened a car rental business not realizing it was retail. Retail is endless hrs & a car rental is a product people need, not want. You're an expense to them. They're also responsible for it. People do not plan their time, so they're in a hurry when they get to you & it's your fault if they do not leave immediately. Damages? They didn't do it, even though they inspected & signed prior to taking it. They wouldn't debate price in any other retail business, but they think it's okay to do so here.
Thanks to: Glasser Harris of Serving The People Press.

71. Systems Thinking IS Leadership

The one thing that I wish I had known before I started my business is Systems Thinking. Here’s a shocker that even most successful leaders don’t know. 90% of the results we create in the workplace are a function of the systems in which people work, not the efforts of people. Also, 20% of the variables create 80% of the results. Great leaders are systems thinkers who set up people for success in their jobs, improve productivity, lower costs, grow faster with less drama—and enjoy the ride.
Thanks to: David Dibble of New Agreemetns Inc.

72. Lines of Credit

For those of us who have been in business longer than we care to admit, the one thing that we learned is what makes and breaks businesses is access to credit. Ford Motors Company weathered the recession far better than its competitors. The main reason for that was access to low cost and reliable lines of credit. Every new company should develop a business plan with the assumption that they will need to expand. Plan for the future and reap the rewards!
Thanks to: Ben Baker of CMYK Solutions Inc.

73. If I Only Knew...

Personally, I think that the #1 thing that I would have done different is... I would have started establishing myself before I started the business- writing articles, submitting for blogs, etc.

I would have gotten a lot of material and content ready ahead of time, thus saving myself tons of time and headaches. When you are working on a business plan or a marketing plan, this would be the time to start, also establishing social media beforehand. That way you can focus on getting customers.
Thanks to: Jeff Halligan of JHalligan Designs.

74. An Eye on the Big Picture!

When I first started my business, I spent lots of time worrying about stuff like logos and making sure everything was just right instead of taking action. I wish I would have known that it is way more important to focus on the big picture than to get caught up in the petty details of your business. Things move forward so much better if you know where you are going.

Taking the time to plan this out first will save you so much time spinning your wheels! THEN you can worry about the details.
Thanks to: Barb Roehler of BR Innovations LLC.

75. The ASK Can Change Everything!

I wish I knew how to do what I now refer to as The ASK when I first started my business. Learning how to ASK (for help, contacts, support, advice, and more) has taught me to think bigger, take more strategic risks, and has resulted in huge wins! Doing the ASK requires you to be clear on your needs/goals, step out of your comfort zone, and to think bigger. ASKs also involve a give, and require you to develop comfort receiving. When you do the ASK, the answer may be "NO", but, what if it's "YES"?
Thanks to: Charmaine Hammond of Hammond International Inc.

76. Jack of All Trades

I opened my law firm in 2009 and thought I would have free reign to practice law. I wish I would have known that not only would I be practicing law, I would become an accountant, a marketer, a publicist, a manager, and my own personal pep squad all at the same time. In running your own business, you'll find yourself being a jack of all trades and trying simultaneously to master at least one! It can be a tough task, but if it wasn't tough, it wouldn't be fun.
Thanks to: Misty Oaks of The Oaks Firm.

77. The Triple Net Trap!

After all my years in business, of all the missteps I've made, I'd have to admit that signing a triple-net lease was my biggest one. I've rented plenty of office space over the years, but they did not prepare me for leasing. We commissioned the assistance of our accounting firm. They assured us that there was nothing unusual in the agreement. The problem is that you are essentially the owner. ANYTHING happens - you pay. No calling the landlord to fix the roof. You pay all taxes, everything. Stay clear!
Thanks to: Ed Roach of The Branding Experts.

78. Walk Away from Free!

My mistake was signing up for every free ebook on how to start an Internet Business. All of this information had me confused, depressed and quite frankly, exhausted. When you sign up for every free ebook or report, you are just opening a can of worms. Who needs another email, launch, or ecourse that does not pertain to your business? Remember, sometimes it pays to walk away from free. I wish someone would have told me. It would have saved me countless hours of time, which I can't get back.
Thanks to: Denise L. Jackson of Enhance My Skills, LLC.

79. It's a Marketer's Paradise

I knew that marketing is important when I started out, but I wish I realized just how many "marketing firms" are out there promising you the world, but lack in delivery. There is nothing wrong with contracting out aspects of your marketing, especially if they are good at it. Make sure you scrutinize though. Ask specifics. Have them "show you the money". A few vague testimonials or non-committing statements such as "this could really help your business" are not enough.
Thanks to: Mike Saxton of Science Fiction Author.

80. Cash is King of Stress Removal

I started my business 12 months ago with virtually no cash, because I had used all of my savings to purchase a unit the previous year.

I've chased every penny just to pay the bills.

So, my advice is to have at LEAST 6 months worth of cash in the bank to cover living expenses/rent/the mortgage, etc.

Living with a $0 bank account is not for the faint-hearted, so remove the stress of "how will I pay my mortgage this month?" and start your business with plenty of free cash!
Thanks to: Curtis Chappell of Quantum SEO Solutions.

81. Huntington Beach

The ONE thing I wish I would have known BEFORE I asked how to be a catalyst for positive change was the depth and breadth of dedication this involved. Imagine hearing a voice say “I need to speak to my children, ALL of my children”. Three days later, The Seven StarPals were born. Was I crazy to invest my entire life savings on this vision? When you see/feel the impact our children will have on our future by embracing the power in their positive choices and actions, you persevere at all cost.
Thanks to: Kimberlee Schultz of The StarPals Series.

82. It Was All Mine

That the first year would be fun (because it was ALL MINE) and the second year would stink because...it was ALL MINE!! Coming from the corporate world, I thought it would be easier, but it was much harder. In the second year, I had to figure out what kind of clients I would take versus everyone that came into my path. So, I kissed a lot of frogs and in the second year, I had to figure it out. Maybe that way, the 2 year mark is a grave yard for many small businesses.
Thanks to: Sandy Riser of The Next Level Business Solutions.

83. Focus on Value

I wish I had focused more on the value that my business offered, rather than on price. Doing that would have let me stand out more, rather than being a commodity offered for the lowest price.
Thanks to: Adarsh Menon of Winning Stack.

84. The Primary URL

The one giant thing to have known before starting the business is that the primary URL should be keyword driven, rather than your name, unless your name is already branded, such as www.ford.com. If they are searching for you by name they will find you.
Rather than call it www.billybobanduncleraysredsportscars.com, call it www.redsportscars.com.
Thanks to: The Reverend Count Gramalkin of Count Gramalkin Sideral Astrology.

85. What People are Really Buying

I used to be just a graphic designer. I thought people were buying my drawings. But they were buying the way I think and the way I make their clients feel.

I've moved from a design-only model to a consulting/coaching/design model. The difference in my bottom line and the results I've been able to get for my clients has been incredible.

Look at your business to see what people are really buying. Then, price and sell your stuff in accordance with the real value they're getting.
Thanks to: Erin Ferree of BrandStyle Design.

86. Fatigues are Hot!

I wear a "costume" when I speak; pink fatigues, pink combat boots, and a blouse. Had I known back then that fatigues aren't exactly temperature-friendly, I would have come up with a different material! And stage lights don't make it any cooler! To this end, I make a point of hugging every real soldier I see because they are often out on the desert wearing these things in 110 degree heat.
Thanks to: Anthonette Klinkerman of Courtesy Bootcamp.

87. My Stalker/Zombie NightMare

I wish I'd known the DANGER of combining NLP sales ideas used by Jay Abraham, Ted Nicholas, Gary Halbert, and Walter Hailey.

Audio CDs Created to help customers Sell Successfully by FLIRTING w/an NLP idea 1st... Before Selling to prospects - were too powerful & ADDICTIVE.

Women & men sales people called me to complain that people were Stalking them on airplanes, at work, and in restaurants. NOW - the nlpbrainbuzz.com QUIZ has fixed the STALKER/ZOMBIE problem.
Thanks to: Glenn Osborn of Millionaire Mastermind Market Assoc.

88. I Wish I Had Known

I spent many hours, days, weeks, and months trying to learn the basics of marketing, taxes, and complete business plan writing. There are many resources that are free to help you with this process. The SBA Administration and mentoring programs are available at low cost if not free. Once I found the good references, it made a huge difference in my time spent working in my business, instead of working on my business.
Thanks to: Carol Coots of Practical Cost Reduction.

89. Hey Mom, I'm Going to Be on TV

I would have gotten media training and lost 30 pounds before my book was published and I started being invited to do interviews on TV.
Thanks to: Suzi Tozer of Unforgettable Parties....

90. Tap into Your Inner Genius

Painting the rooms of a house with a cracked foundation is a poor substitute for developing a solid foundation. Changing the inner stance from which you operate and learning how you create your experience (and results) is far more impactful than changing your behavior or strategy. Following your own wisdom, your inner genius, is far more likely to lead to inspired action, enjoying the process of creating, and discovering answers when you feel stuck. And those things will lead to more success.
Thanks to: Tim Chaney of Author & Success Coach, Tim Chaney.

91. Difficult Staffing Decisions

The one thing I wish I had realized before starting my business is the importance of firing bad staff and moving on. It can be difficult, but the drag some people can place on your company is often far greater than you realize at the time.
Thanks to: Cathy Ward of BridesVillage.com.

92. Avoid this Start-up Fumble

Miss this and it could cost you your entire business. The tip- avoid doing activities that don't help grow your business. 97% of businesses will fail due to lack of effective management in time, energy and money. If you really desire to succeed, simply find the 20% that delivers 80% of your results. Doing this really well guarantees a business over busyness. The truth of the matter is, you don't need a whole lot to start, only the main reason why you ventured in to business in the first place.
Thanks to: Lee Kariuki of Theunemploymentdojo.wordpress.com.

93. They Will Come!!!!

Your business should be your passion! If you are passionate about what you do and what you offer, it will not seem so much like work. The key is you do not have to know how to do everything, because there are people who know how to do those 'things'.

Focus on your passion and build a team that is qualified to handle the business segments that you can't or have no desire to. Perform to a level of excellence and your passion will explode! The clients will come and so will their dollars!!
Thanks to: Stephanie C. Williams of Crowned One Worldwide Inc.

94. Choosing the Right People...

My business took off and I needed all the help I could get. I contacted everyone I knew who was available (ie, not working). They were smart, good-natured people who could/would help -- most did. However, in my desire to get people fast, I figured I could outline the job and teach it to them on the fly... For telemarketing that worked OK. What I needed to do was replace the non-performers quickly vs. working harder with them -- easier to hire a qualified person vs. teaching unqualified ones!
Thanks to: Burke Franklin of Jian.

95. Money, Money, Money

17 years ago we started a mother/daughter company. We had no capital, but no real expenses. We didn't want to start by borrowing money, so we financed the co. with our own money & credit cards (bad idea). Our first job lasted three months & the pay was terrific. Forgot to sell- still no loan & not enough cash flow. People said, you have to spend money to make money. We probably would have skipped many low years if we had working capital. Line up some money before you get started!
Thanks to: Jessica Selasky of Confidence Builders.

96. What I Know Now About Business

The one thing I wish I had known was how to manage my revenue and cash flow. My first few years in business were spent being a slave to the check game. That's when a client is supposed to pay you by a certain date and when they don't, you've A) Spent the money already and B) Are scrambling to bring in more business just to cover the rent. The lesson for me now is to manage my invoices and have enough cash on hand in case someone pays late (or not at all) to get me through the rough patches.
Thanks to: Tony Wilkins of TCS Inc.

97. You're Responsible, Always

One thing I wish I had known was that the responsibility of owning a small business never goes away. It’s like being in college and having permanent finals week. You can take days off, you can take vacations, but the responsibility NEVER goes away. Questions of staffing, payroll, clients, prospects, new business, regulations, etc. are with you always. A great staff helps of course, but in the end, it’s yours to own and you should know that going in.
Thanks to: Scott Harris of Mustang Marketing.

98. Oh, to Have More TIME

Before I started my business, the one thing I really wished I knew was how time consuming it would be to keep in contact with my current and prospective clients. The method I chose was a weekly inspirational news letter and a monthly video. Not zeroing in on a smaller niche amplified the problem, causing more time consumption in choosing the right content. Now, I know to set up a more targeted niche and use a simple system to get my content out on a regular basis.
Thanks to: Janis Modeste of Inspire! Us Network.

99. Failure is Inevitable

No matter how realistic you are as an entrepreneur, you likely believe you are exempt from failure. You are smarter, savvier, and have covered every base--which only makes your first failure that much harder. Despite every well-laid business plan, unexpected variables will creep into your business and throw you a curve ball. The good news is that these failures are part of the critical path to success. And while no one enjoys a setback, remember that you are always failing forward.
Thanks to: Sherrie Madia of Author, S.E.R.I.A.L.PRENEURSHIP.

100. Work for Who You Aspire To Be

I wish before starting my business, I had worked under a successful business veteran in my industry. I would've gained plenty of knowledge and experience business-wise to better prepare myself into operating an interior design/decoration company on my own.
Thanks to: Diana Vertus.

101. Focused Suppliers Uncovered

Do you need outside suppliers to support core revenue generating activity? If so, be proactive by building a group of focused, results oriented suppliers before opening the doors. It may be challenging to find them initially, but the good news is they do exist. When evaluating suppliers, look for those that believe in quality, customer care, and honoring deadlines. Reminder: the best scenario is to have two suppliers in critical areas to cover any ‘plan b’ situations that may arise.
Thanks to: Kelly Isley of Corcoran Associates.

102. I Wish I Knew

Capital-needs? Government says: "Cash shortage causes most business failures." Like "Water causes most floods"?

Financing must cover anticipated start-up. Idea-based services (simple products) take longer:
1) Friends encourage; can't bank it. Poll prospects first.
2) Copy-cats steal new ideas--for rip-off. Ideas: no copyright; patents: expensive.
3) Cheap copy-cat ideas skim. Markets pay lip service to quality; money to bargains.

Factor stretch periods into cap plans.
Thanks to: Richard Cavalier of MeetingsCavalier.com.

103. Multiplication vs. Addition

The One Thing I Wish I Knew Before I Started my Business is knowing about Multiplication vs. Addition in my IPA activities. This means knowing how to identify those activities in my Income Producing Activities (IPA) that really make a difference in getting results, applying the Pareto principle, and focusing on them, while delegating the rest.
Thanks to: Cesar Viana Teague of NextLeveL.

104. Consider a Business "Prenup"

The idea of having a partner is comforting to many entrepreneurs. It is someone to share the risk and rewards. But, it gets really messy when the partnership starts to resemble a bad marriage. I wish I had known that getting rid of a partner would be as difficult as, and more expensive than, a divorce. What I needed was a “business prenup” before I got married- not just a buy-out agreement. Discuss people and process issues early on and you might... or might not partner up.
Thanks to: Cynthia Kay of Cynthia Kay and Company.

Do you have something that you wish you knew before you started your business? If you do, please share it below. And as always, many thanks to everyone that contributed to this article!

Article written by
Carol Roth is a national media personality, ‘recovering’ investment banker, investor, speaker and author of the New York Times bestselling book, The Entrepreneur Equation. She is a judge on the Mark Burnett (Shark Tank, The Voice, Survivor, The Apprentice) produced technology competition series, America's Greatest Makers, airing on TBS and Host of Microsoft's Office Small Business Academy show. Previously, Carol was the host and co-producer of The Noon Show, a current events talk show on WGN Radio, one of the top stations in the country, and a contributor to CNBC, as well as a frequent guest on Fox News, CNN, Fox Business and other stations. Carol's multimedia commentary covers business and the economy, current events, politics and pop culture topics. Carol has helped her clients complete more than $2 billion in capital raising and M&A transactions. She is a Top 100 Small Business Influencer (2011-2015) and has her own action figure. Twitter: @CarolJSRoth