Every successful startup begins with an idea. It’s fair to say the biggest challenge is to put that idea into practice. The period between enthusiastically dreaming up a business venture and actually starting it can be a potential minefield to negotiate.
Ultimately, the success of a startup hinges on several factors. There are some things that every entrepreneur should know before starting a business. If he launches his business before considering these he shouldn’t complain too hard if things don’t turn out as expected. Let’s take a look:
- Be aware of the impact on your personal life
Starting your own business may take an immense toll on your personal life. This is especially true if your new venture is part-time and you still have a “normal” day job to help pay the rent. In such an instance, balancing work and personal life becomes even harder.
To help avoid relationship conflict, discuss the possible challenges caused by time constraints with your partner, kids, friends, and other family members before you throw yourself wholeheartedly into a startup. There may be ways to include them to increase the time you spend together.
Also, regularly ask yourself the question: What matters more – my business or my spouse and kids? While entrepreneurship is all about taking risks, the risk of losing your family is one not worth taking.
Know the difference between dedication and obsession. Dedication is good while obsession can make you lose sight of all other aspects of your life.
- Find a mentor you can trust
While the final decision making remains with you, there is nothing wrong with asking the advice of someone you respect and trust. Identify a mentor and learn what you can from him or her.
It could be someone you “admire from afar” by reading their books, blog posts, or following them on social media. Or it could be someone in your inner circle who can answer some of your questions or simply act as a springboard for ideas.
- Prioritise the important stuff
Learning to prioritise is one of the biggest lessons any entrepreneur must learn. Which task is more important if you have a precious hour to dedicate to your startup: designing a business card or actively reaching out to a potential client and securing your first sale?
Don’t sweat the small stuff when you start out. Learn to differentiate between tasks that will only bring in $10 an hour and those with the potential to bring in $1,000 or more per hour.
- Show rather than tell
It’s easy to get stuck in the planning stages where there is a lot of talk and no action. Talking is good. Planning is good. But without action, you’ll have nothing to show potential clients or investors. They are much more likely to engage with you if you can show them the results of what you’ve already achieved or created.
- Ignore the statistics
Statistics are there to help and motivate you and not to cause you to be paralysed by fear. Therefore, if you read that 2 out of 3 or even a higher number of startups fail, tell yourself that you are going to be part of the one-third who succeeds. You must literally visualise yourself in that corner with the “victors” and use it as motivation to keep going.
- Taking small steps are okay
Starting out, it’s not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the enormous task of getting a successful business going. This can even lead to inaction.
The trick is to not think of starting a business as one enormous task, but as a multitude of small tasks. Taking baby steps are okay. The important thing is to take them. You’ll be surprised at what you’ve achieved over the course of a week simply by tackling and finishing 2 to 3 small tasks a day.
- Don’t quit your job too soon
We know one of the big motivators to become an entrepreneur is to be the king of your own castle. To get out what you put in. To determine your own income. To believe that that income will be much more than your measly salary.
Don’t let the visions of your future riches make you quit your job prematurely. It’s one of the biggest mistakes you can make. Rather wait until you have a stable income (at least 3 months in a row) that match your salary. This way, you’ll even have some additional capital to plough back into your business.
- Learn to create checklists
Sitting down to create checklists isn’t everyone’s cup of tea. However, you will be grateful once you’ve done them.
Checklists don’t only help you focus on the important tasks, but they also give you a broad overview of what must be done. Once you start checking tasks off, it’s great to see what you’ve achieved while at the same time feeling motivated for what remains to be done.
- Educate yourself
Together with finding a good mentor, you must strive to learn something new every day. Do you know what is required for the company formation process? Find out. Is the particular business field you are venturing into regulated by specific rules? Find out. Are you on top of the latest marketing strategies? Find out.
Read industry-related books, take an online course, follow an expert on social media or subscribe to his or her newsletter. In this day and age, there is hardly an excuse not to educate yourself. The internet has made learning cheap. Universities and colleges are no longer the be-all and end-all of education. Many successful entrepreneurs have no formal education beyond school.
- Like what you’re doing
It’s an age-old truth – you can’t expect to be successful in something which you don’t enjoy. Sure, you can force yourself to work at something which you don’t particularly like. But don’t be surprised if you fall into the pit of mediocrity. Where’s the joy in that?
On the other hand, doing something you like will make the long hours you invest in it feel shorter. It will be more pleasure than pain. The sacrifices will feel worthwhile.
- Work on improving your strengths rather than your weaknesses
Improving a weakness is a waste of time because you will never be great at it. But spending time and energy on improving your strengths is a great investment in the future of your business. You will naturally excel at your God-given talents if you take time to nurture them. They will become the trademark your business is recognised by.
- Choosing a business partner is not the same as choosing stationery
A good friend doesn’t necessarily make a good business partner. Neither will a close family member. While you do have to see eye-to-eye with your business partner, it doesn’t have to be someone with whom you spend social time together.
Partnering with someone just because they can provide the money you need to get your business off the ground is also not a good strategy. Money is important, but it can be a liability if it comes from the wrong person. Can you imagine being tied to a business with someone you don’t share the same business principles with?
- Don’t be a control freak
It goes without saying that you should know what’s going on in all areas of your business. However, you are going to have to let other people take charge of some areas as you grow. Micromanaging isn’t an option if you want to make it big.
Apart from effectively stunting the growth of your company by wanting to control everything, you will also put a damper on innovative ideas coming from those working with you. Who wants to think out the box or suggest ways to improve sales and efficiency if their views are ignored?
Being aware of these 13 things every entrepreneur should know before starting a business is a great way to get off on the right foot. Making crucial mistakes at the beginning of your entrepreneurial career will only land you on the wrong side of the statistics.
This is not to say you will never make mistakes. But the sooner you recognise and correct them, the bigger your chances are of ending there where you visualise yourself – in the “victor” box with those who made their startups work.
Do you agree with our 13 things to know before you start a business? Do you have personal experience of starting a business and what are the lessons you learned? Can you think of more things an entrepreneur should know before starting a business?