Considering starting a business is one of the most exciting and daunting periods of your whole life. You wouldn’t be doing it if you weren’t confident in your own ability, but you’re also likely to be nervous of the things you don’t know. There are some aspects of launching a new brand, or starting a new enterprise, that can only be learned from experience.
If someone could give you that experience, you’d effectively be starting off ahead of yourself. You’d know what you look out for, what to avoid, and how to frame your mentality as you prepare to start your new journey. If you knew what most people thought, felt and learned during their first twelve months of operation, you’d really be launching your business from Year One, not Year Zero!
That’s why we’ve written this article. We’ve got your back. We’ve spoken to a number of new or recent start-up business owners, asked them what the biggest lessons they learned in their first twelve months of operation were, and condensed them all down into this easy-to-read resource. This is the collective experience of those people.
Do Not Imitate
Unless you’ve got a truly unique business idea – something unlike anything that currently exists on the market – you’re probably launching into an area where you have competition. Whether it’s a financial services firm, an IT company or a graphic design enterprise, you’re doing something that many other people already do. The temptation therefore exists to look at what the most successful brands in the sector do, and take inspiration from them.
Don’t do it. An imitation will be spotted as an imitation straight away, and if you’re a completely new company trying to stomp on the same ground as a major player, you’ll be seen as a cheap knock-off. Plus, as Samsung recently found out, it can be very embarrassing and expensive when you’re caught in the act. That’s not what you want for your brand. Find a unique angle, and base your ethos and ambitions on that. If you don’t have one, don’t launch.
Don’t Beat Yourself Up For Mistakes
Mistakes will happen. Every single business owner we spoke to told us that, and wanted to stress it. You are new to this. You won’t get everything right. Nobody ever gets everything right all the time. Even the largest brands in the world will occasionally make huge errors, just ask Coca-Cola, who still occasionally get mocked for the “new Coke” disaster of thirty years ago.
The most important thing when it comes to mistakes is to refocus as quickly as possible, and work out how to put them right. Accept that whatever’s happened has happened, and move on to problem solving. Starting any new business is a gamble, no matter how much knowledge or support you have within your chosen field. You’re putting your money on the table and backing yourself, just as surely as you’re playing slot machines at Egypt Slots. If you make a bad bet, you don’t flip the table and walk away, you keep on playing so long as you have money in your pocket and you believe it’s worthwhile. Believe your luck will change, and make it happen.
You Are Not An Island
For a lot of people, part of the appeal of going into business for yourself is the fact that you no longer have a boss. Nobody can set the clock for you or tell you what to do. You want to be in total control of what you do, when you do it, and what to focus on, so it’s tempting just to seal yourself away and work completely alone. It’s not a good idea.
Whether you’re a sole trader or you’re employing other people, don’t completely isolate yourself. If you’re a sole trader, involve your partner or pick a friend to bounce ideas and big decisions from. If you’re managing other people, choose at least one to be a deputy, and bring them in on every strategy decision you make. Getting other people’s perspective is important. However good you are, occasionally someone will see something that you’ll miss, and you’ll be glad of their input.
Passion Achieves Nothing Without Planning
There’s a strong chance that you’re considering entering into a new business because you’ll be passionate about what you’re going to be doing. That’s great. Passion will keep you interested, and persuade you to work the long hours that are going to be required to get your business off the ground.
What passion won’t substitute for is business acumen. Just caring about something and being enthusiastic about it won’t achieve a thing unless there’s a solid business plan behind the passion, and sensible decisions taken when the occasion calls for them. You can try as hard as you like, but if your plan is wrong, it won’t work. Someone who knows business, and knows start ups, should be consulted about your plan before you spend a penny on implementing it. You’d be amazed how many people just don’t consult.
Stay Humble And Pitch Low
Your new business needs customers. The most obvious way to get them probably seems to be telling everyone how great you are, how much cheaper you are than the competition, and how much faster you can get the job done. All of that may be true, but you still shouldn’t use it as advertising information.
There’s an old rule in business, and it’s as applicable to you in your trading infancy as it is to someone who’s been in business for decades. Always under-promise, and always over-deliver. That way you get customers who are genuinely delighted and excited by your service, as opposed to someone who’s just received exactly what you told them they’d get, no matter how remarkable it is. Excited customers tell other people about your service. Merely satisfied ones don’t. Plus a humble but sincere pitch and quotation always comes across as more genuine than something that sounds too good to be true.
You might think that these pieces of advice sound obvious. If you do, then kudos to you, you’re probably a step ahead of your future competition already. Either way, boiled down, this is what successful new business owners want you to take on board:- Be original, allow yourself to be wrong and recover from it, don’t make big decisions without getting perspective, make a business plan and stick to it, and set low expectations and then exceed them. That’s your framework for the first twelve months. The rest of it is up to you.