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We often envision the traditional startupper as either the 24/7 working lonely wolf or the adventurer enjoying long-sought freedom and flexibility. But with the hardships, pitfalls, upswings and victories that come with starting your business, it’s usually never either-or. All entrepreneurs have lessons to share on starting a business.
That being said, there are still many contradictions on the do’s and don’ts of starting your own business. From Silicon Valley forums to Harvard Business Review to previous mentors and to other founders, how do you know the right channel of insights for you?
From the perspective of an entrepreneurial mom, these are the five things I wish someone had told me when I first started from scratch—the most honest things to consider when choosing to go into business for yourself.
What to consider before starting a business
Mapping the layout of your business landscape
It’s not enough to have just a solid idea or a suitable business plan. It’s also critical to research the market and products offered in the segment area. Doing this investigation will help you see the lay of the land. Knowing where you stand among competitors in all the stats and rankings can help you envision your startup journey and make it more real. For example, if you are in e-commerce, CRM software can contextualize the customer journey using personalization features.
Researching and identifying your objectives also make you more aware of the status quo and prepared to potentially create a robust backup plan. Running a business has its methodology, so don’t get sidetracked thinking you have to figure out everything on your own through trial and error. The guidelines and theory are all out there, you just need to find and use them.
Are you the right fit as a startupper?
To say the startup journey is a roller coaster from start to finish is by no means an understatement. As an entrepreneur, you need to prepare yourself both physically and emotionally for all the potential pitfalls, just as much as you prepare for the opportunities that will surely come your way. Unfortunately, when pursuing self-employment no one will be there to hold your hand or be responsible for when things don’t go according to plan. You will be tested in every way.
There is a reason why the biggest lessons and realizations about business survival hit entrepreneurs in the early stages. You must select a business that you are passionate about because if you love what you do, you won’t lack the fulfillment needed for long-term success and personal and professional happiness.
Knowing your focus and purpose
Know why you want to go into business for yourself and the specific outcomes you are hoping to achieve. Is it to make money, fill a need in society, be your own boss, or have more time to spend with your family and friends? The next question would be: Do you truly have what it takes as an entrepreneur to meet a market need for a specific product or service?
Being your own HR manager, strategist and coach isn’t for the faint of heart. It requires seeing the company’s mission and vision from the outside perspective. Being realistic when starting your business is key, which means finding equilibrium between the highs and lows to ease the pressure off yourself and to inhabit the multiple roles as you go on.
Networking and collaborating with others
It’s easy to get sidetracked and focus only on personal results when you run a business independently. When running your own business, you tend to lack colleagues and managers, but don’t forget that you can get that dynamic through alternative avenues.
By reaching out to like-minded people in the sector you are operating in, you can create a community and shift from competitors to collaborators. This approach will serve your daily (working) life and take your mind off thinking purely about results. Surrounding yourself with the right people will only make you think more creatively about your brand and could be beneficial; as they say—two heads are better than one. Given how secondary buyout (SBO) processes have become ubiquitous, there is substantial value in including the minds of others.
Hiring the right people the right way
Don’t overachieve trying to do everything yourself—a part of running a business is knowing when to delegate. As most startups start with hiring contractors and part-timers in the beginning, thinking about which specific positions you need to fill first will help you prioritize and move the business forward in a more efficient manner. Maybe a freelancer or consultant can cover your initial needs while you look for a more permanent contributor.
You’ve heard it before, “It’s people that make a company successful.” Hiring is risky, but it is an inevitable risk to take as no successful company is ever a solo project. Talent acquisition is even considered a startup skill. How, when and whom you hire determine your company’s growth just as much as other components of your overall strategy. A suitable vacancy in the right spaces, advertised with clarity on company mission and values, gives individual business owners the capacity to manage their company’s performance.
No successful company is ever a solo project.
Final thoughts on starting a business
As an entrepreneur, identifying your business objectives should be the first step, making the best foundation for company growth. Starting a business goes beyond planning, researching and budgeting. What you do in practice as an owner and new boss is also significant, if not more important.
Make socialization a valuable part of your working life, as you never know what networking (locally, nationally and internationally) can do for you in the long term. This can include joining business groups, the local chamber of commerce and social networks. Attending events as an independent entrepreneur is another way to develop both personally and professionally. Last but not least, being active in networking is a big help when it comes to getting the word out about your brand and advances word-of-mouth marketing.
When operating alone in an environment surrounded by influences and gateways, humility, openness and weighing your options always pay off. Remember, it’s not only your startup that is new; as an entrepreneur, your business is an extension of yourself, so it is a whole new you as well.
Originally published Nov. 8, 2021.