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What Are The Most Important Things You Needed When Starting A Business? [ANSWERS]

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It is easy to look back and say “I wish I could do that differently.” Entrepreneurs and business owners look back at the start of their business and know the reasons that they were able to start a successful business. It may have been a business plan, financing or a pep talk from a mentor.  Rescue a CEO asked entrepreneurs and business owners what they felt were the most important things that they needed when starting their business.

Overwhelmingly business plan, a team (including mentors) and an Unique Selling Proposition or USP (differentiator)  were the most popular responses.

Related Post: Business Plan 101

Business Plan, Appropriately Priced Funding & A Management Team

Photo credit: Mitchell D. Weiss

(1) Business Plan, which described the opportunity my team and I identified, the approach we planned to take to capture our share of it, the management team we already had and planned to put in place, the financial projections we developed to justify the risk we were undertaking and an exit strategy, for when the time was ripe. (2) Appropriately Priced Funding for the acquisition and reasonable commitments for the ongoing business.  (3) A Management Team that was made up of a group of capable people sharing common interests and values, and who possessed unique but complementary skills.

Thanks to Mitchell D. Weiss!

Business Plan & Mentors

Courtesy Lisa Tener

(1) Business Plan: Yes, it will probably change over time but you need to define your market, your product/services, its uniqueness and how it fits into the current marketplace. (2) Mentors: I went to SCORE and got the advice of a retired marketing professional. Even though I’d gone to business school, I needed someone to run things buy and did not have a budget for anything–so this service was an amazing gift.

Thanks to Lisa Tener, Write Your Book!

A Great Name, Logo, Tag Line & Website

When I started StashDaddy, I knew I would need: (1) A great name and logo that would create a visual explanation of the business to evoke recognition and interest in finding out more. (2) A tag line that clearly explained what the business is and why you need it. (3) A website with a user-experience that navigates pleasurably, logically and simply, to draw customers in for a lifetime.

Thanks to Janine Darling, Stash Daddy!

Differentiator & Business Plan

(1) Developing a differentiator for the business. For our business it was process improvement. In 1998 when we started, the average market price for full color business cards was averaging $200. We worked on a process that reduced costs and allowed us to sell business cards for $10. (2) Develop a clear business plan. Taking the time to develop a roadmap for launching and growing the business is invaluable. It forces entrepreneurs to think about factors like finances, marketing, overhead, and staffing to name a few.

Thanks to David Handmaker,  Next Day Flyers.com!

A Mission Statement, Moxie & Support

Courtesy Joy Holland

(1) A Mission Statement is similar to a tiller on a boat; allowing a person to focus on direction in the midst of myriad external consistently found in the beginning stages of business. A mission statement invites the owner to honor alignment of vision, brand, purpose while setting the foundation of the business; drawing to the business customers who resonate, which ultimately leads to “success”. (2) Moxie is essential. Whether the business quickly brings in revenue and exceeds expectations or customers trickle in and the feel is “less than” what one expected, courage and determination is necessary to “succeed”. When one is willing to move beyond “what they know”, ultimately one experiences abundance. (3) Support is crucial for start-ups, whether that is in marketing collaborations, encouragement in personal creative expression, financial management. The resonance within support allows a greater range and depth of the overall business success, as well as the success of specific programs/products.

Thanks to Joy Holland, Facets of Joy!

Marketing

Related Post: There’s No Such Thing as A Silver Bullet Anymore

The most important this to understand when starting a business is marketing – you can’t use the build it and they will come or the hope and pray method – you have to be willing to market yourself.

Thanks to Diane Conklin, Complete Marketing Systems!

Know What Differentiates You, Target Clients & Minimum Revenue to Survive

(1) you need to know exactly what differentiates you from others offering similar products and services (2) you need to know who your target clients are – “anybody that can use my products or services” is not an actionable answer. (3) you need to know the minimum revenue you need to survive during the first one or 2 years as you establish your business – and you need a plan to achieve the revenue (“hope” is not a plan).

Thanks to Eric Mintz, EM Squared!

Idea Validation

By far the most important part of starting your own business is idea validation. Where most people go wrong is that they think they need to have an idea first, and then start a business around that idea. In other words, let me create this thing and then figure out how to get people to buy it.

Trent Dyrsmid, BrightIdeas.co!

Business Entity, Operating Agreement & Biz Plan

Courtesy Ruth Carter

(1) Business entity (i.e. LLC, or corporation) with its own bank account. (2) An operating agreement if there are 2 or more owners. (3) A clear business plan based on research and input from mentors.

Thanks to Ruth Carter, Esq., Carter Law Firm!

A Strong Team, Tools & Following Through

(1) A team of support: It’s impossible to be a Jack or Jane of all trades, and those who try will inevitably fail. It is vital to secure a team of experts who can help you navigate through the waters – a bookkeeper, a marketing consultant, a technical support person and so forth. Everything you do in your business in the early stage either needs to save you time or money. Having a support team will save you time and even money in the long run. With Virtual Assistants and freelancers today, there’s no excuse to not have a team. (2) Tools to evaluate: For my first year in business, each month, I blocked off time in my calendar to evaluate everything measurable – profit and loss, sales closing percentage, client retention and even our social media reach. With technology, it’s faster than ever to create dashboard reports. Some small business owners get so caught up in the day-to-day details that they don’t think like a CEO. By following the fake-it-till-you-make it principle, you are able to manage, lead and grow like the CEO of a Fortune 500 company–even if you haven’t yet broke 6-figures. (3) The ability to follow through: Everyone makes big promises, but those who follow through will always stand out. When I first started my business, I stayed on top of my game and I managed for results. I gave every client something valuable, and always a little extra, too. I never took my eye off of the ball– and it made all the difference when my clients noticed.

Thanks to Daniella Julia Cuomo; Virtual Assist USA, LLC!

A Sound Business Plan

One of the most important elements of starting my business was a sound a business plan. With the assistance of the SBA (Small Business Administration), I was able to develop a clear and concise business plan that laid out the operational and financial blueprint of the company. By following the business plan and updating it on a regular basis, Landmark Tax Group has seen a steady incline in revenues since inception.

Thanks to Michael Raanan, Landmark Tax Group!

Collaboration

(1) Every good entrepreneur needs a solid idea, but I believe that collaboration, which is key in this day in age, will facilitate more creativity and improve ideas. Business today, especially in this economy, is about collaboration—not competition. Who knows, you may even find your next business partner, which is an incredible asset that helps balance everything. If you surround yourself with good, creative people who bring out the best in you everything else almost always takes care of itself. Good ideas will flow more readily and your team will find ways to make them work.

Thanks to Shaun Walker, HERO|farm!

Belief in Myself, A Rolodex & Business Plan

(1) Belief in myself that I could be successful and financially support my family without being at a “regular” job. (2) Large rolodex of contacts that I know could reach out to and be confident that they would be open to doing business with me. (3) Comprehensive business plan that included investing in marketing and PR strategies and tactics.

Thanks to Carolyn Goodman, Goodman Marketing Partners, Inc.!

A Large, Diverse Network

In today’s world having access to a large and diverse network of contacts can help jump start a new business. Build your personal and professional contact data bases before you need them and begin expanding your social media networks; connect and engage with people to build real relationships. Those contacts can help quickly spread the word about your new products or services when you do launch.

Thanks to Patti Rowlson, PR Consulting Services!

No Attachments, Relevant Skills & A Good Idea

Related Post: 5 Business Ideas to Start Your Business

(1) No Attachments — This was more a case of not needing anything except to win at all costs. I was “fortunate” to have started my business at 23 when I had nothing to lose. I had zero money, no lucrative job to quit, no girlfriend and no TV, car, house, etc. I was totally comfortable going for broke, living like a pauper and re-investing every hour and dime back into the business. (2) A Set Of Relevant Skills — In my case, I brought a few skills that were extremely relevant to the work I’d be doing. These were basic HTML & Website Design, Copy Writing and most importantly, SEO. If we had needed to pay a webmaster, SEO expert or content writer, we would never have made it. My partner in the meanwhile, handled our book keeping, billing and overall business administration. (3) A Good Idea — We were certainly lucky with our timing, but our basic idea of start an online travel agency offering upscale, customized vacations to Costa Rica way back in 1999, was a pretty novel idea. Fortunately, it proved to be a good idea as well. We knew this on more than a hunch, as I had been working at the time as a marketing consultant inside the tourism industry in Costa Rica. This provided me the opportunity to survey the competitive landscape, know the providers and understand the needs of the customers.

Thanks to Casey Halloran, Costa Rican Vacations & Panama Luxury Vacations!

Good Financial Advice

Unfortunately, I didn’t learn this until many years into running the business and it put me behind an eight-ball several times. You need good financial advice from a qualified, forward-thinking accountant. If the expense of a good accountant seems high, then you’re not selling enough product/service. Go sell more and pay the pros to keep you out of trouble. My expensive lawyer has been invaluable as well as my corporate minutes firm who handle the minutia of the legal side of staying compliant. There are some jobs I hate doing (I’m a creative type) and so I simply “Hire it done!” Some things you can let slide a little while if you have to (web site, logo design, etc). But money, taxes, corporate reporting, legals and insurance are none of the things that can slide. That also happens to be all of the things I’m not very good at. So I went outside, found good people who do it really well and a huge burden was lifted.

Thanks to Kevin Burns, BGi Consultants!

Action Boards & Daily Positive Affirmations

Courtesy Wanda Anglin

Of course, creating all the plans from researched facts are very important in building that courage and belief. But in the end, it is my own action board of lists and pictures that show what I am actively working toward in the long-run and my daily positive affirmation to my image looking back at me in the mirror: “Today I will cheer for others, share my knowledge, and take one step closer to winning the hearts and trust of business owners who need my internet marketing services.”

Thanks to Wanda Anglin, SEObuzz Internet Marketing!

Money, Website & Someone Who Believes

(1) A side pot of money. Starting a business costs more than you estimate. Dividing out some cash into a separate account acts as a discipline and in case of SOS. (2) A good looking website. This is how people learn of new businesses nowadays. (3) Someone who believes in you. Maybe not believe in your full idea, but that they believe in you. Because doubt will come, and you will need support at that time.

Thanks to Tina Chan, Powbab, Inc!

Motivation, Access to the Experienced, Organizational Skills & Curiosity

Related Post: Monday Morning Motivation: The Men Who Built America

Courtesy Tim Doyle

(1) Motivation and support from friends and family. (2) Access to people who have business experience. (3) Organizational skills to allow for proper record keeping from the start. (4) Willingness to learn – The information is available but you have to be willing to spend the time to learn.

Thanks to Tim Doyle, TheTwovet.com!

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is the Blogger-in-Chief for CEO Blog Nation. CEO Blog Nation is a community of blogs for entrepreneurs and business owners. Started in much the same way as most small businesses, CEO Blog Nation captures the essence of entrepreneurship by allowing entrepreneurs and business owners to have a voice. CEO Blog Nation provides news, information, events and even startup business tips for entrepreneurs, startups and business owners to succeed.

12 comments

  1. It's interesting to see some of the repeating themes here–one being a business plan and vision and the other being support, including mentors. I also see some other advice that would have been very helpful when I started my business–great information to those starting out–and good reminders to those of us in business a while as well.

    • Very true. Despite a lot of advice against writing a business plan, it still seems to be extremely important to be successful.

      • Thanks for your comment! Business plans ARE important, if not for those on whom you may be relying for support (such as lenders), then for yourself and your team so that you're all marching in the same, straight line. What's more, the act of writing a business plan also provides important clarity–it's one thing to 'talk' about an idea and quite another to have it stand up to pen and paper. Good luck!

  2. The best 'tip' when starting a business is finding an easy web platform. The platform is Big Commerce hands down ! Great tech support and can be desiged to look custom!

  3. When preparing a business plan you should consider the following points:
    The business structure, whether it be a company, partnership, trust or sole trader.
    Then you must consider the legal requirements for the business structure you have chosen. What are the licensing and insurance requirements for the business? For an example a bookkeeper is required to be a registered BAS agent and hold professional indemnity insurance. It is also beneficial to be a member of a professional association.

  4. For me, the three most important things I needed when starting my business were:

    1) Persistence;

    2) A willingness to make mistakes;

    3) Enough capital that I could afford to persist through enough mistakes
    that I eventually figured out how to make the business work.

  5. I guess everything is already said in this post. I think a start up you cannot rely or have full faith on one particular thing i.e. marketing, finance, bidding and stuff like that. You have to ensure everything is done in order to meet the purpose and that is planning. In such, strategies with clear ideas and smooth flow in commands work best. Thanks for sharing a similar thought, this was insightful :)

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