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31 Entrepreneurs Explain The First Thing You Need When Starting a Business

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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.

#1 – Not Be Afraid of Failure

Image Credit: Ryan Matzner

One of the first things you need to learn is not be afraid of failure. You must focus on the idea of what you believe to be true, even when no one else does. It’s important to focus on executing your vision unless you decide you need to pivot. When starting a business, it’s tempting to try to offer every type of service, but specialization is key. Be known for doing something specific instead of trying to accomplish everything at once.

Thanks to Ryan Matzner, Fueled!

#2 – Clarity

Image Credit: Somya Munjal

To be clear on what you want to accomplish and never give up! I entered the workforce when I was 14 years old and it didn’t take me long to start working two jobs once I realized the power of earning and saving and the related freedom that provides. I started Youthful Savings in Washington, DC when I got frustrated with the growing inequality in this country that is often based on race and the related socio-economic issues that result from that. I didn’t understand how our elected officials were allowing kids to go hungry in the very place that they serve. I realized that change happens from citizens and you can’t outsource that change. From there, I was able to combine technology, education and finance to build my companies that all aim to disrupt the wealth gap. I got into my industry because I did a deep dive on what I was able to do and how best to help others do the same – get educated and get out of the situation you’re in through the power of education and hard work.

Thanks to Somya Munjal, Youthful Savings!

#3 – Brief Explanation of a Few Things

Whenever I’ve started – or considered starting a new business – the first thing I try to do is come up with a brief explanation of what I am trying to do, the pain point I am trying to solve, why none of the available options are any good, and why customers would pay attention. I don’t get bogged down with how I am going to do it – 90% or more of those problems get worked out – but being able to explain it quickly is key, and here is why: there is no way you can do it alone. You will need help, and you have to convince people to join your team. Even if you are paying for the service, you still need to convince them so they put in A+ effort, show some flexibility as things change (as they always will), and deliver to you in a timely manner. Think of the speech as something you could give in an elevator ride to your parent, or a boss, or someone whom you want to give approval.

Thanks to Jim Miller, Veloglass.com!

#4 – Relentless Perseverance (i.e. Balls)

Image Credit: Lori Cheek

Seven years into the entrepreneurial hustle, I’ve learned that entrepreneurship is being on a mission where nothing can stop you. It will take twice as long as you’d hoped, cost exceedingly more than you’d ever budgeted and will be more challenging than anything you’ll ever try but if you give it your all and refuse to give up, you can trust it will be the ride of a lifetime. I could be the poster child for the saying, “what doesn’t kill you only makes you stronger.” No matter what… this has been the most rewarding journey of my life and in the end, I’m going to have a magical story to tell. My advice to other aspiring entrepreneurs is to be brave and follow your instincts. You can’t cheat the grind, but if you give it your all, you can trust that the payoff will be worth it.

Thanks to Lori Cheek,  Cheekd!

#5 – A Problem

Image Credit: Chris Campbell

When you start a business, the first thing you need is a problem. Someone else’s problem, that is. When I started ReviewTrackers, I spend hours on the phone talking with potential customers. But rather than telling them what I my product was going to do for them. I asked them, what do you want this platform to do. I’d take that feedback, send it to my developers, and we’d use it to improve our product. In the early days, it pays to focus on your customers’ problem. Understand what they need and figure out how to provide it.

Thanks to Chris Campbell, Review Trackers!

#6 – Resources While Starting Up

Image Credit: Steven Benson

When starting a business, you first need to have the resources to not make money for awhile while the business gets off the ground. People often wonder why really young people, like college students or recent graduates are the ones to start businesses. I don’t believe it’s because they are better equipped than someone with 10 or 15 years of experience in a field, actually I think they are less well positioned. What they do have is low overhead (their lives don’t cost a lot to support), they can take on risk (they don’t have many responsibilities), and they have a solid support network (they can live with their parents or in a dorm and start the business in the garage or at their university). Imagine a recent grad and compare them to a 35 year old with 2 kids and a mortgage, and it’s easy to imagine why young people have an advantage.

Thanks to Steven Benson, Badger Maps!

#7 – Idea Validation

Image Credit: Carrie Wood, Lease Ref

Before starting a business, an entrepreneur needs validation of their idea. Too often a small business owner is just too close to their concept and they only see it the way they want to see it. Validation must come in the form of not just friends and family, but from objective third parties. One great way I test out ideas is to join multiple small business Facebook groups and throw out ideas – complete strangers seem to have no problem letting you know the shortcomings of your business ideas!

Thanks to Carrie Wood, Lease Ref!

#8 – Clear Purpose & Mission

Image Credit: Andrew Follett

The first thing you need when starting a business is a clear purpose and mission. What’s going to keep you motivated 5-10 years from now or when the going gets tough? A meaningful purpose, beyond just making money, should be in writing and top of mind when getting your business started. Not only will it help keep you engaged, it will help you recruit the right people, make the right decisions, and ultimately make more money.

Thanks to Andrew Follett, Demo Duck!

#9 – Coherent Business Plan

Image Credit: S. Michael Sury

There are actually a few important things that should be done first. Perhaps the one of the most important steps a new entrepreneur can take is to develop a coherent business plan. This is a step often skipped by new business owners, as they get carried away in the excitement of starting a new business. However, the business plan can focus an entrepreneur’s vision, crystallize the company’s mission, provide cash flow discipline, and serve as a benchmark of ongoing success. Business plans are also living documents, as they can and should be dynamic and adapt to changing business conditions. Another primary task that entrepreneurs should focus upon is to thoughtfully design and implement a business culture that is driven from a tone at the top. Even those businesses that are founded upon great ideas can often flounder by not having a strong culture to shape the identity of the organization as it grows. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, entrepreneurs should carefully plan and construct their operational infrastructure. This includes everything from human resources and insurance, to plant, property, and equipment. It can also include decisions on whether to in-source or outsource (and to whom). Poor operational execution and an ad-hoc infrastructure is a recipe for a very short tenure as an entrepreneur.

Thanks to S. Michael Sury, INDORUS Holdings, LP!

#10 – Incorporation

Image Credit: Deborah Sweeney

One of the very first things you’ll need when you start a business is to protect it by incorporating or forming an LLC. Incorporating allows you to protect your personal assets by separating them from your professional ones, save on taxes, and legitimize the company and give it credibility so it can be successful in the long run.

Thanks to Deborah Sweeney, MyCorporation.com!

#11 – Business Plan

Image Credit: Onada Sokunbi

Before you spend any of your hard earned money, you definitely want to layout your idea in the form of a business plan. It doesn’t have to be 100 pages long or in a fancy presentation format but your business plan needs to answer a few basic questions including – 1) What is your business about? 2) Who is your target / demographic, what problem will it solve for them and why should they buy from you? 3) What products and services will you offer? 4) How will you market them? 5)How will you fund your business (start-up costs and continuous operating costs)? 6) Where do you see your business in 12 months, 24 months, 5 years etc? 7) Who /what do you need to support you (people, tools)?. Also keep in mind that your business plan should never be static. As you grow in business, your business may evolve or you may change direction completely and so your business plan is something that should be revisited often.

Thanks to Onada Sokunbi, Clever Girl Finance!

#12 – Business Plan

Image Credit: Rod Brown

Now that you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? All of these questions can be answered in a well-written business plan. A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties and what you need to sustain it. A business plan is an essential roadmap for business success. This living document generally projects 3-5 years ahead and outlines the route a company intends to take to grow revenues.

Thanks to Rod Brown, OnceLogix!

#13 – Hiring World-Class Team Members

Image Credit: Brian Scudamore

In our 28 years in business, we’ve learned success is all about the people – your first goal should always be hiring world-class team members. Finding the right people to join your team can be a strategic asset and will be the foundation of your success. Success doesn’t happen when you’re alone. Once you have the team, you’ve got to spend time with them, care about them, understand what motivates them and show them how they fit into your company’s vision. At 1-800-GOT-JUNK?, we’re interested in building something bigger and better together than any one of us would choose to do alone. Building a company is a marathon, not a sprint and you need the right people with you to get to the finish line.

Thanks to Brian Scudamore, O2E brands!

#14 – Trustworthy CPA

Find a trustworthy CPA. Someone once gave me that advice. I followed it and am very grateful for it. Here’s to paying forward.

Thanks to Frank Strong, Sword and the Script Media!

#15 – Domain & Social Accounts

Image Credit: Jacqueline (Jaci) Burns

We’re well into the Digital Age so when starting a business one of the first things you need to do is secure your domain(s) (URL) and social accounts. Focus at minimum on the core sites which for business-to-business enterprises (where I focus) are LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. Even if you don’t need to use all or any of these right away you’d be wise to future proof your business by owning the assets.

Thanks to Jacqueline (Jaci) Burns, Market Expertise!

#16 – Number One Thing Your Brand is Known for

Image Credit: Zach Lloyd

When starting a business you have to decide the number one thing your brand will be known for. Many entrepreneurs, including myself, have made the mistake of trying to differentiate themselves in too many ways. This bad habit creates a dilution of your brand and sends a mixed message to customers. Tesla for example is accelerating the world’s transition to sustainable energy”.. This vision isn’t open for interpretation and it doesn’t corner them only as a car company. If you don’t have a Northstar guiding your business you’ll fall prey to indecision and not enough action.”

Thanks to Zach Lloyd, Zeeks Fit Freaks!

#17 – One Authentic Customer

Image Credit: Jason Lavis

The most common answers to this question might involve finding a product or service to sell. Perhaps others will look for a great idea or a problem to solve. I believe that these approaches lead to the often mentioned failure rates of 60-90%. Here’s the only thing you need when starting a business – find one authentic customer who is prepared to pay you a profitable amount. (Authentic meaning not simply well intentioned family or friends). You don’t even need an existing product or service. If you can find one
customer or client, then you can find more.

Thanks to Jason Lavis, Out of the Box Innovations Ltd.!

#18 – Start with a Plan

Image Credit: Alexis Chateau

Benjamin Franklin said, If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail and this is as true in business as any other time. Businesses require huge investments of time and money, and a plan helps to ensure that investment is wisely spent. Even if entrepreneurs don’t start by writing out a formal business plan,
it’s important to have *something* in writing before launch date or opening day. This is especially important if the business is a partnership, if there are large capital investments, and if they intend to secure a loan or other external funding.

Thanks to Alexis Chateau, Alexis Chateau PR!

#19 – Solid Business Plan

Image Credit: John Jonas

Make sure you have a solid business plan that allows you to delegate most of the work and frees you to make important decisions. If your entire business revolves around you doing most of the work, there’s no potential for growth. If you refuse too delegate, there won’t be any growth. Businesses are build by teams, not by individuals.

Thanks to John Jonas, Onlinejobs.ph!

#20 – In-Depth Business Plan

Image Credit: Victoria Sollars

I truly believe that starting a successful business initially hangs on having an in-depth business plan. After all, you wouldn’t build a house without the foundations. Doing this first, before anything else, allows you to really nail down your vision and how you’re going to achieve it. A business plan can also help you figure out your financial situation, decide where your resources will be focused and could help you secure funding. Starting with a business plan gives you the opportunity to create an airtight game plan, making you more likely to succeed.

Thanks to Victoria Sollars, Her Digital!

#21 – Stable Client

Image Credit: Julie Whitney

I started my public relations consulting business in 2000 while burning the midnight oil at an existing job. Most of us small business owners cannot afford the luxury of quitting our day job prior to venturing out on our own. You can’t just hang up a shingle and say “Open For Business” and pray that a client walks in. You need to drum up clients and prepare a clear pathway prior to giving up your full-time job security and benefits. In my case I began tackling the hourly clients at nighttime, while seeking that one big retainer client that would allow me to make the break. I applied to a part-time job for PR person that I found in the classifieds (yes there were paid newspaper classified ads in the early 2000’s) for 24 hours per week. I convinced the employer to allow me to work from home, and tackle hourly clients as well. So this client became my retainer client with a set salary that I could live on, and the others helped supplement my income. I also would attend meetings at the retainer client on an as needed basis just so they saw my face from time to time. It worked out perfectly for quite a few years until their needs changed, and by the time we amicably parted ways I had enough business from my hourly clients to fill the void. P.S. The second thing is a really good accountant. In my case it is one who specializes in small businesses. I could make you an entire list in order and prioritize them!

Thanks to Julie Whitney, Phillippi-Whitney Communications LLC!

#22 – Understanding of Accounting

Image Credit: Adam Stoker

The first thing you need when starting a business is a clear understanding of accounting, at least on a basic level. Accounting and cash flow management are two of the most challenging things for someone to manage when without a basic understanding. Creating a great product is fantastic, but unless you can control your finances, it’s going to be an uphill battle.

Thanks to Adam Stoker, Relic!

#23 – Market Research

Image Credit: Samantha Strazanac

In my opinion, the first thing you need to do when starting your business is market research. If you know what your business is going to be, make sure there is a demand for it. You don’t want to try and sell something (a good or service) in an area or season where no one needs it. For example, if you’re thinking about starting a snow shovel business in Florida, you should reconsider because there is no demand for snow shovels in Florida. If you don’t know what you want to base your business on, do market research to see what demands there are that are not being met. If you do your market research on what you intend to start your business on, then you’ve minimized a reason for failure. Always make sure there is a demand for what you are trying to push.

Thanks to Samantha Strazanac, Strazanac Solutions!

#24 – Solution to a Problem

Image Credit: Chris Brantner

The first thing you need to start your own business is a solution to a problem. Every good, successful business idea stems from a problem. Find a pain point, something that annoys you or other people. As Reed Hastings, CEO of Netflix, once said, you want to find the asprin for that problem. You want a specific solution to the problem. You don’t want to be vitamins, which just offer a vague solution.

Thanks to Chris Brantner, CutCableToday.com!

#25 – The Right Mindset

Image Credit: Kornel Kurtz

The right mindset. You can get all the funding, equipment and assets you need. but those are useless if you aren’t mentally prepared to handle the responsibilities and endure the hardships that come with starting a business. The best thing you can do when starting a business, is get yourself ready. Don’t get too excited when things are good, don’t get too low when they aren’t. Don’t bottle things inside and fly-off the handle when things break or people quit. Set realistic expectations, factor in setbacks and be flexible when things don’t go as planned. Statistics show most businesses fail in the first 3 years. If you can prepare yourself to endure those start-up years, your chances of success go way up.

Thanks to Kornel Kurtz, WebTek!

#26 – Therapist

Image Credit:  Jon Sterling

The first thing I tell people they need when they say they want to start a business is a therapist! I’m only half-kidding when I say that. The highs are high and the lows are low when you’re launching a new business. It takes an emotional toll, even for the toughest entrepreneurs. There will be rough days and it is important to have someone there for emotional support. That person could be a significant other, a mentor or a professional therapist.

Thanks to Jon Sterling, Agents Launch!

#27 – Path to Market

Image Credit: William Gadea

The product or service that entrepreneurs offer is usually something they know well, and enjoy doing. The missing part, more often than not, is the path to market. Okay, so you have the better mousetrap! How do you put it in front of people that can buy it? That is the key question, and there’s no easy answer. For sure, it is going to involve learning though – maybe that’s reading books, looking at videos, taking courses, finding mentors…. or just experimenting.

Thanks to William Gadea, IdeaRocket LLC !

#28 – A Plan

Image Credit: Fern Koh

I always have a plan. But don’t be afraid to change your plans as you grow together with your business and realize that today’s plan is a better one than yesterday’s, because you learned something new between yesterday and today. It’s okay to be flexible and change plans often as long as you believe in your “plan of the day” firmly and completely.

Thanks to Fern Koh, Fernberry!

#29 – Choosing the Right “Name” and Protecting It

Image credit: Christopher J. McHattie, Esq

At the end of the day, a business’ reputation is it’s life blood, and the company’s name is the “thing” that embodies reputation. As such, it’s critical to understand the importance of choosing a name that is available, protectable and not too close to any of your competitors’ names – an effective brand can be the difference between failure and success. You have to really think about it, research your choices and make sure the one you pick (or one similar to it) isn’t already in use in your industry. This will help galvanize your name with customers, avoid confusion with competitors (which can be an expensive mistake and lead to lost sales, legal action and rebranding). Do a trademark search, get advice from a trademark attorney and register your name as a trademark. A trademark is a valuable asset to a business and when you register a trademark, you’re protecting your brand and products and laying your claim to the exclusive use of your name throughout the entire United States.

Thanks to Christopher J. McHattie, Esq, The McHattie Law Firm!

#30 – Educate Yourself on the U.S. Market

If you’re starting/expanding a foreign business in the US: Research – Educate yourself on the U.S. Market Understand, analyze, and do your due diligence into the U.S. market. This includes comprehensive research directed to: (a) market analysis; (b) the competitive landscape; (c) creation a “game plan;” and (d) putting all of the necessary resources in place, monetary, equipment and personnel. With your business plan in hand, you can turn to the nuts and bolts: (i) deciding on the best location; (ii) the best type of corporate/contractual structure; (iii) implementing a staffing model, whether by way of independent contractors and/or employees; (iv) locating a “physical” location solution, whether real or virtual; and perhaps most importantly, (v) assembling the right team of partners – a good lawyer and accountant, a human resources solution, a staffing solution, and other subject matter experts, vendors and contractors necessary for success. While that may sound daunting, it’s not – at least when you have the right partner. Probably the two most important decision you will make are: your “boots on the ground,” whether an employee, a good client, an attorney, a vendor or friend; and your location – not necessarily where your business will be, but where you’re first going to look for help and land your business prior to operation.

Thanks to Christopher McHattie, Cove, LLC!

#31 – Start with Pain

Image Credit: Kari Warberg Block

Start with something that deeply pains you with the world! I’ve started 8 businesses and none of them were fulfilling enough to go big, or go home. That is until I started a business to address a problem that really pissed me off, a problem that no one was doing anything about it, and I couldn’t understand way. I had a mouse problem. I refused to use poisons and traps around my kids and pets, but that’s all that there was to buy at the time to use on my farm and in my home. I called all the companies, and asked them to create natural, safe solutions that would work. They all told me it was impossible, and that people only wanted poisons. So I decided to prove them wrong, and boy did I ever! I knew moms would buy an alternative solution, and eventually the market would shift. Today, because of our product Stay Away®, and working with my pain, homes can be free of pests and poisons.

Thanks to Kari Warberg Block, EarthKind®!

What do you think is the first thing you need when you start a business? Let us know in the comments below.

About Gresham Harkless Jr.

Gresham Harkless is a Media Consultant for Blue 16 Media and 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.
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