No matter how you look at it, starting a business is hard. One of the hardest things you may ever have to do. There’s the business plan to think over, a name, government policies to consider, how it will affect your family, finances and the list rolls on from there. Some hardened entrepreneurs suggest spending a long time thinking about if that’s really the path you want to take. If so, there is plenty of advice floating around to help you with the grueling journey. Entrepreneurs are always willing to lend their words to the younger generation of business seekers and give them assistance when the time comes. Below we have asked entrepreneurs for their best business advice.
#1 – Validate Your Ideas
Find ways to validate your ideas first. Obviously this is a tough question to boil down into just one simple answer, however, if I were to have to only pick one piece of business advice it would be to focus on validating your product or service offering first. I see so many times over and over again companies of all shapes and sizes investing significantly in ideas and products that have zero validation. Do people actually want what you're offering? Will they pay for it? How much? These are key questions any business should look to answer before moving forward with larger investments to support a given initiative.
Thanks to Nick Marvik, Northwest Tech
#2 – Document Procedures
My best business advice is to document your critical, day-to-day operating procedures. Auch! I can already hear you complaining. Most business owners avoid writing their company's clearly written standard operating procedures, or SOPs. This is a terrible mistake. It leads to a series of problems that just about every manage-by-the-seat-of-your-pants entrepreneur experiences. These problems include knowledge hoarding by employees who hold you hostage. Knowledge really is power, and employees with your critical operating knowledge often use their power to demand extra perks, pay, and time off. Ask any harried business owner and they will confirm that they often feel like they work for their employees! The only way to make sure you build a sustainable, scalable, and saleable business is to creating a living operating manual that is updated as the processes evolve. Believe me, in a year or so you will be calling me up to thank me for this sound advice.
Thanks to Michael Kramer, ManageHub
#3 – Getting Superior Results
When you do high-quality work in your business, you'll get superior results. And if you do poor work you'll get inferior results. This may seem like a simple generalization, but if you think about it, you'll find it's mostly true. Getting good outcomes depends on doing the right first things first. This happens in two steps. First, be sure you understand what the right things are, and second, do them in the right sequence. It can be a challenge to put the right things in the right order at the beginning of a process, and may feel time-consuming. However, by taking the time at the beginning to get things ordered correctly, you will save a lot of time and avoid turmoil in the end. To get to the right things, you will have to spend some time sorting and choosing. You'll need to take your tasks and put them into groups. To be successful in business, you have to sort through all your options and then execute the best ones possible. If you do something over and over again, you'll build a structure that demands good practices. This approach will help you accomplish things in a timely manner. The effort it takes to do something right will save you a fortune in time.
Thanks to Barney Cohen, Business 360 Northwest
#4 – Find Your Passion
When starting or running a business, it's critical to identify what motivates and inspires your day-to-day work. Managing a business is difficult, and multiple extremely tough challenges are sure to pop up on the way. If you don’t have an overarching vision and mission that powers you though these challenges, you’ll find yourself losing energy and doubting yourself along the way — which will eventually impact the success of your business itself. So, start with what inspires you. Put serious, sincere thought into why you’re in the field that you’re in and why you believe the work you’re doing is important. And use that vision as the fuel that gets you though business failures and hard days. On a personal level, I started my current company, Deskbright, because I knew that I had a passion for helping people thrive at work. From there, I developed an online learning platform to empower employees, freelancers, and entrepreneurs to succeed. The company wouldn’t have gotten nearly as far as it has without that overarching vision to power our work.
Thanks to Sam McIntire, Deskbright
#5 – Clear Strategy
Be clear about your strategy and ensure everything is aligned with it. Too many organizations (big and small) fail to achieve breakthrough success because their people, processes, and culture are not properly aligned to their strategy. For example, one organization I was consulting with had a strategy to be the low-cost healthcare provider to an under-served population. Their desired culture was to be nimble and agile (able to adapt quickly to the changing healthcare landscape), however, they implemented systems that were so standardized they allowed very little space for innovation, flexibility, and local managerial discretion. So their systems were setup to contradict their desired goals. Strategy must align with culture, which must align with processes. Then you have to find the right people who have a passion for the work to see it come to life. Another shortcoming businesses often have is not hiring the right people. In the modern job economy, high-quality talent can be a key market differentiator. Don't settle on the people you hire – no matter the position. Everyone person an organization brings on the team should be there for a specific reason and able to add value (rather than just keeping the motor running). And most important, new hires must be a values fit with the organization.
Thanks to Addam Marcotte, FMG Leading
#6 – Always Plan
Plan. Plan. Plan and when you are bored, plan some more. In business, the unexpected happens quite often, and the larger your business grows the more often and larger those unexpected events can be. This can be unexpected costs, unexpected market changes, unexpected growth – both positive and negative unexpected events. The only way to be truly prepared for any and everything, is to take the time to plan. Every week, I start my Sunday (let's be honest, as entrepreneurs and small business owners, we work Sundays!) with planning and prepping for the week – my calendar, business finances and events. This gets my mind ready for the week and helps organize and make me more efficient and effective throughout the week. I repeat this process at the beginning of the month and the beginning of the year. I set my businesses goals and then plan out how to reach them and how to make sure they stay on track. In addition, my business has grown to three locations in six years – so at the start of any expansion I begin planning six months ahead of time to ensure that I am ready for whatever may come.
Thanks to Sarah Jacoby, Studio 9
#7 – A Solid Partner
My entire life, I’ve preferred working alone and doing things myself. As a serial entrepreneur, I didn’t initially see any reason to change that preference, since I could simply hire employees or contractors in my businesses. Over the years, though, I’ve realized that having a partner is a necessity for everybody for two big reasons. First, a partner handles aspect of the business that you dislike or aren’t good at. Sure, you can hire people, but if you’re still responsible for oversight and guidance, then you’re going to be involved in parts of the business that you don’t like and don’t excel at. And that’s a huge problem, because you’ll get tired, burnt out, and bogged down. Finding a good partner (or partners) fixes all of this. Secondly, you need someone to help keep the excitement and motivation up. Even if you’re the most energetic person in the world, you’ll still have days when you don’t feel like running or growing your business. Having a partner there allows those days to happen without affecting the business.
Thanks to Jeremy Hendon
#8 – The Right Co-Founder
Having the right co-founders can make a big difference, at the beginning of your business and years down the road, so it's crucial to find the right partners to found your business with from the beginning. Having great co-founders can help share the weight of worries and responsibilities that come with starting a business and getting it up and running, and, through collaboration, can often help find solutions you might miss on your own. When considering people you might want to go into business with, make sure you know them well, that you have a shared vision, that each of you can separate the personal from the professional and that you can have direct communication.. Then as your business grows and evolves, be sure to invest in the relationship with your cofounders so that the relationship grows and strengthens as the business does.
Thanks to Jim Minnick, eVestment
#9 – Micro-Managing
Although there are lots of helpful tips and pointers on how to build and brand a successful business, sometimes it is the more obvious but equally important recommendations that are over-looked. Avoid micro-managing! – Trust in your team and their ability to do their job. This allows you the freedom to explore and pursue new professional ventures and business relationships. In other words, let the experts in their individual fields, i.e. your lawyers, accountants, senior level management, strategists, etc., do their thing. If you trust in the people you work with, it allows you to focus on other areas of growing and expanding the business successfully.
Thanks to Georgette Pascale, Pascale Communications
#10 – Share Ideas
Don't be afraid to share your idea (with trusted people). As you embark on your business idea it is critical to get opinions other than your own on what you are building. Some of it you will not use. Some of it will truly change the trajectory of how you build your business. You will get some amazing opinions, and best of all, it will perfect how to explain what you are doing in a clear concise way. You will also realize that you will get a lot of support from people who wish they had the courage to be an entrepreneur and will live vicariously through you. Much of the courage I gained in the early phase was derived from the people I talked with about my idea.
Thanks to Noel Wax, GroundSwell
#11 – Wise Finances
Spend your company's money wisely, but don't be cheap. A lot of early stage entrepreneurs spend each dollar the same-frugally. While frugality is a needed financial cornerstone in most any venture, being cheap tends to be the ugly, ever-present cousin in start-ups. In our business, we've learned (sometimes the hard way) to spend money as wisely as possible, but we are not afraid to pony-up when the opportunity arises. For example, sure-fire superstar-hires are tough to come-by, don't lose out on them because you didn't have a compelling enough offer. Also, agency-creep can be a real thing, but if you are well-networked, engaging a high-priced agency with good category experience can help cut a lot of the fat on ad-spending, for instance, and boost ROI in other areas, quickly paying for their own services and saving you time. This paradigm, in essence, is about playing for the long game with moxie: spending a dollar today to make ten tomorrow. Be resolved if the invoice today is more than you feel comfortable with, because tomorrow, you'll be glad you did.
Thanks to Dan Brenner, InstaNatural
#12 – Ask for Help
When in doubt don't be afraid to ask for advice or help. Whether it be legal advice (always consult a lawyer) or just an area you are not familiar with, don't be afraid to ask. As a business owner and entrepreneur you will be faced daily with issues and deadlines, if there's a lot on your plate don't be afraid to ask for help and delegate. Having trust worthy people on your team that you can tackle daily work with is a necessity, so take the time to invest in them. As an entrepreneur you should know what is going on at your company on multiple levels, but don't think you necessarily need to perform the duties alone. At then end of the day you must steer the ship, which means always keeping the big picture in mind.
Thanks to Ramin Jaswal, Haus of Rimmy
#13 – Stay True
I believe that first and foremost you have to stay true to your vision and ethics and make your choices from that sounding board. There will be many choices to make in starting your business and as it continues to grow. It is important to find the right people and/ or team that you not only feel confident in working with but also can meet your standards so you can always stand behind your decisions for your business 100%. It is equally important, especially when obstacles arise to not give up on your vision. Rather, find creative ways to move past the obstacles and create solutions that help propel you to the next level for your business. There may be times you have to rework or tweak your vision for your business or business plan, as that is an element of growth. You will know if you are growing in the right direction if you can still stand behind your business 100%, always choosing to be true to yourself.
Thanks to Iyala Ane, Ane Amour
#14 – Addressable Market
Be clear about your “addressable market” or, the number of people that your business can serve. Often business plans will be very generic here, suggesting “1% of consumers” or “anyone who likes pizza” but a very specific answer will tell your investors how much money you will make on a daily, weekly, or month basis. If you’re opening a pizza restaurant, your addressable market is not only a specific number of potential customers, but your number of available seats at tables. There needs to be consistency in the number of customers you plan to serve and your capacity to serve them. If you have an addressable lunch market of 100 customers but only 40 chairs, then your AM is 40, not 100.
Thanks to David Reeve, EIM Marketing
#15 – Powerful Blogging
Our blog is the core piece of our inbound marketing strategy and it is central to our business. The posts are written to help our readers (ski vacationers) when they are beginning to plan their ski vacation, so our goal is to be helpful and to answer questions that will move them down the marketing funnel and closer to making a decision, while creating brand affinity along the way. Equally powerful is how we use our blog for acquisition. Great content helps us rank for important keywords on Google to increase organic traffic, but we also use our blog to garner interest on social channels. We have found that putting a few ad dollars behind a boosted post on Facebook yields better results than advertising directly.
Thanks to Owen Larkin, SnowPak