Key Tips: Starting a Business

As an economist, author, entrepreneur, and professor who taught innovation and entrepreneurship to MBA students for a decade, I’ve come across seemingly countless articles and books serving up tips on how to start a business.

And there’s a lot of good stuff out there. For example, I used Start Your Own Business for the course I taught. I also like two books from the Harvard Business Review – Harvard Business Review Entrepreneur’s Handbook and On Entrepreneurship and Startups.

But before diving into these kinds of books, for those pondering the dive into the entrepreneurial waters, sometimes a few short but insightful pieces can be helpful – providing encouragement and/or a necessary dose of sobriety.

So, I’m going to highlight a couple of points from 4 articles that are helpful in clarifying one’s thinking as to whether or not entrepreneurship is for you, and critical aspects of the entrepreneurial journey.

1.“10 Tips For Starting A Small Business That You Haven’t Heard A Thousand Times Already” by Make Kappel, founder and CEO of Patriot Software, LLC, at Forbes.com.

Kappel provides a solid list of 10 items. The two that jumped out at me that must be considered by newbie entrepreneurs were the following:

● Quadruple Your Cost Estimates. “Once you start to develop your business idea, add up how much it will cost. You will need to factor in every business expense necessary to launch and operate. Some costs to keep in mind include your location, rent, supplies, marketing, and more. Come up with the most educated number you possibly can. Then, take whatever you think that dollar amount is and quadruple it. Seriously, quadruple it. You’ll experience unexpected costs of running a business around every corner. It’s better to be over prepared than short on funds when bills start to roll in.”

● Speak Up. “One challenge many business owners face is that they don’t know how to sell. It can be intimidating to share your business with the world, especially when you’re new. If you’re worried what people will think about your business, you need to get over it. If you can’t convince consumers to buy from you and support your company, it’s difficult to make money. Not outgoing? Fake it ‘till you make it. If you really want business success, you can’t afford to be shy.”

 

2. “Ten Tips For Starting A Business That Will Succeed” by Ebraheem Al Samadi, Founder and CEO of Forever Rose, at Entrepreneur.com.

Samadi’s 10 tips also are valuable, but he makes a couple of points about what you need to do before or beyond the business.

● Don’t Quit Your Day Job. “Start your business while you’re still employed. How long can most people live without money? Not long, and it may be a while before your new business actually makes any profits. Being employed while you’re starting out means you will have money in your pocket to invest into the business, as well as to ensure you are able to keep up with your monthly living expenses.”

● Start Networking and Marketing Before Starting Your Business. “Get clients or customers first. Don’t wait until you’ve officially started your business to line up clients, as without them, your business will not survive. Spend time in the commonplaces of your potential market in order to network or connect with people over online social platforms, such as LinkedIn, then set up meetings to build on these contacts and provide potential future leads. You can never start marketing yourself too soon.”

 

3. “The Complete, 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business” by Matthew McCreary, Entrepreneur.com.

I’m a big feedback guy when it comes to career and business. Among McCreary’s dozen worthwhile points on starting up a business, his points on having a plan as to how to receive feedback should not be ignored.

● “Here are six steps for handling feedback [technically, it’s seven steps, and the last one is important because feedback is both negative and positive]:

1.“Stop! Your brain will probably be in an excited state when receiving feedback, and it might start racing to bad conclusions. Slow down and take the time to consider carefully what you’ve just heard.

2.“Start by saying ‘thank you.’ People who give you negative feedback won’t expect you to thank them for it, but doing so will probably make them respect you and encourage them to continue be honest in the future.

3.“Look for the grain of truth. If someone doesn’t like one idea, it doesn’t mean they hate everything you’ve just said. Remember that these people are trying to help, and they might just be pointing out a smaller problem or solution that you should look into further.

4.“Seek out the patterns. If you keep hearing the same comments, then it’s time to start sitting up and taking notice.

5.“Listen with curiosity. Be willing to enter a conversation where the customer is in control.

6.“Ask questions. Figure out why someone liked or didn’t like something. How could you make it better? What would be a better solution?

“Also, one way to help you get through negative feedback is to create a ‘wall of love,’ where you can post all of the positive messages you’ve received. Not only will this wall of love inspire you, but you can use these messages later when you begin selling your product or service. Positive reviews online and word-of-mouth testimonials can help make a big difference.”

 

4. “So, You Want to Be an Entrepreneur: First, answer these questions to see if you have what it takes” by Kelly K. Spors at The Wall Street Journal.

This Journal piece indeed asks several important questions. But two jumped out at me.

● Can You Handle All Aspects of the Business When Starting Out? “Do you like all aspects of running a business? You better. In the early stages of a business, founders are often expected to

handle everything from billing customers to hiring employees to writing marketing materials. Some new entrepreneurs become annoyed that they’re spending the majority of their time on administration when they’d rather be focused on the part of the job they enjoy, says Donna Ettenson, vice president of the Association of Small Business Development Centers in Burke, Va.

‘All of a sudden, they have to think about all these things they never had to think about before,’ she says.”

● Are You a Self-Starter on Steroids? “Entrepreneurs face lots of discouragement. Potential buyers don’t return calls, business sours or you face repeated rejection. It takes willpower and an almost unwavering optimism to overcome these constant obstacles. John Gartner, an assistant clinical-psychiatry professor at Johns Hopkins University and author of the book ‘The Hypomaniac Edge,’ theorizes that many well-known entrepreneurs have a temperament called hypomania. They’re highly creative, energetic, impatient and very persistent — traits that help them persevere even when others lose faith.”

So, there are four valuable articles, and points that jumped out at me from each. If you come away from reading these pieces sure that entrepreneurship is for you, that’s a good indicator that taking the plunge into the waters of entrepreneurship just might be right for you.

 

from – SBECouncil.org – by Raymond J. Keating

 


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