Most entrepreneurs will tell you that starting a business is one of the hardest things they’ve ever done, even with a fantastic business plan and a reasonable path to success. When the buck starts and stops with you, the pressure is perpetually on, and even successful enterprises experience many near-death moments before settling into an operating formula that works. While there is no way to anticipate or sidestep all of the challenges you’ll face as you embark upon entrepreneurship, the following valuable tips from entrepreneurs in our community can help you avoid common pitfalls.
Choose founding partners wisely.
No one cares about a business as much as its owners, and there are endless details that need to be addressed when founding and growing a company. For this reason, it’s often optimal to have one or two partners who have as much drive as you do to see your company succeed. But a core team won’t flourish on passion alone. When determining partners, consider 1) varying skill sets; it’s best to have complementary, not overlapping specialties, 2) level of commitment; you need marathon runners, not sprinters, and 3) compatibility; a business partnership is essentially a corporate marriage, so you’d better make sure you can tolerate waking up to, going to bed with, and recovering from quarrels with your partners.
Get your paperwork in order from the get-go.
Spark customer and jewelry designer Carey Singsank wishes she’d known the importance of getting her financial, licensure, insurance, and business correctly set up (sole proprietor/LLC/Corp). She recommends being a “slight hoarder in keeping all of that paperwork.” While another customer and owner of CCPhotos owner Pageio Gordon adds, “Use contracts for everything, especially when dealing with friends and family.”
Expect your job to be 10 percent creativity and 90 percent administrative.
So many people chase their dreams only to find that the fun part (creating, executing, networking) takes a serious back seat to the minutiae of running a business. Go into your endeavor with the mindset that the majority of your time will be spent slogging through the small but critical must-dos and you won’t mind them nearly as much.
Have a financial plan and backup plan.
It takes money to run a business, even without employees. It takes more money to grow a business. Before you launch your company, make sure you have the financial support you need to get your concept off the ground and keep it running while you get your financial footing. Also, ensure you have a plan B. If you don’t have financial support, you may want to consider relying on other sources of income while building your brand.
Delegation is the key.
When you first start your business, you may find yourself hoarding responsibilities and micromanaging to ensure quality control. But you cannot and should not do everything; it’s a recipe for burnout and overwhelm. Instead, get help from qualified people.
Marketing is critical.
As graphic designer and Spark user De’Anna Ernst says, “Even with a good education, years of experience, and talent, [customers] are not going to beat a path to your door.” In the age of information bombardment, daily over stimulus, and endless competition, it’s not enough to create a brilliant business offering. You have to market hard and tirelessly to get noticed and generate new customers.
It’s important to know if and when to quit.
It can take years for a business to become successful. But that doesn’t mean that a struggling business is a stepping stone to a fruitful one. As you progress with your business and get to know more about its real potential, it’s important to evaluate and reevaluate whether there is a clear path to profitability and sustainability. If there isn’t, it’s wise to either pivot or give yourself a realistic deadline for deciding whether or not there is value in continuing your endeavor. If you decide to close down your company, don’t look at it as failure. Every seasoned entrepreneur will tell you that the misses are as valuable as the hits, and the skills, wisdom, and guts you gain in starting–and even closing–your own business will help you with future efforts.
Erika Lenkert founded gluten-free food magazine-turned-website GFF: Gluten-Free Forever magazine in 2014 and has helped launch successful ecommerce and content startups since 1999.