Starting a business for the first time can be tricky, but it’s not impossible. Follow these sage advice tips to keep your head above water in the beginning stages.
By: Matt Knee Founder and President of MyNewCompany.com
Starting a new business for the very first time can be intimidating. As a first-time entrepreneur, your nerves may be wracked and you’re diving into a bit of the unknown. The good news is that overcoming some of the challenges that come along with first-time entrepreneurship can be extremely rewarding and satisfying. There is more advice for first-time entrepreneurs than there are hours in the day, so I’ve gathered some of the best I’ve heard over the years and distilled them down to the 8 best success tips for first-time entrepreneurs.
Drill down to the minimum viable product (MVP)
One of the biggest areas where first-time entrepreneurs fail is in failing to launch. They spend so much time perfecting an idea that it never actually gets off the ground or offered for sale. With an MVP, you identify the core problem people are trying to solve and build a problem around just that - no bells and whistles. If you can effectively solve the problem, you can launch and gather information and insights from customers as you go. From there, you can focus on iterating new versions of the MVP and adding on only what customers have expressed they need. It saves time, money and a lot of heartache.
2. Provide Top-Tier Customer Service
This one goes hand-in-hand with #1. An MVP should be tightly coupled with great customer service, which is where you’ll garner the most insights and provide a lot of value. You don’t need a perfect product, but you do need customer support staff available to make your customers feel valued and to address any issues that arise. People form relationships with people, not products. By making your brand shine with great people, you will have positive feelings attached to the product you sell. From there come positive reviews/testimonials and great referrals.
3. Find Great Employees
A company is only as good as the people that make it run. A bad hire can really throw a wrench in the works and make it more difficult for even the best employees to do their jobs. Do your due diligence in researching prospective hires and ensuring that they have the appropriate background and experience. Culture fit is also an important consideration. People who jive well together produce the best results because they’re happy at work. A negative employee can be like a cancer that eats away at the spirits of the rest of the team. If you make a bad hire, don’t be afraid to make tough decisions to make things right.
4. Don’t Skimp on Marketing
As a first-time entrepreneur, it’s easy to get lost in the weeds of ensuring your product is perfect, that customers are happy and that business operations are running smoothly. All those are essential parts of running a successful business, but marketing is, too. You may have the best product the world has ever seen, but if the world never actually sees it, your business will fail. Whether you work with an agency or choose to do marketing in-house, it needs to exist to get your product in front of the right eyes at the right time and increase sales.
5. Keep Finances in Check
This is perhaps the #1 area where first-time entrepreneurs fail. Running a business requires money, and if you aren’t managing yours well, your business is at risk. You need to stay on top of your income and expenses to ensure that you’re not going to run out of cash. By keeping a close eye on the balance sheet, you can adjust spending as needed and keep overhead as low as possible. Being frugal isn’t a bad thing; unnecessary expenses should be avoided. Once you’ve established the business to a point where you see meaningful revenue, you can adjust spending accordingly. Until then, keep costs as low as possible and monitor what is happening with cash flow.
6. Be Open to Advice
Being a first-time entrepreneur is hard enough, but trying to do it solo can be disheartening. Whether you’re in business with a partner or going it alone, you don’t have to isolate. Talk to other entrepreneurs about your venture and be open to receiving advice. Take what you like and leave the rest behind.
7. Get Enough Sleep
It may sounds trite but getting enough sleep is extremely important for first-time entrepreneurs. Studies show that poor sleep quality is connected to reduced grey matter volume in the brain’s frontal lobe - the area that helps control executive function and working memory. In laymen’s terms? Your work quality and ability to be mentally alert suffer when you aren’t well-rested. Get the right amount of shut-eye, even if it seems like there’s no time. The trade-off for working one extra hour vs. getting an extra hour of sleep may be greater than you think.
8. Know Your Competition
Another great pitfall for first-time entrepreneurs is being so self-focused that they forget to look at who their competitors are and what they’re doing. If you haven’t already (and hopefully you have), complete market research on competitive products to establish what sets you apart. When you start doing marketing, these are the bullet points on which you’ll want to focus. Set up Google Alerts to monitor what is happening in your industry and what moves competitors are making. Keep your customers close, and your competitors closer.
Following the tips above can provide some peace-of-mind and help you elevate your new business to the next level. Before you know it, you’ll be a seasoned entrepreneur, sharing your own sage advice with people new to the game.
Matt Knee is Founder and President of MyNewCompany.com. MyNewCompany.com, started in 2001, makes starting and running a business simple, fast, and inexpensive for entrepreneurs and their advisors. They offer complete incorporation and LLC formation packages. To date, they have started over 50,000 companies in all 50 states.