The best way to get advice about starting a business is to ask someone who has done it. Here are top tips about launching a business from small business owners in various fields.
Be good at one thing first
It could be the best service, the friendliest staff, the lowest price, or the way you beat deadlines every time. In the early days, decide on what your biggest customer service strength will be and focus on that first. This will build your reputation.
Find a mentor
It’s easier to learn from someone else’s mistakes than to make them all yourself. A mentor can be a good source of advice and may also connect you with their networks. Some organizations offer formal mentoring or coaching. Or you can look for an informal mentor by talking with others in your field.
Surround yourself with capable people
There is a saying that you are the average of the 5 people you spend the most time with. In other words, it matters who you choose to work with. Look for people with qualities you respect and need, have experience and knowledge that complements yours, and have influence in your industry.
Understand your industry and market
Having hands-on experience and contacts in your industry will help you assess demand for your product or service and find the right price point. It will also help you find good staff, attract clients quickly, and stay on top of trends or changes that could affect your profits.
Assume you have competition
Always manage your company as though you have stiff competition, even if you don’t. It will force you to run your business better—and help you hold on to your clients if a new competitor comes along.
Short-term goals can help you feel like you’re making progress. They can also be stepping stones to long-term goals. Write all your goals down, review them often, and revise them as needed. Goals could include things like sales per year, number of employees, number of clients, or number of products.
Plan well and go slowly
This is where it pays to write a business plan. Before you make any changes, go back to your plan, ensure there is a good reason for the change, and consider possible consequences. Remember, you want growth, but growing too quickly can cause quality problems and delays, which can cause you to lose customers and your reputation.
No matter how well you know your business, keep an eye out for change. You may be a top chef, but if you don’t stay up-to-date on restaurant trends, your business could be overtaken by others who are more in touch. Sign up for workshops and courses to keep learning.
Attend industry events, like lunches and breakfast meetings. This is a great way to learn from others and make yourself known. Look into events hosted by your local chamber of commerce or industry association.
Keep your spending low
Only spend money on items that serve a purpose: nearly all of your spending should be aimed at growth. It’s fine to rent an office, but it doesn’t have to be the biggest one in the building. And start with second-hand furniture. You can upgrade as your business grows.
Don’t start something you can’t finish
A successful business needs your full attention. If this is not a good time for you to dive in, it may be best to wait. This is even more true if the business you want to start needs a large upfront investment. There is some risk in starting even the smallest business (for example, the risk of giving up paid work, then not finding any clients). So before you jump in, be sure you are ready.
These tips apply to almost all businesses. Keep them in mind—but don’t stop here. Take your research further by reading or asking about tips that relate to your own business area. Combining general tips with advice about your own industry will set you up for success.