Smile Uphill: 7 Lessons For New Business Owners
by Theresa Claire, CFP®
Before my career as a Financial Planner, I was an entrepreneur who created a card game and other consumer goods. While I exited that business years ago, the memories are still fresh. The experience was wonderful but not easy. Here are the seven lessons I took away from my adventure.
- Smile when running uphill. Running is difficult; starting a business is hard; I'm not sure which is more challenging. At times, the progress of my venture was so slow and painful that it felt like trying to push a boulder up a hill. To give my mind a break, I ran at least a few times per week. My two-mile loop included a long uphill stretch near the end. I smiled as I passed cars coming down the hill because it helped me remember how far I had come, and smiling allowed me to share my joy. I felt the same excitement when I told people about my business venture; I could not help but smile despite the difficulties. Remember, as you climb your hill, you never know who is watching and who you inspire by challenging yourself. So smile as you climb.
- Get the numbers right from the start. After you complete the business plan, it's easy to start right into business development and put off organizing your finances. Who has time to keep track of receipts? You may tell yourself, "I'll do it later, at the end of the year or during tax time," but never actually find the time. As long as you get a digtal copy, it will be fine, right? Wrong. Disorganized books lead to problems like failure to raise funding, IRS trouble due to mistakes or "forgetting" to file, or additional costs to have someone correct your errors. It's much easier and cheaper to start with clean books and build on a solid foundation than to go back and try to fix it later.
- Build your network. Before starting my entrepreneurial journey, I was afraid of telling people about my idea for fear that they would steal it. However, through networking with other entrepreneurs, I found a camaraderie of cooperation rather than competition. Anyone who has started or operated a business understands the struggle a new business owner faces trying to get off the ground. As a result of sharing my idea, I met more people willing to offer advice and make introductions than I ever thought possible. Your network will become your first cheerleaders, referral sources, and customers.
- Go to market. I thought I needed to have everything perfect before I could sell anything. Then I heard a quote from Reid Hoffman, "If you're not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you've launched too late." Don't be afraid to sell something, and do it quickly. You'll learn so much from your customers once you have them, but if you keep creating inside your safe incubator bubble, you'll never know how the market feels about your product or service. Going to market will help you make changes and predictions about the business with actual revenue.
- Keep selling! Most entrepreneurs are not salespeople. In fact, selling makes a lot of people uncomfortable. However, to create a successful business, you need to sell consistently. If sales don't come naturally, you need practice. You cannot expect to be good at something if you only do it once in a while. If you want to be better at something, do it more. Selling is the same way. It is very hard until you have lots of practice.
- Have faith. Believing in your ability to succeed will help you overcome the hundreds of obstacles you encounter. However, doubts will creep in from your insecurity and the negativity you hear from others. Those thoughts will keep you from success without some spiritual practice. I used prayer and scripture to remember that I was not alone and journaling to keep track of my thoughts. Whether you use prayer, meditation, therapy, or faith exercise, find some outlet to discipline your mind to eliminate the doubt and focus on success.
- Own it. Once you decide to start a business, be proud! I caught myself saying, "I am trying to start a company" instead of "I am an entrepreneur; I started a company." Your words matter. If you believe in your product or service, others will believe it too. Confidence and passion are contagious.
For further inspiration, read Launch: The Critical 90 Days from Idea to Market by Scott Duffy. This excellent inspirational how-to book provides practical advice to help wannabe entrepreneurs launch a new business. If you are actively pursuing your business idea, plan well and ask for help. Check out one of the hundreds of Small Business Development Centers or The Gayle & Bill Cook Center for Entrepreneurship at Ivy Tech Community College, in Bloomington, Indiana. The financial advisors at Hurlow Wealth Management Group can help you gain confidence by reviewing cash flow and expenses to ensure your business is financially viable. Schedule a complimentary consultation today.