For many people starting your own business is almost a rite of passage: a wonderful experience, but incredibly daunting. Nevertheless, there is always much you can learn from starting your own business, whether or not it succeeds or fails, which can prepare you for the future and also experiences outside of entrepreneurship. Here are some of the top ones considered to be the most important:
Organization is key
Take your time. Keep notes. Organize your paperwork. This is crucial as a start-up in order to monitor the company’s development and planning for scalability. Keeping updated spreadsheets, preparing templates, and organizing your paperwork is absolutely crucial. It saves up your time of having to find old documents, and makes it much easier to track progress.
You can’t plan for everything
You’ve got your business plan, you’ve prepared all the finances and documented everything – you’re ready to go. This is one more for those who are quite controlling and have a predisposition to order: you cannot plan for everything. I repeat, you cannot plan for everything. There will be unexpected payments which crop up, or unplanned expenses. Nothing ever goes as you plan for it to, and it is exciting. It’s all part of the start-up culture.
If you have a back-up plan, you’re planning to fail
Before starting my own company I had read Napoleon Hill’s Think and Grow Rich. This notion was one which came up in the book, and intrigued me quite deeply. Many people say that it is important to bootstrap, and have an exit strategy just in case things do not go to plan. But if we think about this idea in more depth, by preparing an exit strategy you are already lacking faith in your idea. If you do not believe in yourself or the idea, perhaps you should reconsider whether or not the start-up is even a good idea. More often than not, it is the people who push through the mud, and have entire faith that their product or service can deliver and is necessary tend to be the companies which succeed. Do not forget, Pemberton only sold $50 worth of Coca Cola in his first trading year but he believed in the product enough to keep going.
Taking that step
Deciding to start your own business is a very daunting process. Accepting that you are likely to be living off canned food in candlelight for a few months (a bit of an exaggeration) can be very difficult to realize, and many people will quit halfway through because they find the whole process too demanding. However, if you manage to follow through, not only is it exciting from the business point of view, but can be seen as a personal achievement. I often liken this to the scene in Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade where he takes the step into the unknown, relying purely on faith, and reaps the rewards. This links back very much to the former point, in that having faith in not only your product, but yourself, is crucial. Many people tend to discover more about themselves when struggling through the initial stages of a start-up.
Objectification & Separation
As much as you may adore your business, the product, and your team, it is important that you remain somewhat objective and separate your personal life from the business. Otherwise, big decisions become difficult, such as whether or not to keep a member of the team on, whether or not to discontinue a certain line, or even whether or not the profitability of the company is there. An easy way, as a beginner, I found was to make monthly or bi-annual targets. It gave me clear sight of whether or not we were really doing well.
Criticism vs. Cynicism
There will always be people telling you that:
- “You won’t last five months.”
- “It’s a stupid idea, no one will buy it.”
- “You can’t do that.”
This is pure cynicism. Utter disbelief, or sometimes jealousy, in what you are doing. Pay no attention to this – these are people that will try and break you, when you are simply choosing a more adventurous path in life. However, pay attention to criticism, especially when it is constructive. If someone tells you that perhaps a different color will be more appealing, or lowering the price might be a good idea, then take these into consideration. Filter out the useless cynicism, and engage in constructive criticism.
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