Advertising
Advertising

What You Should Know Before Starting Your Very First Business

What You Should Know Before Starting Your Very First Business

This answer found in Quora by Oliver Emberton helps to describe what all first time entrepreneurs should know before starting their very first business.

11 years ago I was an impoverished student about to graduate with £14k in debt. I did what any sensible person would do in this situation, and started my own business.

Advertising

I co-founded with someone who proved to be less than ideal when he punched me in the face during our second board meeting. He owned 49% of my company. Our first annual profit – £200 – was barely enough to buy one iPod touch.

Advertising

    A decade later I’m almost embarrassingly happy and successful, but the road there was long and winding. Here’s some of what I learned:

    Advertising

    On you as a founder

    • Firstly, do it.
      Every single person – from my family to my closest friends – ultimately doubted that this was a good idea. (Many started being supportive, and changed their minds when times got harder). If you feel compelled to do it, don’t let anyone stop you, and don’t expect anyone to support you either.
    • Start with total brutal honesty.
      I’d say this is Rule #1 in life. Everybody deludes themselves in some way – and in groups it can often be easiest to delude each other. But the more honestly you can see the world, the better your decisions will be. Doubt yourself. Question everything. If someone put a gun to your head, could you tear holes in your ideas? When your plans can withstand that, they’re probably pretty good.
    • Practice saying no. A lot.
      You will almost certainly want to do a hundred different things. Almost all business founders are like this by nature – they see opportunity everywhere and change the world (I’m certainly no exception). But this is a terrible way to run a business. You need to focus on doing a very small number of things really well, and that means saying no to 1,000 other things. This is harder than you think, and far more powerful than you can imagine.
    • Growing past 2-3 people will cripple most founders.
      Most small businesses are started by a person who’s good at what their business does: accountants start accountancy companies, bakers start bakeries; I was a geek who – at first – started a web design company. These people will find it extremely hard to grow past 2-3 people; most often they struggle to hire someone ‘as good as themselves’, and end up tired and frustrated trying to do everything. If you only read one business book, get the E-Myth Revisited and learn what to do about it, or at least skim these free notes.

    On your business idea

    • Don’t be afraid to change tacks.
      There is a saying that no business plan survives first contact with the customer. Nintendo started by making playing cards. Facebook was designed for university students. My own company built websites for 10 years before changing to software. Changing direction doesn’t have to make you weak or indecisive – you may have to adjust to find your perfect niche. Just try to do it early and avoid doing it too often.
    • Just one. Powerful. Idea.
      You can blend complementary ideas (e.g. a restaurant with comedy shows) but not totally disparate ones (a restaurant that sells management consulting services).  When you start pick out just a few key features of your idea, and focus on making those amazing. Say no to everything else.
    • A successful business is either loved or needed.
      It’s exceedingly rare to be both, although as owners we always like to think our companies are loved! (see Rule #1: be honest with yourself). Ensure you’re essential or utterly irresistible. Most often if you sell to businesses you have to be needed – like accountants, lawyers, web designers; if you sell to consumers you need to be loved – like iPhones, movie theatres, cosmetics.
    • Imagine being an outside investor.
      Pretend to be someone with a lot of self-made money but not much time. Meet yourself right now, and listen to your own explanation of your business. What do you think? Does it sound like a good investment? Once again – be honest. (Sidenote: it’s ok to have a business which isn’t planning to be a big financial success. But very few entrepreneurs believe they’re starting one of those).
    • Align with your passions.
      True passion is infectious. It will win over doubting prospects. It can make staff loyal to you. Passion will give you boundless energy and keep you going when others would throw in the towel. Ultimately if you build a business around something you’re not passionate about – and I made this mistake – you’ll wake up one day and think “what have I gotten myself into?”

    On marketing

    • Marketing isn’t about changing people’s minds.
      Your job isn’t to convince people to want what you’re offering. It’s to help your prospects convince themselves that what you’re offering will help them get what they really want.
    • A few things not to skimp upon.
      Your logo, tagline and website are utterly essential; they’re the first impression you’ll make to most people, and your only message while you’re not there. (If you sell face-to-face to businesses add business cards to that list). If you need professional help, get it. Don’t be tempted to hire your teenage nephew, or do it yourself. This is akin to being your own lawyer, and equally disastrous. You don’t have to pay a fortune – just keep your requirements simple and emphasise quality over quantity. Don’t worry about letterheads or compliment slips or custom email footers or any of that crap until you’re making money.
    • Advertising is a tax you pay for being unremarkable.
      A good idea is easy to sell; a great one will sell and spread itself. The harder you have to work to explain and sell what you do, the more your idea needs work. There are two solutions: simplify what you do, or change tacks entirely. You won’t sell more of a bad idea by making it more complicated.

    Everyone has to find their own path, but you can save yourself a lot of time and stress by learning from the best and brightest who have come before you. I highly recommend reading just three brilliant books: The E-Myth Revisited7 Habits of Highly Effective People and the Personal MBA; they’re worth at least a year’s head start by themselves.

    Everyone I know who has ever tried had a single common refrain: they wish they did it sooner. If you think it’s your calling, what’s your excuse?

    Advertising

    More by this author

    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

    How to Set Ambitious Career Goals (With Examples) 7 Best Project Management Apps to Boost Productivity 100 Incredible Life Hacks That Make Life So Much Easier 10 Best New Products That People Don’t Know About Book Summary: The Power of Habit in 2 Minutes

    Trending in Work

    1 Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change) 2 8 Things to Consider When Making a Career Change 3 6 Important Interview Questions for Employers to Ask 4 15 Best Interview Questions to Ask Employees 5 10 Ways to Build Positive And Effective Work Relationships

    Read Next

    Advertising
    Advertising
    Advertising

    Last Updated on January 13, 2020

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Is It Time for a Career Change? (And How to Make the Change)

    Are you challenged at work? Do you regret career decisions? Are you happy? If the answer to the questions leads to a negative feeling, it is time to determine next steps.

    Many people settle for a career that no longer brings satisfaction. Most will respond by stating, “I am surviving” if a colleague asks them “How’s work?”

    Settling for a job to pay bills and maintain a lifestyle is stagnation. You can re-direct the journey of a career with confidence by taking control of future decisions. After all, you deserve to be live a happy life that will offer a work-life balance.

    Let’s look at the reasons why you need a career change and how to choose a career for a more fulfilling life.

    How to Know if You Need a Career Change?

    The challenges of dissatisfaction in a career can have a negative impact on our mental health. As a result, our mental health can lead to the obvious appearance of stress, aging, weight gain and internal health issues.

    You deserve a career that will fulfill the inner desire of true happiness. Here are common factors that it is time for you to change your career.

    Physical Signs

    Are you aging since you started your job? Do you have anxiety? What about work-related injuries?

    It feels amazing to receive a pay cheque, but you deserve to work in an environment that brings out the best of you. If the work environment is hazardous, speak to your boss about alternative options.

    In the case that colleagues or your boss take advantage of your kindness, feeling the anxiety of fear of losing your job because of a high-stress environment may not be right for you.

    Mental Signs

    One out of five Americans has mental health issues, according to Mental Health America.[1] In most cases, it is related to stress.

    Advertising

    I remember working at a job in a work environment where harassment was acceptable. I had to walk on eggshells to avoid crossing the line with colleagues. My friends started to notice the difference in that I seemed out of character. It was then that I knew that changing a career to freelancing was the right decision.

    Here is a list of mental signs of workplace unhappiness:

    • The tension in your neck
    • Difficulties with sleeping
    • Unable to concentrate
    • High anxiety
    • Depression

    If you start to feel your self-esteem is diminishing, it is time to consider if working in a high-stress industry is for you. The truth is, this negative energy will be transferred to people in your life like friends and family.

    Are You Sure You’re Not Changing for the Wrong Reason?

    Most people that feel they need a career are frustrated with their situation at work. Do you really understand your current situation at work?

    The reason it is important to think about the work situation is some people decide to change career for factors that are insignificant. Factors that can potentially change if the person works in a different department or new organization.

    Here is a list of unimportant factors to think about before you decide to make the transition:

    Desire for an Increase of Salary

    The desire for a higher income can persuade some to believe they are in the wrong career. The issue with this is more money requires more time in the office or taking on several positions at a time.

    At times, pursuing a high-income role can be the complete opposite of what one is expected. It is what happens when a colleague leaves a company to a new one and returns several years later.

    Overnight Decision

    Let’s face it. We make overnight decisions when stressed out or disappointed with situations at work. The problem with a quick decision is the negative and positive points is overlooked.

    Rejected for a Promotion

    I have heard stories of managers that applied ten times for a position throughout a 5-year period. Yes, it sounds to be a lengthy process, but at times, a promotion requires time. Avoid changing a career if you do not see the results of a promotion currently.

    Advertising

    Bored at Work

    Think deeply about this point. If you work a job that is repetitive, it is normal to feel bored. You can spice it up by changing the appearance of your desk, socializing with new employees in a different department, joining a leadership committee at work or coming to work with enthusiasm. Sometimes, all it takes is you to change jobs into a fun situation.

    A career change can take time, networking, education and the job search process can be a journey. Here is a list of things to consider before making a final decision:

    • How long have you worked in your career?
    • What is the problem at work? Do you work well with the team?
    • Do you receive recognition?
    • Can you consider working in a new department?

    If after reviewing your work situation and none of the above recommendations can help, then it’s time to make a career change.

    How a Career Change Will Change Your Life

    I have a friend that works in the medical industry. She was once a nurse working directly with patients in one of the top hospitals in her area. After five years, she started to internalize the issues with her patients to the point where she felt depressed after work hours. It impacted her relationship with her family and she almost lost herself.

    One day, she decided to wake up and take control of her destiny. She started applying for new medical jobs in the office. It meant working on medical documentation of patients which is not an ideal career based on what society expects a medical professional to perform. But she started to feel happier.

    It is a classic example of a person that was negatively impacted by issues at work, stayed in the same industry but changed careers.

    A career change can fulfill a lifelong dream, increase one’s self-esteem or revive the excitement for one’s work.

    You know a career change can be the right decision to make if you experience one or all of these:

    • Working in a negative workplace: Don’t be discouraged. A negative workplace can be changed by working at a new organization.
    • Working with a difficult boss: The challenges of working with a difficult boss can be stressful. All it takes is communication. You can address the issue directly with a manager professionally and respectfully.
    • Feeling lost about what you do: Most people stay at their jobs and settle for mediocrity because of the fear of failure or the unknown. The rise to success often comes with working a tedious role or stepping outside of one’s comfort zone. If you fear the idea of being involved in activities that are new, remember that life is short. Mediocrity will only continue to make you feel as if life is passing you by.

    How to Make a Career Change Successfully

    The ultimate key to success is to go through a career transition step by step to avoid making the wrong decision.

    1. Write a Career Plan

    A career plan has a dead line for action steps that includes taking new courses, learning a new language, networking or improving issues at work.[2] A career plan should be kept in your wallet because it will motivate you to keep pursuing the role.

    Advertising

    You can learn how to set your career plan here.

    2. Weigh Your Options

    If you have a degree in Accounting, write down five positions in this industry of interest. The good news is diplomas and degrees can be used to a variety of roles to choose.

    You don’t have to stick to what society holds a top job. In the end, choosing the right role that will make you happy is priceless.

    3. Be Real About the Pros and Cons

    It is time to be honest about strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the job market that are impacting the current situation.

    A SWOT Analysis of a career can include:[3]

    • Economic factors
    • Direct competition: Is this role in high demand?
    • Location: Do you need to move? If the goal is to work in tech and living in Cincinnati is not realistic, consider moving to San Francisco.
    • Achievements: To stand out from the competition achievements like awards, committee involvement, freelance work or volunteering is a recipe for success.
    • Education: Do you need to go back to school? Education can be expensive. However, online courses, webinars or self-study is an option.

      A career blueprint is the first step to creating realistic goals. A person without goals will be disappointed without a clear direction of what to do next.

      4. Find a Mentor or Career Coach

      A mentor or a career coach that works in the desired position can share the pros and cons of working in the role. Here is a list of questions to ask a mentor:

      • What is required to be successful in the role?
      • What certification or educational development is needed?
      • What are the challenges of the role?
      • Is there potential for career advancement?

      A chat at a coffee shop with a mentor can change your mind about the desire for a career change.

      Find out how to pick a good mentor for yourself in this article: How to Find a Mentor That Will Help You Succeed

      Advertising

      5. Research Salary

      Some people decide to change careers for a role that pays less or perks like benefits to make up for the difference in previous to potential salary.

      It can reveal the cities throughout the country that offer a higher salary for those that have an interest in relocating for work.

      6. Be Realistic

      If your goal is to move up into an executive position, it is time to be honest about where you are in your career.

      For example, if boardroom meetings, high-level discussions about financials or attending weekly networking events are boring, an executive role may not be right for you. If you are an introvert and working with people every day is nerve wrecking, you need to reconsider a job in sales.

      Ask yourself if you can work in this role for the next five years of your life. If other benefits that come with the role are enticing, other roles are fit that will make you happy.

      7. Volunteer First

      A person that wants to become a manager should take on volunteer opportunities to experience the reality of the position.

      Becoming a committee member to pursue a presidential opportunity can provide a perspective on leadership, maintaining a budget and public speaking.

      Volunteer in a role until you are certain that it is the right opportunity.

      8. Prepare Your Career Tools

      I recommend asking a boss, colleague or mentor for career tools. If you prefer professional assistance, you can seek out resume writing assistance. Here is a list of things to consider when preparing career tools:

      • Online search: Search your name online to see what shows up. I recommend searching images that are on Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat or other sites on a personal account. The last thing you want to realize is the job search is unsuccessful because there is unprofessional content you posted online.
      • Be LinkedIn ready: Recruiters conduct a LinkedIn search to see if the work experience is the same on a resume. Remember to change the wording on LinkedIn from the resume, or it will appear there was no effort put into creating the profile.
      • Portfolio: A portfolio of work is recommended for people that work in the arts, writing, graphic design and other fields. I recommend a portfolio online and one that is available in hand when attending job interviews or networking meetups.
      • Cover letter: A good cover writer will always impress your potential employers. Here’s how to write a killer cover letter that stands out from others.

      Bottom Line

      It takes time to move towards a new career. Pay attention to the physical and mental signs to maintain your health. You deserve to work in happiness and come home stress-free. If you avoid the common mistakes people make, you will find a job and discover the role in a career field that is the best fit with your skillsets.

      Master these action steps and changing career paths will be on your terms to make the best decision for your future.

      More About Career Change

      Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

      Reference

      [1] Mental Health America: The State of Mental Health in America
      [2] MIT Global Education & Career Development: Make a Career Plan
      [3] Creately: Personal SWOT Analysis to Assess and Improve Yourself

      Read Next