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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.

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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.

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    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:

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    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?

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    Brian Lee

    Chief of Product Management at Lifehack

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    Last Updated on July 22, 2019

    10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

    10 Killer Cover Letter Tips to Nail Every Interview Opportunity

    A cover letter is an introduction to what will be found in the resume. In a cover letter, the applicant is able to use a conversational tone, to explain why the attached resume is worth reviewing, why the applicant is qualified, and to express that it’s the best application the reader will see for the open position.

    Employers do read your cover letter, so consider the cover letter an elevator pitch. The cover letter is the overview of your professional experience. The information in the body presents the key qualifications, the things that matter. The cover letter is the “here is what will be found in my presentation”, which is the resume in this case.

    Something really important to point out- a cover letter should be written from scratch each time. Great cover letters are the ones that express why the applicant is the best for the specific job being applied to. Using a general cover letter will not lead to great results.

    This doesn’t mean that your cover letter should repeat your most valuable qualifications, it just means that you don’t want to recycle a templated, general letter, not specific to the position being applied to.

    Here’re 10 cover letter tips to nail every interview.

    1. Take a few minutes to learn about the company so that you use an appropriate tone

    Like people, every company has its own culture and tone. Doing a bit of research to learn what that is will be extremely beneficial. For instance, a technology start-up has a different culture and tone than a law firm. Using the same tone for both would be a mistake.

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    2. Don’t use generic cover letter terms — be specific to each company and position

    Hiring managers and recruiters can easily identify generic cover letters. They read cover letters and resumes almost every day. Using words and terms like: “your company” instead of naming the actual company, and “your website” instead of “in your about us section on www.abc123.com”, are mistakes. Be as specific as possible, it’s worth the additional few minutes.

    3. Address the reader directly if you can

    It is an outdated practice to use “To Whom it May Concern” if you know the person that will be reviewing your documents. You may wonder how you’ll know this information; this is where attention to detail and/or a bit of research comes into play.

    For example, if you are applying for a job using LinkedIn, many times, the job poster is listed within the job post. This is the person reading your documents when you “apply now”. Addressing that person directly will be much more effective than using a generic term.

    4. Don’t repeat the information found in the resume

    A resume is an action-based document. When presenting information in a resume, the tone isn’t conversational but leading with action instead, for example: “Analyze sales levels and trends, and initiate action as necessary to ensure attainment of sales objectives”.

    In a cover letter, you have the opportunity to deliver your elevator pitch: “I have positively impacted business development and growth initiatives, having combined two regions into one and achieving 17% in compound growth over the following three-year period”.

    Never use your resume qualifications summary as a paragraph in your resume. This would be repeating information. Keep in mind that your cover letter is the introduction to your resume- the elevator pitch- this is your opportunity to show more personality.

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    5. Tell the company what you can do for them

    As mentioned above, this is your chance to explain to the company why you are the best person for the open position. This is where you tell the company what you can do for them: “If hired as the next (job title) with (company name), I will cultivate important partnerships that will enhance operations while boosting revenue.”

    Many times, we want to take the reader through the journey of our life. It is important to remember that the reader needs to know why you are the best person for the job. Lead with that.

    6. Showcase the skills and qualifications specific to the position

    A lot of people are Jack’s and Jill’s of all trades. This can be a great big picture, but not great to showcase in a cover letter or resume.

    Going back to what was mentioned before, cover letters and resumes are scanned through ATS. Being as specific as possible to the position being applied to is important.

    If you are applying for a coding position, it may not be important to mention your job in high school as a dog walker. Sticking to the exact job being applied to is the most effective way to write your cover letter.

    7. Numbers are important — show proof

    It always helps to show proof when stating facts: “I have a reputation for delivering top-level performance and supporting growth so that businesses can thrive; established industry relationships that generated double digit increase in branch revenues”.

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    8. Use testimonials and letters of recommendations

    A cover letter is a great place to add testimonials and information from your letter of recommendations. Mirroring the example above, here is a good way to use that information:

    I have a history of consistently meeting and exceeding metrics: “(Name) rose through the company and became a Subject Matter Expert, steadily providing exceptional quality of work.”- Team Manager.

    9. Find the balance between highlighting your achievements and bragging

    There is fine line between telling someone about your achievements and bragging. My advice is to always use facts first, and support that with an achievement related to the fact, as shown in the examples above.

    You don’t want to have a cover letter with nothing but bullet points of what you have achieved. I can’t stress this enough — cover letters are your elevator pitch, the introduction to your resume.

    10. Check your length — you want to provide no more than an introduction

    The general rule for most positions is one page in length. Positions such as professors and doctors will require more in length (and they actually use CV’s); however, for most positions, one page is sufficient. Remember, the cover letter is an introduction and elevator pitch. Follow the logic below to get you started:

    Start with: “I am ready to deliver impeccable results as (name of company) next (Position Title).

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    What you know and like about the company, what initiatives, missions, goals resonate with you: “I read/listened to an interview that your Chief of Staff did on www.abc123.com. His/her statement regarding important up and coming employee engagement initiatives really resonated with me”.

    Overview of your qualifications and experience: “I have a strong background in developing, monitoring, and controlling annual processes and operational plans related to community relations and social initiatives”.

    Highlight/ Back up your facts with achievements: “I’m a vision-driven leader, with a proven history of innovation and mentorship; I led an initiative that reduced homelessness in four counties and received recognition from the local Homeless Network and the County Commissioner”.

    Close with what will you do for the company: “As your next (job title), I am focused on hitting the ground running as a transformational leader who is driven by challenge, undeterred by obstacles, and committed to the growth of (name of company).

    Bonus Advice

    When applying for a job online or in person, a resume and a cover letter are standard submissions. At least 98% of the time, both your resume and cover letter and scanned via ATS (applicant tracking systems). You can learn more about that process here.

    The information provided in a cover letter should be written and organized to be compatible with these scans, so that it can make to a human; from there, you want to make sure that you capture the recruiter and/or hiring managers attention.

    More About Nailing Your Dream Job

    Featured photo credit: Kaleidico via unsplash.com

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