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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 10, 2020

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Feeling Stuck in Your Career? How to Break Free and Get Ahead

    Have you ever caught yourself in a daydream where you’ve gone for that upcoming promotion, and you’re now the boss at work? Or how about the one where you’ve summoned up all your courage to quit a job where you’re feeling stuck in your career and live your dream instead? Or when you’ve changed career paths to do what really makes you happy?

    Then, you snapped back to reality and realized that you’re not the boss, not living your dream, and not even happy in the career path that you’re on.

    Over the years I’ve worked with hundreds of individuals who’ve told me they feel stuck in their careers, that something had to change for them to break free and be happy, but they lacked the confidence to take that step. My mission is to make sure that nobody feels stuck in their career because of a momentary lapse in bravery that’s dragged on for too long.

    Read on to find out how you can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work. .

    Here are my top ten tips for becoming unstuck in your career.

    1. Make Time for You

    If you’re feeling stuck, frustrated, or unhappy with how your career is panning out, the first step is to work out why.

    Maybe you’ve arrived in your current career by accident and haven’t ever made time to deliberately think or plan what you’d love to do and how you’d get there.

    Prioritizing time to think is the first step you need to take to stop feeling stuck and start getting ahead. Book some time into your day where you can have an uninterrupted meeting with yourself. This is your thinking time.

    Work out what makes you happy at work, what doesn’t, and where you might want to go. Decide on the steps you want to take to progress your career in the direction that you want it to take.

    For example, are there training days, evening courses, or online learning that you can do? Have you considered getting a mentor to help you get ahead?

    By booking in a meeting with yourself, it signals it’s important (to you and your colleagues) and also stops others spotting a gap in your day and filling it with a meeting.

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    2. Grow Your Network Before You Need It

    Who you know is more important than what you know for career progression. Don’t wait until you’re feeling stuck in your career to start expanding your networks. Do it now.

    Adam Grant, the author of Give and Take, says you’re 58% more likely to get a new job through your weak ties than through your strong ones. Your strong ties are those in your immediate circle whom you interact with often. Your weak ties are your friends of friends. They move in different circles to you, they know different people, make different connections, and are more likely to introduce you to new and different opportunities[1].

    When I was thinking about setting up my current company, Lucidity, I turned up to every networking event. I drank a lot of coffees with a lot of different people to understand what they did, to ask for advice, to unpick what their problems were, and to look for opportunities for collaboration and connections.

    It paid off because, when I launched my business, I let my network know how I could help them, and soon I had my first clients.

    Pay attention to building and nurturing your networks and focus on how you can add value to other. That’s where your next career opportunity is most likely to come from.

    3. Surround Yourself With People Who Inspire You

    According to Tim Ferriss, “You are the average of the five people you most associate with,” and his associations with different people ebbs and flows depending on what he’s working on and trying to achieve[2].

    For example, if you are trying to be fitter, it’s easier if you hang around with people who love doing exercise–they help you to up your game.

    If you want that promotion, a career change, or to set up your own business, seek out people who are excelling at it already. They’ll have valuable things to teach you about breaking free and getting ahead.

    4. Work on Your Personal Brand

    Jeff Bezos defines a personal brand as “what people say about you when you’re not in the room.” People will talk about you when you are not in the room anyway, so you might as well be deliberate about what you’d like people to say!

    Your personal brand isn’t about pretending to be something you’re not. That can actually keep you feeling stuck in your career. It’s really about being your best “real you.” It’s about owning your strengths and being purposeful about how you want to be perceived by others.

    What do you want to be known for? By being more deliberate about how you want to come across and what you’re looking for in your career, you’ll increase your chance of attracting the right opportunities.

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    Once you’ve given your personal brand some thought, make sure that you show up online. Is your LinkedIn profile up to date? And if you don’t have one, get one. Make sure it communicates what you want to be known for and that it’s consistent with your other social media profiles.

    Try these 5 Steps to Master Networking Skills and Perfect Your Personal Branding.

    5. Be Accountable

    Achieve your career goals faster, and grow and learn by making yourself accountable. Tell other people your goals and a timeline. and have them to hold you accountable.

    For example, you might want to get a promotion by the end of the year, have decided the sector you want to move to by the end of the month, or have got your new business idea before the next pay day. Whatever your ambitions are, you can tell a friend or a colleague, or share this with a mentor or a mastermind group.

    When we tell other people our goals and intentions, they hold us accountable, and we are more likely to make progress faster.

    6. Make Sure Your Values Are Aligned With Your Company’s

    All the professional development, goal setting, and networks in the world won’t make you happy if you’re working for a company that ultimately has opposing values to yours.

    Figure out what’s important to you in a job. For example, does your company’s product help people live a better life? Do you feel strongly about your company’s ethics and social responsibility? Does the company culture allows employees to be themselves and shine? Or maybe flexible working and more holidays for employees with families is where your heart is?

    Some companies put their employees well-being at the core of their business; others put profits first. If you feel that your values don’t match the core values of your employer, it could be a reason why you’re feeling stuck in your career and unhappy.

    It’s important to work through this and identify whether it’s the job that is not right for you, or if it’s a great job but the organization or sector is wrong for you.

    7. Get out of Your Comfort Zone

    Your comfort zone is your safe place. For any change to happen, you have to step out of your comfort zone.

    It’s actually much easier not to change anything and to keep grumbling on about how you’re stuck and unhappy in your career than to step outside of your comfort zone to address the fearful unknowns associated with change. It’s part of human nature that we’d put up with the devil we know rather than risk the devil we don’t.

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    This is true even if the devil we know is a boring, unfulfilling job because we’re wired to think that making a change to find a better option might actually leave us worse off.

    If you feel stuck, it might be that your confidence has got the better of you.

    To get ahead at work, start taking small steps outside of your comfort zone. Consider what you’re scared of that is stopping you from making a change. Then, tackle that in small steps.

    For example, if you know that to move into the job you want, you’ll have to do more public speaking, but public speaking terrifies you so much it’s stopping you from going for the job, then start small to build your confidence. You can speak up more in team meetings, then slowly build from there.

    You might also choose to set up or be part of a specific group. One of my clients, who found that confidence was holding her team back in achieving work goals, set up a “get out of your comfort zone club,” where they challenge and support each other to build their confidence by regularly leaving their comfort zones.

    8. Learn to Embrace Failure

    Failure is part of life. A New York University study found that children learning to walk averaged 2,368 steps and fell 17 times an hour[3]. Failure is simply the natural path to success.

    The truth is that we don’t get everything right the first time. We fail, we learn, we pick ourselves up, and we try again.

    In my experience, it’s common that whilst the theory of learning from failure is supported, the reality of being open about failures to enable personal learning is much harder to achieve.

    We don’t like to admit that we’ve failed. We have a fight or flight response to failure. It’s a normal gut reaction to ask ourselves: “Will I get away with it if I don’t tell anyone?” We are fearful of criticism, of losing face in front of others, or even being fired for failure.

    However, if you’re going to stop feeling stuck in your career, you must be open to learning from failure.

    Reframe failure by viewing everything as an experiment because you can’t have a failed experiment—you just learn whether something works or not. Think of Edison inventing the lightbulb, when he said:

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    “I’ve not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”

    9. Build Your Resilience

    Resilience is the ability to tackle difficulties and setbacks, to bounce back, regroup, and to keep going.

    Getting unstuck in your career, taking a different path, and achieving the results you want will take resilience. Having resilience is also the capacity to choose how you respond to the unexpected things that life throws your way and adapt and thrive in times of complex change.

    Given that the world we live in is in constant flux, and the only thing that is certain is uncertainty, the ability to adapt and bounce back is an important life skill, as well as a career skill.

    In her book Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance, Angela Duckworth’s research shows that when measuring success, the ability to persevere beats talent every time.

    Learn more about how to build resilience in this guide: What Is Resilience and How to Always Be Resilient (Step-By-Step Guide)

    10. Ask for Help

    It can be hard to ask for help, as it can make us feel vulnerable.

    No one person can be expected to have all the answers. That’s why we need a group of people that we can go to for help, people who can pick us up when we have setbacks and also help us to celebrate success.

    My advice is to be deliberate about creating your group. You can do that with a tool called a “Me Map”:

    1. Write down all the things that you might need support with, like help with career progression, interview practice, making new connections, talking through business plans, learning from failure, etc.
    2. Next to each thing, write the names of the people you go to when you need that particular thing.
    3. Make sure you get in touch and regularly connect with them.

    Final Thoughts

    You can stop feeling stuck in your career, break free, and get ahead at work by applying the tips in this article. Start small by incorporating three new things in your first week, and then adding more as your comfort zone and capacity expands.

    Remember, no matter how stuck you feel, it’s never too late to make a change and land the career that you truly want.

    More Tips to Stop Feeling Stuck in Your Career

    Featured photo credit: NEW DATA SERVICES via unsplash.com

    Reference

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