Recently I wrote a post about Discovering your passion. I wanted to write a follow up post about laying the foundation for a business, once you have discovered your passion. Discovering your idea for a business is just the gateway to starting a business. The reality is that your passion will only create a successful business if there is a need in society to fill. However, there are additional pieces of knowledge necessary for running a successful business once you have identified that need.
I recommend reading a recent article by Jonathan Long at Entrepreneur.com. He discusses something overlooked in business courses taught in academia, which is hard work. I’ve seen many wantrepreneurs underestimate the difficulty of launching and maintaining their own small business. Business is hard… incredibly hard. Instant gratification with business ownership is almost an impossibility. Rather, success in business (even overnight success) is predicated on huge amounts of focused, dedicated, hard work, emotional stress, and massive risk taking. Remember the song — Gangnam Style — seemingly a huge overnight success by Psy in 2012? That overnight success came after 12 years of attempting to make a name for himself.
The “Essentials of Entrepreneurship”, the “Basics of Business-ownership”, or the “Substance of Self-employment” all mean the same thing — there are some fundamental issues which need to be addressed long before opening your doors for business. Here are a few:
I really like the poem If by Rudyard Kipling:
If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
Starting your own business is definitely a calculated gamble, even under the best circumstances. A business owner needs to be willing to face the risk and accept the consequences. Risk small, lose small/win small vs. risk all, lose all/win everything. Here at ProvenCFO, we are willing to take calculated risks and hedge ourselves against catastrophic failures, but even the best laid plans can be decimated.
If you are not 100% passionate about what you offer, then you have already lost. The successful business owners that I know don’t always have the most “sexy” product or service… but they are always driven and inspired to make their offering the best in their industry.
Find a good banker, a good lawyer, and a good accountant. Get to know your suppliers, your vendors, or your distribution channel. Take these people to lunch, invite them to your office. Pick their brains. Don’t forget to ASK for their support. The idea of “self-made” is nonsense. Donald Trump (love him or hate him) quickly wrote a book “Crippled America: How to Make America Great Again” to try ensure all of America remembers him during this 2016 election cycle. This is only possible because he is surrounded by a massive support system. Success is built on good support. As a suggestion — if you need support and you’re in the early stages of business, try connecting with a mentor on Micromentor.org. I know some really amazing entrepreneurs. Find someone or several people who inspire you and emulate them.
Aside from good external relationships, you also need to cultivate strong internal relationships. The jump from zero to 1 employee is bigger than you imagine. The reality is your business doesn’t have a culture until your employees decide what that is. You set the pace and will need to identify your 1st employee very carefully. My advice is to take the time to find the best fit for your company.
This principle is one that I see in all successful business owners. Each of them understands the final goal of their hard work and sacrifice. All of them have measurable goals that drive their next move, but they all work towards an ultimate goal. For most of them it is freedom and time to spend with family. Very few are successful because they desire power or possession (although this does happens). Make sure you understand what you are really working towards.
If you don’t put in good workflows and systems to support your goals, then all the preceding work is wasted. All businesses are built around processes. At ProvenCFO, we help our clients with workflows as much as possible. Often we’re looking for the simplest way to accomplish a task or a goal and then we create a SOP (Standard operating procedure) around the task. When we started ProvenCFO, we spent months writing SOPs, even amidst all the work we were trying to finish. Those SOPs formed the foundation of the training material which we are now using to grow our services.
These are just a few of the ideas I wish I had known before launching myself, at high speed, into business ownership. These tidbits would have helped me to focus my time and attention into the areas which mattered most. I’d love to hear about any lessons you’ve learned as you’ve ventured into the exciting world of entrepreneurship.