Four things to remember when starting your own business
By Eric Elliott
About half of all new businesses survive past the five year mark. Care to take a guess at how many new ventures make it to their tin anniversary? According to the Small Business Administration: one-third. Yet, despite the odds, the expense, and the sleepless nights, there is a steady stream of eager entrepreneurs taking the first steps towards striking out and starting up their own business.
The purpose of this post is not to help you come up with ideas or a new product. If you’re reading this, chances are, you have that already. Furthermore, this post will not help you survive your first day of business, let alone your first year. We’re new here ourselves and we’re trying to beat the odds, just like you.
The purpose of this post is to walk you through our process. Of course, in a way, this post is just a preamble to a much larger and longer story that Shawn and I will continue to write as we build our own business. Hopefully, it will help you take those brave first steps towards creating something you can proudly call your own, with a minimum of surprises, and no looking back.
Start With Why
“Why?” This single, simple word is fundamental to any endeavor but any startup will need to have their “why” firmly established from the outset.
Naturally, at this point you should be asking yourself, “why?”
Why is why so important? Because, once you know why, you’ve hit upon your purpose and this sense of purpose can significantly affect a startup’s chances at success. In his book, “Start With Why,” Simon Sinek uses the race for heavier than air flight as allegory for why purpose is so important.
Orville and Wilbur Wright were competing with many scientists all over the world to be the first to achieve controlled, manned flight. Not least among their competition was Samuel Pierpont Langley. From funding to staffing, Langley had everything going for him while the Wright Brothers had a bicycle shop. But, in addition to their shop and a couple of college degrees between them:
The Wright Brothers did have something very special. They had a dream.
Wilbur and Orville worked within their community to turn their dream into a reality and inspire others to aid and support them. Langley, on the other hand, “was looking for achievement.” As a result, the Wright Brothers won the race and now, they’re known the world over as pioneers. Langley, on the other hand, is more well known as the moniker of an air force base than as an actual, living person.
Shawn and I will be covering purpose a lot in future and, while, “why” is an important component of a business’ high-level decision making structure it is also essential in frontline marketing and sales functions. According to Ben Ratner, a blogger for Hubspot, knowing the “why” of your business will help marketers and sales professionals define your company, differentiate your business from its competition, and target potential customers with similar beliefs.
More importantly, at this stage of the game, having a clear sense of why will help entrepreneurs persevere in the face of long odds and late nights. Margie Warrell put it perfectly for Forbes,
a clear sense of purpose enables you to focus your efforts on what matters most, compelling you to take risks and push forward regardless of the odds or obstacles.
Done Is Better Than Perfect
Look, I get it. You’re passionate about your purpose and you know that nobody will support a mediocre service or product. However, now isn’t really the time for perfection. Now is the time to get things started and get things done.
We are what we do. Excellence, then is not an act, but a habit.
I’d take a it a little further and say that that excellence comes to those that do.
In 2009, Bre Pettis and Kio Stark wrote the Cult of Done Manifesto and gave us 10 keys to overcome the focus on perfection in favor of execution. The most important take away comes at the very end, “Done is the engine of more.”
Think about it, when you reflect back on a productive day, how great does that feel? Think about how much easier is it to do it all again the next day, and the day after that. If you’re in the habit of pursuing done over perfection, you’ll gain momentum and build self-confidence. Over time you’ll build an effective work style, and before you know it you’ll make excellence look easy.
Learn To Love The Process
Processes create outcomes. And in the beginning, processes may be all you have. As a result, your life and those of your partners will be a lot more enjoyable if you’re passionate about building sound practices that are simple, intuitive, and purposeful.
Now’s the time to experiment. Have clear goals about what you want to achieve and know what a successful outcome looks like. Then build a practice that gets you there. Keep the touch points to a minimum and make sure there are are no more than a couple of platforms involved.
“Keep It Simple, Stupid” should be your mantra. Simple processes are more scalable and facilitate discipline. Complicated processes, on the other hand, can only hinder enterprises as they expand and will frustrate everyone but your most anal-retentive staff members. Amy Rees Anderson put it well:
Less can be a whole heck of a lot more, and more can often lead to a heck of a lot less.
Focus on process now, and, once you’ve developed a product or service that people actually want to support, you’ll be able to ramp things up more easily. Once things are really rolling, though, it will be difficult to change existing practices or build new ones.
Finally, as I mentioned above, excellence comes to those that do. So, establish operational discipline early. Compliance isn’t likely to be the most popular topic around here but, in this case, it is an essential step towards a sustainable culture of excellence within your start up.
Brake Before The Turn
One thing you’ll learn about me as you read my articles here at Money Earned, is that I love to talk about motorcycles. More importantly though, at least for the purposes of this article, I love motorcycle metaphors. And one of the most important things that any nascent motorcyclist or startup needs to learn right off the bat is that you need to have most of your braking done before you enter a turn.
As you begin to build your business, you need to have a plan in place. Shawn did a great job of outlining the thought process he and I went through while we discussed starting Money Earned.
Now is the time to think about the mechanics of your business. If you have partners, how will you make decisions? How will you push through a stalemate? How will you allocate responsibility and how will you be held accountable for those responsibilities?
Obviously, you’re heading down an unknown course, so you’re not going to be able anticipate every curve that comes your way. But, with a little preparation and a lot of imagination, you can set yourself up for a smooth transition, get a knee down on the pavement, roll the throttle, and come out of the turn ready for whatever lies ahead.