Entrepreneurs are a breed in and of themselves. I think an entrepreneur can be born or made, but I believe I am of the born kind. I have met people that have worked in corporate environments that have learned to be successful all by themselves, but they bring a unique training and thinking style, that us born-entrepreneurs don’t have. We tend to be more of the creative type and big thinking types. Both can work, but I think lots of people should work for themselves, and maybe you are one of those. To you I will give three pieces of advice to move closer to your dream of being an entrepreneur and starting a small business.
- Start Small. Because I don’t believe in a 10 year business plan, and I believe things will change rapidly, you need to start making steps as fast as possible. I would also recommend it be started on the side, on the weekends, and whenever you have free time. Get used to the 80 hour work week now, while you have a steady paycheck. If you want to open a restaurant, then start at a farmers market, and see how people respond. If you have a product idea, get one made (and yes it will be expensive at low quantities), and see if anyone will buy it. Start your handyman business on the weekends and evenings. If you have more business than the weekend hours will hold, then quit your job. Just start, and see where things go.
- Network. I think this is something that most people don’t understand. Networking is a powerful way to build a business, even in the digital age. I was playing soccer tonight, and started talking to one of my team mates who works in commercial real estate and development. I put up my hand and said: “Hello. I can help you. Who can you connect me with?” And he said he was more than willing to connect me with his tenant improvement contractor. Tell people what you do or are thinking about doing. You never know what can happen. You don’t have to sound like the insurance salesman that wants 3 or 20 names of people he can call, but you can ask probing questions, and let people know what you do.
- Build a system. From day one, you should be thinking about your business as having employees. What would you have them do? How would you train them? Who would manage them? Most small business owners just hire people and give no direction to what and how things should be done, and then they complain that there are no good employees. I would propose that there are no good managers. Well, there are few good managers. But, in order to manage well, you have to have systems. Start from the beginning. Figure out the best way to do everything in your business, and write it down. I waited until I had been in business for at least 10 years before starting this process. I eventually hired someone to finish it and implement the systems. Much more costly than starting from day one. Once you have it all documented, it is that much easier to train people to do it the right way. This will lead to happier employees and much happier customers…all of which leads to higher profits.
- Consistency. You have to show up every day, and take one step closer to your goal. I am in the gym a lot, and see a lot of people that come and go and never get anywhere. Then there are the guys that I have seen in there EVERY time I am there, and they are FOCUSED and more than anything, they are consistent. You need to make small improvements every day. A saying I coined: To be extraordinary, you have to do the ordinary Every Day!!
So there you have it, three things to focus on when starting a small business. There are lots of other things, but if you head my warnings and encouragement, you will be far ahead of the masses. There are many that try to start a small business like they try to lose weight, and fail. You need to have a realistic goal, and go for it.