5 Essential New Business Needs
Every entrepreneur has been there before – the point where they’re completely hooked by the idea that they can start & run their own successful company. This is what I think of as the inspiration point & it’s also the point that tends to bring a collective groan from friends & family. All the while, the entrepreneur has that fire in their eye because they can. Beck & I have been there more than once & we’re probably unemployable these days, having been self-employed for the past several years. It would have to be a really cool job, too … like touring the world with the kids just for the sake of touring the world. Since nobody’s offered to pay us for that, yet, we’ll continue working from home in our PJ’s or at a local Starbucks for a change of scenery (not in our PJ’s).
So what are the essentials that a brand new, never-done-this-before business owner needs to know about that they may not have considered? Without coming close to being a complete list, here are a few points that we feel are critical to the success of any business venture, whether it’s a brand new photography business or a decades-old textile mill, & we all need to pause to take stock every now & then.
1) Have a clear vision of what you hope to accomplish.
It’s great that you can make widgets that nobody else can for 2 cents apiece & sell them for 25 cents apiece but what do you hope to get out of doing this, ultimately? Do you want to do this full time? That means that you have to do it all the time for the foreseeable future once you get to that point. Is widget-making in your blood that much or do you need to have a break every now & then? If you aren’t sure you can take doing what you’re thinking of doing 24/7, you may want to stop & think about running your venture as a side business, which can be equally as rewarding – especially if you have another job that provides decent benefits.
2) Have a plan to accomplish your goals.
Even if you’re the best widget-er who ever widgeted, it’s no good if your business is invisible to your target market or if you end up in trouble because operating costs got too high, taxes sunk your business (did you know that in the United States, unincorporated entrepreneurs pay 15% of every dollar they earn in self-employment tax?) or your competition stole your design & undercut you. In business, you need to protect every advantage you have & a lack of planning could spell disaster for the skilled artisan.
3) Make your business discoverable.
This one kind of goes hand in hand with the previous point & I touched on it when I mentioned that if your business is invisible, it’s pretty much a lost cause. Since you’re on here, your business is probably able to operate online, so we’re going to use online visibility as our gauge on this. If you’re making your widgets & selling them yourself, a great place to start out that is low cost & low risk is Etsy. You can set up shop for free, you don’t need to worry about handling setting up the financial back end, server security, etc., you can advertise if you want to with their paid promotions without being pushed out by enormous advertising budgets, and everyone’s happy! If your widgets get really popular, you’ll probably find out that you’re going to want your own site simply because you can control everything on your own site, whereas you have no control over what happens on a site you don’t own. The best thing about sites like Etsy is that people go there to buy things. They don’t have to figure out what the site is about because they already know. Wherever you go, though, you should ensure that you’re making your shop or site well known online. How much do social media accounts cost? Not a dime, just your time. Think of your social media accounts as the wide end of the funnel, directing traffic to your widgetized paradise, where you can start to engage with your target market & really see some movement on it. If they don’t know you’re there, they’ll miss out on your widgets, though, so take advantage of the social media accounts that everyone uses & let them know what you have.
4) Measure what’s working for your site.
You’re going to get very frustrated, very quickly once you start really trying to generate traffic to your site or shop & wonder why nobody is BUYING YOUR WIDGETS. Hopefully you’ve taken the time to install Google Analytics or something similar on your site or shop & you’ve started to familiarize yourself with the type of information that you can glean from your metrics. Figure out where your best & worst traffic is coming from & what you can do to improve your numbers.
5) Never lose the passion that started your business.
Without the enthusiasm that gets us all out of bed, running your own company is worse drudgery than working a really crummy job. As the business owner, you need to protect your vision & excitement for your business because it is, after all, your baby. If you take care of it, it will take care of you & both of you will be the better for it but without that flame that keeps you going the world turns grey & you just can’t, even. Sometimes you may need to bring in some outside muscle to help keep sane while you’re performing your plate-spinning act of running your widget empire & that’s perfectly acceptable – if the investment provides a real return on your investment, then it was worthwhile.
A few parting thoughts:
- Check out your local SCORE resources – these are men & women who have been there & done that & they make themselves available to help local businesses succeed, in large part for free. The philosophy here is the rising tide raises all ships.
- Find an accountant that you trust to help you on your tax decisions because the last thing you want to have happen is to get hit with a massive tax penalty for having a good year in business.
- Seek out a mentor, they’ll be able to help you avoid some of the obstacles they experienced & that may be common to your field. It’s also a good idea to hold yourself accountable to someone else, it keeps you on your toes.