Dream Big, Plan Small
Most small business owners agree that their vision and passion are essential to the success of their business. While your big picture goals will provide you with motivation during the tough times, it is crucial to build a foundation for your business by planning out the details. Spend time carefully creating a thoughtful business plan, which will act as your road map. Consult friends, mentors, your local Chamber of Commerce or Small Business Association Chapter to get constructive feedback from prospective clients and peers. A comprehensive business plan is essential for securing loans, attracting investors, and keeping you focused when life seems overwhelming.
Protect Your Assets
While making your business a legal entity, you will be faced with several important decisions that will directly impact your personal and professional finances. For example, determining your legal business structure as an LLC, Sole Proprietorship, or Corporation, all have different financial and tax ramifications, some that could leave you personally financially responsible. Financial consequences can also occur if you are not properly insured. For example, the standard Homeowner’s policy excludes coverage when business is being conducted out of the home. So, say your first client slips and falls while leaving your home office, you and your business could be out of the game before you’ve even begun. It is important to consult with a qualified professional about these complicated matters to make sure you are properly protected.
As an entrepreneur, your attention is going to be pulled in all different directions and you are going to want to do everything to succeed. However, when you are first starting out it is incredibly important to hone in on your strengths to capitalize on your success. If you find yourself developing a niche, lean into it to build a strong base rather than diversifying too early. After building a track record of proven success and developing a supportive client base (at whatever size), it will be easier to expand your product offerings.
Small business owners today have the incredible gift, and a curse, of the internet. Social media provides direct access to consumers, ease of doing business, low-cost marketing, and convenient comradery with other business owners. However, many of the conveniences offered by the internet also come with significant risks, especially for small businesses. Of the 855 data breaches examined by Verizon in 2012, 71% occurred in businesses with 100 employees or less. Keep your business and data safe by using a firewall for your internet connection, using and regularly updating antivirus software on your business computers, and regularly changing passwords. Due to increasing frequency and severity of these attacks, cyber insurance is becoming increasingly popular for businesses of all sizes.
Learn to Balance
As a small business owner, you will eat, sleep, and breathe your business – and you should! Constantly looking for ways to improve is what will drive you towards success, but it is equally important to avoid burn out. It is a fine line that many entrepreneurs struggle to walk. One suggestion of how to find middle ground would be to seize the opportunity to respond to emails while you are waiting to pick your child up from school, but once he or she is with you, fully focus your attention towards them. Allowing yourself to enjoy other aspects of life will provide you with a recharged approach towards your work, and will provide greater life satisfaction in the long run. Plus, you never know where inspiration may strike. A conversation with an old friend or a few moments of quiet meditation could be all it takes to get your next big idea.
Look for Help
We often hear that business owners feel isolated without the typical co-worker support system. Use your networks and resources to find a mentor or like-minded group that can give you advice, help answer questions, or just be there to listen. Likewise, don’t be afraid to delegate. If your friend volunteers to help with day-to-day tasks, take it, and if nobody volunteers, ask. Once you’re more established, look to provide internship or part-time employment opportunities. As the visionary behind the business, your time can be better spent on big picture initiatives, while you help somebody else gain valuable experience.
Don’t Fear Failure
Nothing is an immediate success, no matter what the media says. Behind most “overnight success” stories is often years of hard work, preparation, and previous failures that have made a person or product better and stronger. Learning from the past and adapting to new circumstances is often the key to long-term growth and success.