So you want to start a business? Well, here are a few things no one tells you, but you should know!
1. We all think we want to manage people. It has the perception of hitting the pinnacle of your career when you FINALLY get to manage people. It sucks. No one tells you that. It’s not fun at all. It’s way more fun to have peers you can laugh and cry with. It truly is lonely at the top.
2. Lots of people are going to want your product or service. But a majority of them won’t be willing to pay for it. Choose very wisely who you spend your time with.
3. When you build your business and it begins to sustain itself, you no longer will do what you started the business to do: Your craft and, probably, your love and passion. Find ways that growing a business will excite you and make you passionate.
4. As a business leader, your job will turn into setting the strategy, constantly communicating the vision, managing the culture, protecting the brand, training, developing, coaching, and mentoring your team, making rain, and networking every day.
5. There is no such thing as work/life balance. Your life is the business and your business is your life.
6. Entrepreneurs think they are kings of the hill and set unrealistic goals…because they truly believe they can achieve them. Most companies only grow 10-15 percent (and that is A LOT less this year) per year. Don’t set 30-40 percent revenue growth goals in one year.
7. Start with the end in mind: What is your succession plan?
8. Find an organization where YOU can get professional development. I belong to Vistage. Without it, I would never take time to sharpen the axe or think about things differently.
9. Read as many business books as you can handle. You’ll find you’re really energized by them.
10. You’re going to spend more time than you like, or could imagine, on financials. Even if you hire someone to do them for you, you still need a really good understanding of them, what they mean, and how they can change.
11. Debt is not a bad thing if it’s managed well and used for growth. Learn as much as you can about access to capital, lines of credit, term loans, mezzanine loans, private equity, and venture capital. Make friends with a banker. Treat your bank as a silent partner; always be open and honest with them.
12. It’s going to be nearly impossible to separate business from personal, but you absolutely have to do it.
13. Figure out what the highest going rate is in your industry and start there. It’s impossible to raise rates on clients who have been with you since the beginning. They’ll always want your start-up fees.
14. I love that Bill Gates goes to his house in Montana for a week every year…by himself. No television. No Internet. Just him, some books, orange soda, and nature. This is when he does his most innovative thinking every year. If you can’t/don’t want to do that, try taking a “thought” walk once a week. Find ways to clear your mind and just think.
15. You will make mistakes. You will fail. If you don’t, you won’t learn and you won’t grow. Confucius says, “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in getting up every time we do.”
16. Learn to lose sleep over things you never thought possible…if it makes you stronger. People who say you shouldn’t get up in the middle of the night, if something is bothering you, and do something about it, aren’t business owners.
17. Don’t just trust your gut, OBEY it!
18. One of the hardest things you’ll go through is hiring people your own age, people you really like and want to hang out with after work. You can’t do it. Ever. The line between business and pleasure cannot be blurred with staff.
19. Aim high. As high as you can, while still being realistic.
20. You are now in the business of developing and growing future CEOs.