So you’re thinking about starting a business?
It sure sounds fun, doesn’t it?
You get to decide how much money you’ll make.
You can take off as much time as you like.
No one will tell you what to do.
You get to make all the decisions.
You won’t have to report to anyone.
You’ll be in charge of your own destiny.
You can finally do things the way you think they should be done.
Yes to all of those things…and more.
But there are many things people don’t tell you, such as: if the business doesn’t make any money, neither do you.
Even though you don’t have a “boss,” you work for your employees and your customers.
Particularly in the early years, if you take time off, the business doesn’t make money (and neither do you).
And making decisions all day long is rough.
Still, I wouldn’t trade it for anything and often tell other entrepreneurs that making the decision to go out on your own is the hardest part.
Once you do that, the rest is downhill.
Well, downhill if you consider the following 20 things.
Advice You Won’t Get About Starting a Business
- 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. My mom always advised: hire a bad cop; the person who will be the bad guy while you focus on being the leader, the motivator, the cheerleader.
- If you are in a service business, there will be many people who want you to with them…but a majority who can’t (or won’t) afford you. Choose very wisely who you spend your time with.
- When you’re starting a 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.
- 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. If you can’t get excited about that—and about your job changing—find something else to do.
- There is no such thing as work/life balance. Your life is the business and your business is your life. Give up on that notion so you don’t drive yourself crazy.
- Entrepreneurs think they are kings of the hill and set unrealistic goals…because they truly believe they can achieve them. Most companies can grow 200 percent or more when they’re starting out, but plateau between 15-20 percent per year when the business matures. Be realistic about what you can achieve.
- Start with the end in mind:what is your succession plan? (I need to take my own advice.)
- Find an organization where you can get professional development. You can join Vistage or Entrepreneurs’ Organization or, if you’re in PR, Solo PR Pro. Or, hire yourself a coach. This will force you to take time at least monthly to sharpen your axe and work on the business, instead of in it.
- Read as many business books as you can handle. You’ll find you’re really energized by them.
- 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. Don’t be afraid of numbers!
- 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.
- It’s going to be nearly impossible to separate business from personal (see work/life balance above). But don’t let years go by without taking time for you.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.” Let yourself fail.
- 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 starting a business.
- Don’t just trust your gut, OBEY it!
- 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 your team.
- Aim high. As high as you can, while still being realistic.
- You are now in the business of developing and growing future CEOs. Think about who you would want to work for if you were working in your business. Hire and mentor those people.
Add an Additional Revenue Stream for 2019
And my biggest piece of advice is something I started to do after the Great Recession nearly took my business out.
I read somewhere, a long, long time ago that you should have a minimum of seven revenue streams.
We started to take that advice in 2011 and, now seven years later, have added our eighth revenue stream.
I have no idea how it will help us weather this next recession (coming sooner than I think any of us wants to admit), but all the experts say this type of diversification will save you.
So, as you start to think about how 2019 will shape up, think about how you will add different revenue streams to your business.
This is something I excel at helping our clients do (but I won’t break my arm patting myself on the back, mom!).
Between our free masterclass—The Five-Step Strategy Agency Owners Use to Grow Their Businesses—and the Agency Leadership podcast Chip Griffin and I started, we have you covered.
Now it’s your turn.
What have you learned about starting a business, either by doing or watching?