Years ago I embarked on a journey. I left my comfortable world as a construction foreman and launched out to start my own remodeling company. The only business I had ever run before was my paper route when I was in middle school. That hardly constituted experience. But, I was eager and willing to work hard. So off I went into the wild blue unknown of business ownership.
Along the way I have had success and failure, joy and pain, laughter and tears, relaxation and hard work, and reward and loss. I have made money and lost it. However, I would not trade this journey. Every success and failure brings experience. And experience is the building block of future success.
So here are some tips from my experience that I believe can help those who are getting ready to embark (Or have already left the station) on their own business ownership journey.
- It’s about the customer not the product – The first mistake I made was making my business about the product (remodeling). I mistakenly thought that if I made a better product, I would be successful. My background was as a carpenter, so I focused on the work. But over time, I learned that there are many successful business without a “great” product and many “great” products in failed businesses. Without customers every business will fail. You have to focus your energy on taking care of your customers and what they want. And sometimes, that means changing your product.
- Learn the numbers – Success and failure in business ultimately boils down to money, and we track that money with numbers. If you do not understand the numbers that drive your business you will find yourself in trouble even if you are successfully taking care of your customers. This happened to me a couple years after I launched. The company grew fast and I did not understand all the numbers. I was not able to stay on top of what what happening. Therefore, we started losing money right in the middle of our greatest success. If you don’t understand, the numbers find someone to teach you.
- Surround yourself with a team – I am not talking about employees. I am talking about a team of experience and other perspectives to help you make good decisions about your business. These need to be people that you can be honest with, so that they can give you good feed back. I suggest putting together an informal “Advisory Team” or joining a mastermind group of other business owners. Either way, you need a team that you can share with and get feedback from. Leading a business can be a lonely place. And, “Lone Rangers” do not make good decisions.
- Connect with people – Your business success will be correlated to the people you connect with. These will be employees, clients, trade partners, suppliers, consultants, service providers, friends, family, etc. You need to spend time investing in these relationships. Through these connections you will provide leadership (influence). That leadership will be key to the success of your business. As I have noted above, you need a lot of other people to be successful. Take time to care about people, connect with them and really invest in those relationships.
- You will have successes and failures (Keep Going) – This is part of the journey. It is easy to get too prideful about your success and become resistant to change. And, it is also easy to become discouraged about your failures and lose motivation. Both will keep you from moving forward, and without moving forward your business will begin a slow decline.
- Have a coach – Every great team, athlete, successful person has a coach (or multiple coaches). If you want to be successful you need the same thing. This could be a retired executive through SCORE, a friend or family member, a pastor, or a professional coach that you hire. However you find a coach, you need one.
- Be an aggressive learner – There is no way for you to have all the knowledge or experience that you need. Therefore, you must take responsibility for learning. Take advantage of business workshops, online webinars, read books, listen to podcasts, talk to other business owners, attend conferences. But whatever you do, don’t stop learning.
- Observe and interact – Every day there are subtle things happening that affect your business. It may be the performance of an employee, the satisfaction of a customer, a changing market condition, or an open door of a new opportunity. You need to train your eye to observe what others miss. Then, interact with what you observe and take actions that benefit your business.
- Accept responsibility – You alone are responsible for your success or failure. You must own it. It is too easy to take a victim mindset and blame everyone else for your business success or failure. If you “can’t find good workers” then grow yourself as a leader and trainer. If your market is changing then change your products and business. This means you have to accept responsibility for the good and the bad. That is not always fun, but you will find yourself empowered and those around you will appreciate your leadership.
What tips do you have for those starting out as business owners?
Share your thoughts in the comments below