So you've decided to take the plunge into entrepreneurship - 🙌Congratulations📣! Perhaps you're breaking away from an established business with a new idea or you're trying the freelance life. If you're feeling a bit unsteady, it's perfectly normal. Now's the time of frenzied activity and some of that involves rearranging your life. The good news is that you can build a solid foundation right now so that you're off to a great start.
Here are 5 best practices to have a successful first year in business.
Stick to Your Plan
You may feel exceptionally busy during this time because there is so much to do. By creating a plan, you'll have something to go back to whenever you feel tempted to say 'yes' to one more thing. You can ask yourself, "is saying 'yes' to this part of my plan?"
Also, recognize that your plan is, in fact, many plans that work together, overlap and coalesce to meet your goals. For instance, you'll need a business plan (the Small Business Administration has great resources for this) and within that plan will be others including:
- What it is you're selling
- Your mission statement / company description
- Market analysis
- Sales and marketing strategy
- How your company will be structured (legal and managerial) and organized
- External resources or partnerships
- Cost structure & pricing
If you haven't already, work on a clear picture of what success looks like for you. This information will inform the path it takes to get there.
Watch Your Money
Like over-committing, overspending is another trap that's easy to fall into during your first year in business. At this time, it's important to track your spending, debts and other upcoming expenses so you'll know when you stray out of that line. Spending of both time and money will also determine how much your rates or prices will be.
Keeping your own financial books at this time may be a new learning experience but it will also give you a keen eye on wasteful spending. It may also help you determine when you're ready to look for investors or venture capital.
Build a Support System
Instead of feeling like you're on your own, build a network of professionals, friends and family that stand behind you. As an example, when you are unsure where to network your idea, ask other small business owners or entrepreneurs. If you want to uncover ideas about financing your operation, do your research, talk to investors and learn more about what's required of you. Need help building out contracts, sort out tax information or put together a marketing plan? Ask your friends and family if they know someone or are willing to help. Be honest and transparent with your partner or spouse if you're making changes in your career. They may not be involved but you don't want collateral damage to your relationship because your focus is elsewhere.
During your first year, you may have been doing everything yourself. This is great experience and will help you keep your finger on the pulse of your new business. Part of supporting this venture, and yourself, is to know when it's time to hire professional help. Your network may provide suggestions in everything from website building to CPAs. Definitely ask questions and read reviews.
When is the perfect time to hire a professional for help? Only you can determine the answer to that question. You may find that you simply can't keep up with manufacturing what you're offering to the world. If you can't keep up with invoicing or client payments, maybe it's time to hire someone who can?
Make Adjustments When Necessary
Market changes can make it feel like you're spinning your wheels and getting nowhere. Failures are the stepping stones to success and you're not the first entrepreneur to switch gears! (See JK Rowling, Warren Buffet, Walt Disney and more!) Keep analyzing, measuring key metrics and making adjustments when necessary. Keep asking questions of your customers, your network and your market. If you're malleable enough, you may find a niche that skyrockets your business into success. But it all starts with a clear picture of what that looks like. Are you ready?