10 Things I Wish I Knew Before Starting a Business

This article will cover ten crucial things to keep in mind when starting a business.

Prioritize Action 

Before starting a business, it can feel like there are a million things to accomplish. While planning is crucial and important, over-planning can also be detrimental to your progress.  At the beginning, your priority should be to get the ball rolling. How can you move the needle? Research and strategy will be required, but if you prioritize taking actionable steps, the path forward becomes much more clear. Often times you will gain crucial insight about how to proceed from the information you gain by taking a step. 

Every Business is a People Business 

No matter what you end up doing, other people will be involved. Your ability to communicate effectively and empathize will come in handy time and time again. Whether it’s building out your internal team, or hiring outside workers for projects, effective communication is important. This is equally important when things are going well as it is when sh** is hitting the fan. You have a responsibility to communicate effectively for the hard conversations too. Managing personalities within a team can be difficult. When money is involved, things get even stickier. Don’t avoid the necessary conversations just because they are difficult. Find ways to deliver constructive criticism gracefully and with empathy.  

Failure is Just a Word 

Things are never going to play out exactly how you planned them. How you respond when things don’t go as planned makes the difference in your ability to move forward or not. Something might feel like a failure in the moment, but we have the ability to reframe the way we think about it. Instead of a failure, it’s a roadblock. It’s an indication that a change in direction is required. The key is to always be moving forward. It’s never a complete failure if you continue to evolve. So much of success is persistence. Trial and error. Re-evaluation and continuation. When in doubt, just keep going. 

Adaptability is the Strategy

The only guarantee is change. When you’re starting your business, it’s your baby. You feel extremely tied to it conceptually, and might have hesitation about straying from the original vision. There’s a delicate balance to be found. At the core, you want your business to remain the same. The big picture vision and values can remain the same, but the pathway to get there is likely going to change consistently. It’s possible to hinder the overall growth, direction and performance of your company if you are consistently resistant to change. You owe it to yourself and your company to be flexible and adaptive to the shifting environment around you.

nothing endures but change scrabble letters

Daily Learning is a Requirement 

Solutions can be found everywhere. The more you learn, the broader the scope you’ll have to work with when sourcing solutions. An important word to keep in mind to maintain motivation for continual learning is “consilience.” This is the art of combining divergent forms of knowledge to create a truly valuable concept (or solution). The broader the knowledge bank you have to draw from is, the more creative your solutions will be. Learning about your industry is a good place to start. But it’s also valuable to expose yourself to nuanced concepts that fall within your industry and specialty. For example, if you are selling something, it might also be useful to learn about human psychology, graphic design, marketing and advertising, leadership, management, business at scale, etc. There is no shortage of information out there. It’s up to you to learn as much as you can, and apply it to your business in valuable ways. 

Activity Does Not Equal Growth 

It’s very possible to spend all your time doing things that aren’t actually leading to growth of your company. It’s important to Identify what the revenue generating activities are. What are the activities that create more cash flow for your company? How can you set up your schedule to allocate large amounts of your time toward those activities? Feeling like you’re working all the time and not progressing is the equation for burnout. In order to run your company successfully, you need to remain motivated. When you feel like you’re not getting anywhere, it’s difficult to stay motivated. Identifying the tasks that you should be spending the most time on is critical for the longevity of your business. 

Outsource What you Can 

Once you identify the work you should be focusing on personally, start outsourcing the busy work. Though at first you will have to take on the majority of all the work, as you evolve in your business it’s important to outsource work that isn’t necessarily creating growth for the company. Outsourcing does not (and should not) mean hiring full time employees. This can add massive overhead and cut into your margins as a business. Luckily there are resources like Fiverr, where you can hire freelance contractors on a job by job basis. 

The Right People Make All the Difference 

They say friendship and business don’t mix. While that might be true on average, you absolutely need to have people on your team that you care about and can trust. You want to hire for competency, but it’s also extremely important to hire people that you get along with. Try to find people who have similar morals and values, and understand the way you’re trying to build the business. If you get too many ego maniacs on the team, you might find your team cutting corners and making selfish decisions that hurt the company. As highlighted in point #2, every business is a people business. Having the right people in your corner can make all the difference. 

coworkers working on business together and laughing

Make a Difference Where you Are, Then Scale Up

Ambition is a good thing. It’s good to want to make a big difference. But don’t underestimate the impact of making a small difference in your direct community. Instead of thinking about how you can be everywhere all at once, try focusing on how you can best serve the community around you. This allows you to develop integrity as a brand and discover what works well. Once you discover what works well on a small scale, it’s easy to replicate at large.

Don’t Take It Too Seriously  

The nature of business is serious. It’s how you make your living, and it’s how you will support the lifestyles of the people you employee. Given that, try to have some fun in the meantime, and realize that life is bigger than what you do for work. In the entrepreneurial space, work and personal lives bleed into each other in ways that are not always positive. As you’re starting your business, be sure to continue taking care of your mental health, and making time for creative outlets and hobbies. When you fill your own cup, it becomes easier to bring your best self forward for your business and others. 

For further learning on starting a business, check out our class with Payal Kadakia: Take the Leap, Start a Business.

Matthew Callans