If you’re anything like I am, you look at some of the successful small business owners you know and wonder how they’ve managed to grow their companies into what they are today. Specifically, you think about what they know that you might not when it comes to owning and operating a business that can withstand the ups and downs of the world around it.
Well, wonder no more because I reached out to a couple current and past business owners in a variety of fields to get their #1 piece of advice for people looking to start or just beginning their own small business. Here is what they said:
“Focus on what makes your business idea unique. Consumers are inundated with thousands of marketing and advertising messages every day. If you’re trying to reach new customers with your product or service, you have to cut through this noise. If your business isn’t unique, you’re going to be competing with every other business in your market, some of which are well-established and better funded than yours.
Look carefully and honestly at all of the competitors in your market.
Look carefully and honestly at all of the competitors in your market. What do you offer that they don’t? If a customer were to call you and ask you why they should choose your business over Company B, what would your sales pitch be? You should have a quick “elevator pitch” ready to state why your product or service is better than the competition.
The key to a profitable business is to make your customer’s life easier or better. If you can do that in a way that makes you unique compared to all of the other businesses in your market, you’ll have an easier road to success.”
~ Mike Melton, Waxwing Legal Marketing
“As a microbusiness owner with over 35 years’ experience starting, building and running businesses [as a side note, his first business was at the age of 12 selling “monster car” t-shirts] I tell those who express an interest in starting a business a couple of things. First, I recommend that they seek out someone with actual experience running a microbusiness. Some people may have a great track record solving the challenges of running a medium to large business but they are at a loss on how to solve the same problems without money.
…seek out someone with actual experience running a microbusiness.
The second thing I tell them is to validate their ideas by talking directly with their primary target audience. The people who they believe will want to buy what they have for sale. The vast majority of people tend to start the business to see if it will make any money. In the process they spend what little money they have on filing fees for the business, getting a logo, business cards and a website before they even have their first customer. It’s not that 90% of start-ups fail; it’s that they don’t achieve sufficient financial velocity to warrant putting more time and money into them, so they get shut-down.
The third thing I tell them is don’t start a business that you have absolutely no experience in. You need a basis for understanding how a business works before you should consider starting one. It only took me 35 years and a couple of hundred thousand dollars in mistakes to figure it out. Invest a little money and time in learning about the business before you jump in. If you do, you’ll have a much better experience. There’s nothing like being your own boss and living your dream.”
~ Steve Chapman, Director, Small Business Learning Center
“Starting a business is a tough and challenging endeavor. It’s not for the weak of mind, heart or wallet. I would advise them to research their product and/or service to assess the need for the product or service in the market. Study the trends, past and present. Make a business plan and assess the costs of up-start, and maintaining the business.
You need a cushion for the tough times, product/service failure(s), economic instability, or catastrophic event.
Seek out a mentor(s) who has also started a business and is doing well. If you have a spouse, make sure they are 100% on board and he or she is one of your biggest cheerleader. The first 5 years are the toughest.
Capital is important. Even when you have done your homework and studied the costs of up-start and maintaining the business, you may not be able to foretell an obstacle or set-back. You need a cushion for the tough times, product/service failure(s), economic instability, or catastrophic event.
Determination and perseverance are vital. You have to believe with all that you are and have that you have a needed and desired product and will need to convince everyone else while wearing many hats. There will be tough times, and there will be failures. However, learning quickly from those failures and having great flexibility will be vital to long term success.”
~ Don Martin, former business owner, now Account Manager at Gen IV Technology
Now it is up to you to take their advice and use it any way you see best!