While I’m lucky that it has been a relatively smooth and painless exercise compared to some horror stories one hears from startups requiring significant capital, inventory, warehouse or retail space, it was nonetheless filled with learnings.
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- Don’t get distracted by the fun stuff like naming your company, the logo and tagline, etc. You need to have a solid and thoughtful vision and strategy. Who are your customers? How will you help them? What problems are you solving? What makes your business different from, or better than, others?
- Create a budget and be realistic about your planning. You probably won’t sell $1M right away or win every proposal you submit. How will you fund your first months and years of operation?
- Determine your key metrics: how will you measure success? In profits, staff turnover, recurring sales? How will you know if things aren’t working out?
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help and advice. Most people will be flattered that you respect their input and, once involved, they will be even more motivated to help you succeed.
- Conversely, don’t take advantage of your contacts or under-appreciate their contributions. If you are lucky to know talented folks with useful skills, respect their time and expertise when asking for favours. What you think to be simple or quick may be more time-consuming than you imagine.
- Support other entrepreneurs. Dog-eat-dog, no longer: there’s more than enough business to go around. You’ll get further ahead by sharing and collaborating and fostering positive relationships.
- Be fair, honest, ethical and make good on your word. They say there’s only one shot at a first impression, and this is even more true for your new business. Work hard. Do a great job. Prove yourself. And then, hopefully, reap the rewards down the line once you have developed a reputation as trustworthy and reliable.