Do you ever dream about how great it would feel to run your very own business?
Yes, it is true that it has never been easier to launch a new business. In the past, you had to mortgage your house and take on huge amounts of debt to purchase plant, equipment, etc. These days, you can pretty much launch a business from your living room with a budget for under $2000.00.
But, if you’ve been dreaming of launching your own project or side hustle, then there are many things that you need to consider.
Before launching your business, you should consider:
- Does your ‘idea’ solve a real (painful) problem?
- Who is your specific target market?
- Does your ideal customer have the ability to pay you to solve this problem?
- Are your potential customers willing to pay YOU to have this problem solved?
- How fast can build a prototype and find your first 3 paying customers (friends & family don’t count)?
Now, I’m not suggesting that your quit your day job and launch something new after a few yesses. Unless you have a huge appetite for risk and deep pockets…then go ahead, knock your socks off.
I’ve been reflecting my experience as a solopreneur and early stage start-up employee. It has been an amazing couple of years. A rollercoaster ride full of new experiences and a chance to grow my skills in so many ways. However, there was a lot that I just didn’t know when I started.
You can read all the articles in the world, but until you launch, you just don’t know what it will really be like. So, I have documented some of my biggest lessons so that they may help you with setting some realistic expectations.
Here are the Five Most Valuable Start-Up Lessons
1. Get Used to Making Decisions Without Perfect Information
As a solopreneur, you do everything from marketing, accounting, IT, and sales. As the cliché goes, you sweep the floors, make sales calls, and ship out the product all in the same day.
You must be comfortable with moving your business forward each and every day, even if you don’t know what the outcome will be.
Yes, this means you’re going to make mistakes. Yes, this sometimes means that things won’t be perfect. Get past that part and see it as an opportunity to learn – FAST.
If you’re uncomfortable with making decisions without all the facts, then perhaps this path is not for you. You’ll have to get really good at managing your time and determining when your to-do list takes a back seat to chasing down a sales opportunity.
I recall many times when my weekly priority list just didn’t get done. I had made the decision to follow another priority because the outcome would help me achieve my overall goal: advancing sales.
2. Practice Continuous Improvement (or Kaizen) at Hyperspeed
As a business owner, you must have a strong inclination for taking action. Planning is important, but results are critical and can mean the life or death of your idea.
This is not a place where you can spend months working on perfecting your product only to discover that your customers don’t want it.
Follow these steps to make sure you have or can create a product people are willing to pay for:
- Get your minimum viable product, or MVP, out to your target market as soon as you can.
- Let them use it and get familiar with it.
- Ask them lots of questions to understand how it makes their life better.
- Take that knowledge and make your changes and get it out again.
- Then, try to find customers who will pay for it.
If you can’t find at least 3 people, that are not family or friends to pay for your product, then you don’t have a business…you have a hobby.
The point here is that it’s better to find this out as fast as possible versus risking months trying to create a perfect product that nobody is willing to pay for. You will have plenty of time to perfect your product once you get the basics right and validated by finding people willing to pay for it.
3. Share Your Business Idea With Your Network. Don’t Keep it Inside
Now, this took me a while to get used to. It’s extremely common for new business owners to be afraid that if they tell people about their idea, someone will steal it. Yes, this is true in some instances; however, for the vast majority of us, it just doesn’t happen.
The amount of time and energy that will be required to copy your idea will prohibit this from occurring. So, talk to the people in your network about what you’re working on. Share what you’re up to at networking events.
SEE ALSO: How to Articulate What You Do
If your experience is anything like mine, you’ll find that people want to help you. An introduction to a customer or future business partner would help you advance your business, wouldn’t it? So, get comfortable with sharing and you never know who you’ll meet!
4. You are Unlimited in Your Ability to Learn
Probably the most important lesson I learned is just how much you can learn on your own if you A) have the right attitude and B) take the steps to search out the help.
I learned how to code HTML and CSS on my very own WordPress site. I even got deep into the world of digital marketing, social media advertising, and Google Analytics. Before this, I had never even tried to create a website.
There are an infinite amount of free resources on the web and how to guides on Youtube. Knowledge may have been power in the past, but nowadays, you can find everything you need to learn for free.
When I launched, I rarely dabbled in social media. I did not even have a Twitter account. I had to learn fast and start right away. I relished the opportunity to broaden my skills in social media. When it’s done correctly, these platforms can provide you with a cost effective way to build connections with industry influencers and potential customers.
5. Take Time to Reflect and Regroup
When you’re doing what you love, it’s easy to find yourself working or thinking about it all the time.
You must create the time to disconnect and re-energize yourself. Also, with the pace of running your own business, you sometimes forget to celebrate your success and to reflect on what you’d do differently next time.
I usually try to do this every 60-90 days. Ask yourself:
- What worked well?
- What did not work so well?
- What do I want to achieve in the next 90 days?
- How do I plan to get there?
As I mentioned, there were countless start-up lessons I’ve learned. These were some of the biggest ones. What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned on your start-up journey?