Let’s be honest, who hasn’t sat back in their desk chair on at least one occasion and daydreamed of starting their own company? Taking that one great idea you had and building something from the ground up with it, being your own boss, eventually growing rich and successful – it all sounds so appealing, it’s no wonder over 600,000 new businesses are started each year. Unfortunately, turning that daydream into a reality is work. Hard work. Lots and lots of hard work. My company dropptv is less than a year old, and while we have seen many successes within the past months, I know that it is only because of the incredible effort put in by both me and my team each and every day, along with a smidge of luck. The work we put in has 100% been worthwhile, and I can tell you there’s nothing more rewarding than going to work each day knowing that you are building something bigger than yourself, but owning and operating your own business is a humbling practice in constantly learning from both your triumphs and mistakes. Below are just a few of the many things I have learned since becoming an entrepreneur that I would want anybody to know before starting a venture themselves.
Ideas don’t mean much
Don’t get me wrong, all great businesses start with a good idea. My company came to be all because of a music video I was watching one day. The artist was wearing such a cool jacket, and after many fruitless hours searching online trying to find it, I thought “why can’t I just click on the jacket in the video itself and buy it right off the screen?” It blew my mind to think nobody had thought of that before.
Turns out they had. A lot of people had. Because at the end of the day, the truth is everyone has a billion-dollar idea in the back of their minds, and chances are that multiple people have already tried it in some shape or form. What will set you apart from the pack will be the team you build and the way in which you execute your vision.
Roadmapping is paramount
So you’ve done the easy part: you’ve come up with an idea and decided you want to make it a reality. Then grab a notepad or open up a word document, and start writing everything down. Brainstorming is a great way to answer some of the important next questions, such as what type of business you will have. Will it be a sole proprietorship, partnership, corporation, or LLC? This is just one of the many many questions you will need to ask yourself that unfortunately aren’t as fun as coming up with the idea itself, but are incredibly important in making sure your business is sustainable. If you don’t sit down and create a roadmap clearly articulating your ideas, that’s all they will ever be – ideas in your head.
Develop a powerful message
What problem are you solving that potential customers are willing to pay for? Think about the economic benefit to your stakeholders. In marketing terms this is often called the value proposition, but basically, in order for your business to ever get its feet off the ground, you will need to develop a strong message that articulates why your product or service is like nothing else on the market. For example, my company sets itself apart from others who have attempted to create a shoppable streaming platform in the past by ensuring the process is seamless. Unlike other interfaces in the past that have included pop-ups and re-directs which disrupt the viewing experience and make it feel like you’re being advertised to, ours allows you to purchase with a single tap of your finger within the filmic-flow of the video itself, and doesn’t pause the video or take you to a new screen. These seemingly simple things are what differentiates us from our competition, and without establishing that clearly you cannot hope for success in the future.
Focus on the customer and fully understand the market
As I said previously my company was certainly not the first to market, but we have put a lot of work and research into ensuring that we know our market and target audience. There are tons of examples of other companies who may not even have the best product or service out there, but they managed to attain success thanks to mastering online marketing and sales. Before you even launch, it’s so important to research the demographics of your potential customer base and fully understand their buying habits. Additionally, look into what today’s current trends are in terms of marketing and the consumer as a whole. In doing that for dropptv, I found that the companies that are nailing the best buying experience for customers are the ones experiencing monumental growth and obtaining large chunks of market share, making the experiential shopping my company provides all the more relevant.
Surround yourself with good people
Just because it’s your own idea you’re turning into a reality, doesn’t mean you need to figure everything out on your own. No man is an island, and no one person can have all of the knowledge, experience, or even perspective to handle every potential situation that may arise. Those who are smart will know when it’s time to engage an accountant or a lawyer or a web page designer rather than attempting to stick it out and potentially create a less than stellar product.
While you may start out as the sole operator within your company, chances are you don’t intend it to be that way forever, which is why it’s so important to make sure you surround yourself with people from the get-go who can share in your vision. Whether that be your employees or your investors, the value of having a team who believes in what you are setting out to accomplish is incalculable. When you do come across a rockstar employee you need to make sure they feel part of the ownership structure to retain them. Get them vested with some stock so your baby becomes their baby too.
Never stop learning
Finally, if there’s one piece of advice I could give to every single person in the world, it would be to read. I spend hours each day researching, not just for the industry my company is based in, but any and every other subject that sparks my interest. Knowledge is the key to everything, and all obstacles you face or goals you set whether that be in business or in life come down to how much knowledge you have on the subject.
You’ve probably heard this a million times by now, but the brutal reality is most new businesses fail. I’m not saying you should give up because odds are your business isn’t going to make it, but keeping that in mind will help make sure you and your business have the resiliency to survive when things inevitably don’t go according to plan. Entrepreneurship and running your own company is one of the most rewarding experiences in the world, and if you let your passion drive you continuously through the journey and stay smart, you should be one of those who succeed.