Does it seem like everyone wants to be an entrepreneur? The idea that you can start and run a successful business is exploding in part because of the lower barrier to entry, but also because of the glamorized versions all over social media that make even “hustle” look exciting.
If you want to be an entrepreneur (and not just play the part online), the lessons you really need to learn are not on inspirational quote cards. If you are stepping out on your own, you don’t know what you don’t know. To help you get started on the right foot, here are my Top 5 Business Tips for New Entrepreneurs to help you avoid learning the hard way.
1. Take it seriously.
I’m going to be as blunt and direct with you as possible: as an entrepreneur, you are officially responsible for everything. Depending on your business, you are now sales, operations, customer service, marketing, HR and finance (and that’s not an exhaustive list). If you have any dependencies like family, loans, debt, or employees, that’s on you.
There is a lot of talk online about building a business that allows you to pursue your passion and focus on your strengths. I fully subscribe to the idea that we should not have to be miserable at work, but entrepreneurship is not the answer for everyone. Consider whether finding a job you like better in someone else’s business without the additional responsibilities of business ownership is a better option for you. Be honest with yourself.
2. Lawyer Up
I am an attorney but I don’t practice. I went to Georgetown Law and passed the New York State Bar Exam. I‘m not telling you this to brag–I’m telling you because even with my legal background, I still don’t do my own legal work. When I started my business, I didn’t fully realize how necessary it is for a business owner (at any stage) to have a lawyer on the team. And not just any lawyer, you need one that understands both you and your business.
Can’t I just use LegalZoom or Rocket Lawyer? NO. There are so many ways to expose yourself to liabilities that you didn’t even realize existed, and unfortunately, ignorance of the law is not a defense.
Hiring a lawyer scares a lot of people. If it seems intimidating or expensive, you are speaking to the wrong lawyer. If you are genuinely thinking of starting a business, or have already started one and don’t have a lawyer, you need one. This is nonnegotiable. A good lawyer will not only help you avoid problems, but can also help you build a smarter, more profitable business.
3. Let’s Talk Money
Are you (or your parents) still doing your taxes? I’m not too proud to admit that mine did up until I went out on my own. It’s all well and good when you work for someone and they hand you a W-2, but once you own a business, your finances need to be a much stronger focus point.
An accountant is an integral member to your new business team, and you need someone who understands you and your business.
Do you have a separate bank account for your business? Are you going to incorporate and if so, did you talk to both the accountant and the lawyer about it? Do you know what you can deduct and how much to set aside for taxes? Do you know what puts you at risk for an audit? A good accountant will be able to guide you through these questions and set you up for long term success.
4. Find Your Business Tribe
Business ownership can be lonely…very lonely at times. You’ll need to find other entrepreneurs who can understand the experience and contribute with empathy and insights. When your family, significant other, or friends don’t want to hear about your business anymore (or don’t understand what you do in the first place), having a support system of people who can truly celebrate your wins with you and commiserate on the not-so-glamorous parts will be key.
Additionally, having this community is an excellent way to gain knowledge from people who have already paved the way, and to speak to people who are at the same level as you to trade tips, tools, and tactics.
Don’t be afraid to get to know “the competition” in your market. I’m of the mindset that success is not a zero sum game. No two businesses or business owners are exactly the same. You might offer the same services, but to different audiences. You might speak to the same audience, but offer different services. There are creative ways to collaborate so both parties win.
5. Embrace Change (and Be Nimble)
Changing, pivoting, adapting, evolving–call it whatever you want, but it is inevitable. Be prepared to change any and all aspects of your business that aren’t working. If the market is telling you it doesn’t want “X” package or “Y” service, you need to be willing to offer something else. Additionally, if something has changed in your life and you no longer want to offer a service or product anymore, take the initiative to construct something that works for you (and the market). Continue to evaluate your business as time goes on, and be willing to adapt as needed.
Building a Business is Doable!
The good news is: if you really want to run your own business, it is completely doable. You just need to know what you are getting into so you can start strong and not get discouraged when you hit inevitable bumps in the road.