When starting a new business, you will likely make many decisions that, in hindsight, you would do over, I know I have. Because experience is the best teacher, I’d like to share some of my own hard-won lessons. These are the three key areas on which I would focus if I had it to do over again.
- Choose your business partner carefully
Don’t make the mistake of going into business with a partner just because you are great friends. Nothing breaks up a friendship faster that business or money, so make sure that you make an informed decision. Evaluate what skill set or experience your potential partner can contribute. You should also discuss the overall global vision, direction and execution of the company’s goals to find out if you are on the same page.
As most companies take years before they become profitable, you may also want to discuss your potential partner’s financial circumstances. Even, if you do find a partner that seems like a great fit, protect yourself and the company from future issues, decisions, and threats. The best way to do this is through a written agreement that spells out all of the terms and expectations of the partnership.
- Put your employees first
One of the biggest mistakes startups make is not putting their employees first. In the chaos, change, and nature of building something new, employees must not be neglected or held to standards that affect their quality of life. It’s common for some new companies to leave little margin for error while figuring things out or when building products, policies, or procedures.
Working long hours can be a necessity in a new company, but you have to remember that employees want and deserve a life outside of the office. Take the time to show your appreciation for a job well done. This can be a verbal compliment, thank-you email, lunch, monthly award, or really anything you can think of that will tell your employees that you are happy with them. Putting employees first will create a culture that promotes employee satisfaction and loyalty, and an environment conducive for employees to truly care and root for the company. If you take good care of your employees, they will take good care of your clients.
- Build your business with sweat equity
Most people, especially those early in their career, maybe short of the universal lifeblood of any business: money. When first starting out budgets are likely low, word of mouth and sweat equity will mean everything. This includes making cold calls, making in-person sales visits, passing out flyers, attending networking events, building your social media platform, asking for referrals, and working every creative angle you can think of to build your business. That means that you are the last person in the office.
Make peace with the fact that you will work the longest hours, and that all mistakes fall on your shoulders. Being a leader can pull you out of your comfort zone, but keep focused on the larger picture and your goals, then take steps, even small ones, every day to make your company better. Your hard work will lay the foundations for your future.
You’ll learn many lessons as a new business owner. But, by learning from established entrepreneurs, you may be able to shorten your learning curve and find success faster.