These are the most important factors that will help propel you towards success when starting a small business. The content is inspired by the Office Depot Business Solutions Center as part of a sponsored post for Socialstars #GearLove
I started my first business when I was 22 years old. I was a young kid who left a career earning six figures a year selling cars at a Toyota dealership in North Hollywood. I had just finished spending years listening to seminars and audio books to help shape me into the business leader I was, or so I thought. I was so sure of myself at the time that I just knew inside my heart that I would be successful from my first business venture. Unfortunately, it didn’t turn out the way that I expected.
Today, I’m 30 years old and have worked with a plethora of startups and small businesses that have either failed or succeeded. When I look back on what I tried to do and failed miserably at during my younger years, I found many things that I wish I had known from the very beginning.
These are the 7 things that I wish I had known when beginning my first small business:
1. Locate resources for help.
Starting a business isn’t easy. In fact, it isn’t really that simple either. It’s quite hard to do. I know because I went out there and tried to build my business empire on my own, except I didn’t have any formal training on how to build a business. I thought my background in sales would be able to carry me through and I would be able to wing my way to success. Unfortunately, I was wrong. Plus, back in 2007, there weren’t many resources online that I could turn to for small business advice.
Fortunately, nowadays, there is a plethora of experience floating around that has been shared online. From online marketing advice from experts like Neil Patel at Quicksprout to small business tips and insights at sites like Office Depot Business Solutions Center, we now have resources that we can both turn to when we’re stuck and that we can learn from.
2. Have a game plan.
People nowadays are preaching to run lean. Others are old fashioned and and want to stick with the traditional way to start a business with a business plan. When I was 22 years old, I had the skeletons of a plan in the back of my head, yet nothing was written out. My business crashed and burned. If I had a chance to redo my first business, I wouldn’t have created a business plan per se, but I would’ve written out a thorough game plan on how to get to my ultimate goal.
3. Build backwards.
When building my first company, I used to sit around and think, I’ll do this first, then I’ll do this and this. I had my eyes on the big picture, but I didn’t really know what I had to do to get there. To be better equipped to be able to get to your desired goal, you should picture a company that is already where you want to be. Figure out how many employees they have now and what their overhead is. Then after you have that information, slowly move backwards to where you are at the present day.
If you have the time and the company you want to emulate is publicly traded, look at the company’s financials year to year. Look up articles of things they experienced in the past. These are things you may have to end up encountering as well.
Some of us get short sighted in the beginning and don’t realize some of the huge obstacles we will have to face in the future. Then when we hit these roadblocks, we’re stuck. It is better to prepare for what is yet to come, then to just sit around and wait for obstacles to appear in front of us. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Imagine if you were a sous chef who didn’t know the business side of how to run a restaurant. You saved up decades of your income with the goal to start your own establishment. Then some unforeseen problem arises that wipes you out, such as concept planning, build out and working capital, the mismanagement of inventory, the lack of marketing, or worse yet, getting ripped off for all the above.
4. Find mentors.
When I was 22, I didn’t have any mentors. Today, I have mentors all around me. When I was lost and didn’t know what to do, I had nowhere to turn to for advice. Nowadays, mentors are everywhere. There’s virtual mentors like Bestselling Author James Altucher and Angel Investor Terrence Yang who provide as much business advice as they can through their respective networks where they write. Then there’s in person mentors who you can find through networks such as Score or in Choose Yourself communities or even at small business development events that happen across the world.
Now, when I have a concern or need to grow, I have resources I can turn to. I even have people I can go to who will tell me how it is and won’t sugar coat their responses. This advice keeps me sharp and on my toes and helps me overcome major unexpected obstacles that come my way.
5. Ask for help. Leave the ego at home.
I was a 22 year old kid who thought I was on top of the world. I wore fancy suits and had name brand accessories. I prided myself on what I had. I may have even acted a bit over the top and thought I was the best. However, these characteristic traits that did me well in my sales career were the same determining factors that had caused me to lose my first business and pushed me into debt.
When the going got tough, I tried to cover it up. I acted like nothing was wrong, but my business was tanking. When people asked me how I was doing, I said I was great. I didn’t even try to adjust my exorbitant spending habits to accommodate for my lack of income. I wanted to rely on just myself to turn everything around, but that ultimately led to the failure of my first business. If I was humble and able to ask for help like I do now, I would’ve never fallen as far back as I did with that business.
The person who doesn’t ask for help will never make it big. The person who doesn’t ask for help always stays small.
The person that you go to and ask for help from doesn’t even have to be a business partner. They don’t even need to benefit from your company in any way. You just have to drop your pride, become humble and reach out to these experts and tell them “I need your advice” or “I need you to do this for me”. There is nothing wrong with asking for help. Plus, it’s the key component to becoming a success with your small business.
6. Rules are meant to be broken, directions are meant to be followed.
One of the key small business tips is the ability to follow directions. As stated earlier, I like to build out roadmaps. These are the directions that lay out the path that we each take with our business.
Back when we were all in school, we were all trained to follow the rules. Ask for permission to use the restroom. Don’t talk unless you’re chosen to speak. Sit and stay seated in class. Don’t chew gum in class. And no running in the halls.
7. Put the right team together.
When I started my first business, no one told me that I needed a team. I tried to do everything on my own; however there were many components of the business that I wasn’t good at. I was a single founder. I was overloaded with tasks. In fact, I had the full responsibility of everything on my shoulders. As time progressed and I started other companies, I didn’t really put the right team together. We would argue or wouldn’t have chemistry.
Today, I search for top quality people to add to my team. Today, I learn to delegate. I hand off the responsibility to people who compliment my weaknesses. My team then in turn helps me maneuver and guide through the deep musky swamps of the business world.
You need to believe in your team, but at the same time, you have to put the right team together. You’re just better than the person who you put next to you, so you need to make sure that your team members are great.
Times are much faster now than they were before. Back when I was growing up, you could have a family business and be the most powerful sugar importer and distributor in town. You could even monopolize the market. But nowadays, the world is faster and the market is so much more diverse and competitive.
The competition is so diverse you need a team to compete. And what better place to get small business tips and advice than from Office Depot Business Solutions Center?
Whether you’re just starting your business or have been in business for a while, these 7 simple small business tips should help you navigate through the first few years of your business. We’re all looking forward to seeing you succeed and would love to hear your success stories or how you overcame some obstacles when building your first small business.
Feel free to comment so we can discuss what you did with your personal experiences in your small business or startup.