There is no one-size-fits-all rule book on how to start and run a successful business. Sure there are general principles which every business page on Instagram has plastered all over their feed – you know the ones – “Work Smarter Not Harder” but there isn’t a guide to tell you what to do every time you need to make a decision.
Whilst these short dictums are of some value they are not really going to help when you are faced with deciding on which marketing campaign to go with or whether you decide to hire someone to help bring your idea to market quicker.
With no official instruction manual it can become very easy to make some “newbie” mistakes that will cost you in the short term. Let’s take a look at what they are and how to avoid them.
1. “If You Build It – They Will Come”
For those movie buffs out there you will know the above quote from the Kevin Costner film Field of Dreams (Wayne’s World referenced it too if you thought it was that – “if you book them they will come”). Whilst it’s a good movie its not good advice to follow for getting your business off the ground.
You may have an outstanding product that you believe is better than your competitors in the same niche as you, but guess what? No one knows about your product and you are not making any sales.
One of the most overlooked areas of a new business is the marketing strategy due to the assumption that if the product is great the customers will be there. Even if you think that you can concentrate on promotion once you have got your product to a level you are happy with think again…you will probably never be completely happy with it and you will waste time perfecting something no one will ever see.
Get your product out there start promoting as soon as possible and grow your business whilst improving your product and user experience.
2. You Won’t Make Mistakes
The most successful individuals in the world today are no strangers to mistakes. What has separated them from others who didn’t achieve their goals is persistence and mentality.
Accepting that you will get negative feedback for your product and that you will do something wrong is a liberating experience as it gives you the ability to try lots of new ideas.
Sure some will fail but you will be able to focus on the ones that succeed and these ideas will be the ones that you may have never even have come across had you kept the mindset of pleasing everyone and attempting to be perfect.
3. Being a Jack Of All Trades
Given that you have taken ownership of your future by deciding to start a business you are most likely of the mindset you can do everything from marketing to product development to keeping up to date with the latest Government regulations.
Don’t do this. It’s exhausting.
Whilst it is an admirable attitude to have it is also one that is incredibly naive. The fact of the matter is you will need help at some point along the way. This is not a weakness or an admission that you are not good enough – it is a positive sign that your product is taking off.
The sooner you can get others on board, the quicker your product will improve and your customer base will grow. Not only that but your business will grow at a much quicker pace than if it were left to you alone.
Don’t be the person who says “I wish I had done this sooner” – get scouting for people who can help you.
4. Spreading Yourself Too Thin
When you are trying to get a fledging business off the ground you may think that in order to attract new customers you have to offer more than you competitors in your respective niche.
This is not always the case as if the other companies in your chosen industry have more employees, an established brand and benefit from larger economies of scale then it’s not going to be realistic to offer a similar service.
They are at a different point in the food chain and are attracting a different type of customer than you are. Don’t compete with them – focus on providing the best product that you are capable of now.
When Jeff Bezos started Amazon back in the 1990s his primary focus was on selling books. He choose this niche not because he was a bookworm (although he probably was) but it was due to the fact there were more items in the book category than any other category of niches.
His obsessive focus on books enabled Amazon to become the biggest retailer of books online. He then took what he had learned from the publishing industry and applied it to hundreds of other niches which is one of the reasons he is the richest man in the world today.
Focus on one thing at the start and become an expert in it and deliver your expertise to your customers. You can start to branch out when you are successful.
5. Not Having an Online Presence
Even if you are a brick & mortar company, don’t underestimate the power that an online presence can have.
From a simple WordPress website to a social media page there are no excuses to be online when the reach of the web is huge. It is one of the most cost effective and powerful ways to market your product and acquire new customers.
Since its inception the internet has experienced exponential levels of growth which has led it to over 4.4 billion users today. Not only that but with the eCommerce industry valued at around $3.5 trillion and rising year on year it is safe to say it will be around for the near future.
There is no reason not to have one – in other words, setup your Facebook and Instagram pages now and you will be amazed how these platforms can benefit you.
6. Not Having the Right Mindset
If you are new to the game and think that entrepreneurship is going to an easy ride and you will be sipping on Bacardi’s in your Penthouse by the end of the year, think again.
You will face challenges at all times in your business and you will need the right mindset to get through it. Once the novelty and initial enthusiasm for your business has waned all you have is your genuine feelings about the service you are providing. If you enjoy the pursuit of growing your company from scratch, you will overcome most obstacles.
Alibaba founder Jack Ma famously explained that after he left University, he applied to become a Police officer in China where of the 5 people who applied – 4 were accepted and 1 rejected – guess which one he was.
He also applied to teach at Harvard and was rejected 10 times. He even applied to KFC when they were opening new stores in China and of the 24 people that applied – 23 were accepted and only he was rejected.
The point is that hurdles and forks in the road can be overcome easily with the right mindset but they will become overbearing if you do not have a vision of where you want your business to be.
Learn From Others and Your Experience
The mistakes that you inevitably make in your career and in your business will have been made time and time again by those before you. Don’t think you are special when you succeed or when you fail as many have gone through the same process as you.
Your ability to learn from other people’s mistakes is an incredible advantage but to learn from your own mistakes is invaluable. Learning from your own mistakes will tell you what works now and what works in your own specific niche. There are not many people who can give advice on this, if any.
Some people call it experience. Get out there and start building it.