They say hindsight is 20/20. And I’d have to agree, especially when it comes to starting a business. When I look back at the past year, I can easily see all the things I did that served me and business, and all the things I did that didn’t really have an impact. And it’s not just me. Whenever you talk to entrepreneurs, they’ll tell you that they made a lot of mistakes, learned from them, and in parallel did a lot of things that moved the needle for them, too. So here’s my advice when it comes to starting a business – my do’s and don’ts of starting a business.
These 5 things are the biggest lessons I learned when I started my business. If I were to start my business from scratch, I’d keep these at the top of my mind. The good news is that you get to learn from my experience. You have the opportunity to take the shortcut. And really, that’s what coaching provides. Guidance, support and a map of the shortcuts that will get you results faster and with less stress no burnout. So let’s dive in! Here are the 5 things I would make sure to do if I were to start over.
Lesson #1: Know what your revenue-generating activities are, and make sure you’re doing those every day.
Add non-revenue generating activities to this, but never drop the revenue-generating activities. I spent months getting my website perfect. And although I love the idea that I have a website I’m proud of, and I am a firm believer in creating a website, I would caution against spending too much time on it. I would also caution against being focused solely on your website. Your website is important, but it’s even more important to make sales. So if you’re building your website while making sales, incrementally improving or adding to your website as your business ticks along, then great – you’re doing the right thing. But if you’re pausing everything to work on your website, as I did, then you’re missing the opportunity to actually start making money in your business. And the sooner you actually start, the sooner you’ll learn what works and be able to adjust your sails for maximum growth.
Lesson #2: Do thorough research before you settle on your business.
When I first started my business, it was a completely different business idea. I researched it, I interviewed people, and although the people I interviewed told me they would not pay for what I was creating, I continued to create it. But I quickly realized the error I made, and I changed my focus. With this new focus, I didn’t do any research and I didn’t interview anyone. That idea died quickly. I then spent a lot of time learning, researching and formulating my new business idea. This one made sense. I found clients and signed a few on. This new direction was well researched, but on top of that, my clients helped me make changes (and continue to inspire the changes I still make) in my business to bring it to where it is now.
Lesson #3: Sign on clients or get customers as early as possible in your business.
It took me 2 months to sign on my first client. That’s not bad, but it’s also not great. I now know I wasn’t doing enough to try to get my first client. I posted a little here and there on LinkedIn. I spoke to a couple of friends about it, but I know I could have moved faster. And although this isn’t a race, nor should it ever feel like your business is a race to success, there would have been some benefits from starting earlier. I would have learned earlier what my clients need. I would have created my program earlier. I didn’t start engaging with my ideal client until months after I established my new business idea. By engagement, I am referring to both marketing and just spending time on social media, finding people who fit my ideal client description and talking to them.
Lesson #4: Find your business tribe (or partner).
When I started my business, I didn’t have a group of business-owner friends to share ideas and thoughts with. I spent my days working on my own, building my business and whenever I needed support, someone to talk to or lean on, or a second opinion, I reached out to friends and family. But it’s not the same. Friends and family are great, and getting their support definitely makes a huge different, but they don’t know much about starting a business (unless they, too, have started their own businesses). When I finally made friends online who were also on the journey of starting or growing their own businesses, it was a huge breakthrough. Now I had people to share ideas with. I had people who were going through the same journey as I was. They could relate. They could share things they learned. They could give advice based on experience. Having this group opened up so many doors and so much possibility in my business.
Lesson #5: Offer a deal that your clients/customers can’t say no to.
I didn’t want to charge anything less than what I believed I should get paid given my years of consulting experience. But what I failed to see was that I didn’t have any coaching experience. So although I could charge high prices for my consulting work, I needed to start at a lower price for my coaching service. Why? Because I had no proof of my ability to get results via coaching. And to do that, I needed clients. And to get clients at the start of my journey, I needed to offer a deal that they couldn’t say no to. And that’s what I ended up doing. Had I started earlier, my entire business would have been built earlier.
But this isn’t an “I wish” story. This is a “here’s what you can learn” story. So to summarize:
- Image matters. But not more than getting clients or customers.
- Spend time on research.
- Get your first sale as soon as possible.
- Find a support network.
- Don’t be scared to offer an amazing deal to get your first few clients/customers.
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