Starting your own business can be a high-risk, high-reward endeavor. If there’s one thing we can say about successful entrepreneurs, it’s that they learn from their mistakes. To help shorten the learning curve, here are seven tips for first-time entrepreneurs from our Endeavor community:
Map Out a Business Plan
A successful business requires a clear vision and a practical implementation plan. Before launching your business, write a business plan. Even if you haven’t figured out every detail, this exercise will give your venture structure. Take the time to outline your value proposition, staffing needs, marketing strategy, operations plan and financial assumptions. Your business plan can help attract talent and funding because it allows others to understand your long-term vision.
Build Your Mentor Network
Formal and/or informal mentors are essential resources for an entrepreneur. A mentor has already experienced the highs and lows of starting a business, allowing them to offer meaningful guidance, feedback, and encouragement. To find a mentor, start with your network (social or in-person) and begin connecting with people who have followed parallel ventures.
Networking can also help you meet all levels of professionals who can be a resource or even a prospect for your business venture. At Endeavor’s “Collaborators and Cocktails” events, Endeavor members and other attendees enjoy networking and a presentation from a senior-level, successful business leader. Attending industry events and being involved with professional associations also expand your contacts with experts in your field.
Keep Your Day Job
When you start your business, your income might be small or unpredictable. In the early phase, keep your job and work on the business during evenings and weekends. Try to stay calm and calculated about the tasks ahead. Break them down into something doable, complete tasks and move on to the next thing. And when the time is right, you’ll be able to make your side hustle a full-time job. Just remember to be “patiently impatient” —a sense of urgency will serve you well, but building a business requires time.
Be Financially Frugal
Don’t hire staff or rent expensive office space before you have the sales and cash flow to cover expenses (even if it’s tempting). Instead, use contractors or temporary staff and collaborate with remote teams in a coworking space. At Endeavor, you’ll enjoy a convenient downtown location and all the amenities you need for individual work, partner meetings and brainstorming sessions.
Demonstrate Your Value
Have you ever noticed how often software comes with a free trial? That offering allows potential customers to test the product and see how it solves their problem. Find a way to show your customers that you understand their needs and have a product that solves their problems. Micro-testing your ideas in free or discounted environments allows you to build brand recognition and learn how audiences interact with your business offering.
Design Your Distribution
“First-time founders are obsessed with the product. Second-time founders are obsessed with the distribution.” This quote from social media entrepreneur Justin Kan is a great lesson for entrepreneurs. If you focus solely on your product without knowing how to attract customers, it will be challenging to scale.
If you’re selling merchandise rather than a service, you need systems to transport your product to customers without delay. Designing your distribution systems in advance lets you provide a better customer experience.