Owning your own business can be a double-edged sword. On the one hand, it means that you can work on your own time and set your schedule. On the other hand, navigating an industry as a business owner is considerably more difficult than doing so as an employee or a consumer.
Sometimes, new business owners aren’t even aware that they don’t know something critical. Luckily, more experienced entrepreneurs who have already found success are here to help new entrepreneurs figure out the essential elements of running a successful business.
We asked 14 entrepreneurs from Forbes Coaches Council about the first steps they took when becoming new business owners. Here’s what they had to say.
Members share the most important initial steps for starting a new business. PHOTOS COURTESY OF THE INDIVIDUAL MEMBERS.
1. Know Your ‘Why’
Start with the most basic question: “Why do you want to start a business?” If you want more money, maybe you should start a side hustle. If you want more freedom, look what your options are. Be brutally honest with your answer, as it will be the foundation for everything that you do. It’ll be your driving force, your North Star. Entrepreneurship is not for everyone and you must have a clear “why.” – Lital Marom, UNFOLD Media Group
2. Research The Market
The first step when starting a business should be to research your market so you understand your customer, your competitors and market trends. A market analysis can provide you valuable information so you know where to begin and what you need to focus on as you get started. – Tameika Devine, The Possibilities Institute
3. Focus On Deep Customer Empathy
Interview people who represent your potential customers from a place of empathy. Empathy is a critical skill for being able to anticipate (and effectively address) customer needs and pain points. Once you’ve tapped into how the customer feels and thinks, you can then use that information to inform your unique offering, brand, customer experience and more! – Jacinta Jimenez, BetterUpForbes Coaches Council is an invitation-only community for leading business and career coaches. Do I qualify?
4. Create A Value Proposition
Before you launch a business, you need to create a value proposition. What problem are you solving that your potential customer will pay for? Find out who your ideal customers are. Understand the market for your product or service. In addition, research your competition to see what makes you unique. After you gather this information, you need to develop a marketing strategy to reach your clients. – Katrina Brittingham, VentureReady LLC
5. Follow Your Gut
Trust your instincts but also be smart about it. If you find yourself dreaming about owning your own destiny then go for it, don’t be afraid. Do, however, have a plan. Develop a good strategy that allows you to envision the future that you want, then go for it! – Jorge Gutierrez, BMOC Group
6. Find A Mentor
Many businesses fail because they are started by following a dream. Finding one or more mentors dramatically increases the likelihood of success because you don’t try to reinvent the wheel; you find people who are willing to help you learn from their experience and wisdom. You don’t have to do it alone, nor should you. – Janet Fouts, Tatu Digital Media
7. Interview People In The Field
Before I launched my consulting business, I interviewed a dozen people who had successful practices. They shared invaluable information that helped me refine my business focus and operations. I learned about finances (billing, registration, taxes, record-keeping, etc.), marketing, customer management and explored what niche I could offer. I find most people are generous with advice and want to help. – Wendy Fraser, Fraser Consulting, LLC
8. Hang Out At Business Incubators
I love the concept of “hot-desking” and “incubators.” They are a treasure trove of mentors, collaborators and workshops to set you up for success. I’ve been a part of them in the U.S. and the U.K. These people are your tribe. They watch out for you and help you achieve your full potential. Don’t be put off that some are tech-based if you’re not. They will still have your back and open doors for you! – Frances McIntosh, Intentional Coaching LLC
9. Join Industry Associations
When it comes to launching a new business, networking with those who have already launched a successful biz and those who are also just starting out will help you tremendously. Many associations offer mentorship, training and discussion forums. Becoming part of a community within your industry is also another great way to generate leads and gain business knowledge. – Rosa Vargas, Authentic Resume Branding & Career Coaching
10. Make Sure You’re Up To The Challenge
I ask, “Are you mentally and emotionally ready for the volatility, ambiguity and uncertainty that comes with owning your own business?” If the client is not realistic about the emotional stress they will experience, their physical health and personal relationships will suffer. I would like to emphasize that not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur. – James Davis, The Davis Group Ltd.
11. Get Proper Business Training
Many business owners unnecessarily lose a lot of money because they don’t know some business fundamentals when they start. Seek out small business training through your local SCORE chapter, Chamber of Commerce or SBA program. Brush up on the “business basics” of sales, financials, record-keeping and tax advisory. Play small with a “lemonade stand” before you go big, to practice these critical skills. – April Armstrong, AHA Insight
12. Go For A Test Drive
Take a part-time job in the field of your interest. This way you’ll not only learn skill sets in real time, you’ll also be able to see if the career is a good fit for you. Many people dream of a job they think they’d love, only to find out it wasn’t what they were expecting at all. Better to know that upfront before you invest/risk your own money and time. – Anita Hodges, Anita Speaks 2U
13. Don’t Reinvent The Wheel
Search at least 10 important offline events in your dream industry. Write several questions about the running business in it. Cross out obvious ones. Go to the event and ask participants as many questions as possible. Don’t be shy if somebody won’t be too helpful. Do the same with online groups. Become a member. Search for answers in the history of communication. If there were any, ask your questions. – Inga Bielińska, Inga Bielinska Coaching Consulting Mentoring
14. Be Comfortable Experimenting, Failing and Iterating
While one can go to school or watch hours of YouTube to learn new skills, unless you act on the knowledge and let yourself fail, you won’t learn. So, make a decision that you will just act on one decision each day you feel will make a positive impact on the business, then reflect and iterate. – Helen Chao, Ascenditur Recruiting and Interview Right Consulting