Every entrepreneurship experience is different. You have some companies that find success with a quickness, some that never find success, and other that take a little while to hone in on what they actually do. I wish I could tell you I am the founder that achieved success immediately, but I am not. While I have not failed with this venture, it took me considerably longer than anticipated to tighten up my overall offering and I’m still far from where I want to be. As such, I feel I am in a unique position to share some of the do’s and don’ts of entrepreneurship and what to look out for in the early days…This is part one in a series as I had to greatly pair down the list…Seems there is a lot to learn!
Thinking about starting a company? See below for some of the pitfalls I encountered over the last couple of years…
- Truly push your concept as far as you can before you make the leap – This may seem obvious, but I actually worked on my company for four plus years before I felt comfortable with the direction and overall building blocks I established. I am a very impatient person so this was torture for me personally, but the added effort did help me shortcut some growing pains. Pro Tip: While a business plan seems very academic, do not discount the power of putting pen to paper and pouring over the details that are your business. You may be surprised as to the gaps you uncover and the creativity you may unleash.
- Quit chasing perfection, get out into the market and start driving revenue ASAP- When I decided to make the jump, I didn’t begin trying to drive revenue immediately, but more so spent time tightening up the model and trying to perfect the approach, thinking customers would more easily flow this way. I was wrong and spent far too much time pontificating on what people wanted versus getting in the trenches and actually figuring it out. Pro Tip: I spent too much time in the “exploratory stage”, not focusing on revenue. Feedback is extremely important, but at some point, you need to take the feedback and simply put it to work. Additionally, customers can be a fantastic source of ideas and inspiration.
- Branding and clarity of purpose is not to be underestimated and essential to survival – “A jack of all trades is a master of none”- when I started my business I was so desperate for customers, I was open to anything in order to begin building my business. Since “doing everything” is extremely difficult to articulate, customer acquisition floundered. The second I tightened up my messaging and did not try to do all, acquiring customers became a lot easier. Pro tip: Start with the end in mind and build from there. Just because you may not realize the full extent and potential of your business in the early stages (i.e. your grandiose vision), it doesn’t mean you can’t build out your offerings later and eventually get there
- Customer acquisition may actually be the only thing that matters – Without customers, you have no revenue, without revenue, you have no business. I spent far too much time trying to “perfect” the messaging and what I was trying to accomplish, versus trying to acquire customers. As a result, it took me ~7months to land my first customer. Looking back, I still haven’t reached perfection (nor will I ever), so the time spent perfecting the process was all for naught. Pro Tip: the faster you can start acquiring customers, the better. This also serves as a great avenue for collecting feedback and tightening your overall offering.
- Delivery of your service or product is secondary to customer acquisition (I would put this first, but you kind of need the customer prior to delivering anything) – If your customer does not receive the product or service you promised, or the quality is subpar, the chances of them sticking around is slim. Therefore, the actual delivery of said service is imperative for survival. Pro Tip: Setting expectations is paramount here. While it’s always good to “under promise and over deliver”, its critical to be realistic on what you can do and clearly communicate this to your customer. Through starting a business I have learned just how important this part of the equation really is. It also helps establish a strong bond and level of trust with your customers when you have an honest, open, and transparent relationship and are not afraid to tell them no.
Starting a business has been one of the toughest endeavors of my life, but I have thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it, even its peaks and valleys. The whole experience though is very fluid and being highly adaptable is something you can learn to get better at…
I’ll be sharing a follow-up piece on this soon that details a few more of the best practices I have learned through trial and error.
Beau Billington is the founder of the Free Agent, a consulting company immersed in the strategic-layer of the Gig Economy