When a new year comes it brings new hope for many people. Oftentimes, that hope includes starting their own business. However, for most new business owners, it’s not as easy as throwing up a website and waiting for the money to roll in.
It takes work and a lot of it. When you’re starting out, that pile of work can seem almost insurmountable. It’s tough to discern what work needs to be done and what can wait because everything seems essential.
That’s why I’ve compiled a list of must-do items as you start on your business adventure.
Write that Business Plan
While a business plan is often used to attract investors, it serves an even greater purpose than that. According to Forbes, a business plan is also about honing your business goals and fine-tuning your vision for the business.
This business plan will help you figure out your target market. It will look at your key competitors, which is something you can use to determine how to best target your customers. The business plan will help you create your goals for the first year including when you want to be profitable and when you want to expand.
There is much more to a business plan than simply something to attract investors. It’s designed to help you stay focused as well.
Set Short-Term Goals
Most business owners want to imagine where their business will be in five or ten years so they lose sight of what they need to do in that first year. According to Sujan Patel, Co-Founder of Web Profits, one of the first things you want to do is set short-term goals for yourself.
“A lot can change in the first year of your business, so don’t focus primarily on big goals,” Patel told Entrepreneur. “Part of growing your business is setting those overarching goals, but you need to break them down into smaller milestones and short-term goals. This makes every major goal more achievable by giving you a clear road map to follow.”
The first year for business owners is a time to hone and perfect your sales pitch. To be successful, you need to attract customers. That means you need to know what they respond positively to and what they respond negatively to.
Use the first year to nail down that sales pitch. What will attract customers? What will make the sale?
If you’re also looking for investors, you’ll need to perfect another pitch just for them. What will make them interested enough in your company to write a check?
If you need some inspiration for either of these, I’ve found that watching reruns of Shark Tank, helps a ton.
Hyperactivity vs. Productivity
As Forbes points out, hyperactivity doesn’t always directly translate into productivity. What this means is that simply keeping busy doesn’t always move your business forward.
Forbes suggests being selective in how you spend your time and resources in the first year. Don’t say yes to every request and take the time to weigh each marketing and partnership opportunity carefully. Don’t enter anything that doesn’t fit with your business plan and priorities.
Watch Your Finances
When you first start, you may have an initial inflow of cash, whether from investors or initial sales. It’s tempting to believe that that cash will continue to flow in and spend accordingly. DON’T.
Be tight with your money in your first year of business and maybe a few years after that. You want to build up an emergency fund in case there’s an unexpected event (i.e. COVID-19). Only hire the employees you absolutely need. Only purchase items that the business needs, not what you want it to have.
Being thrifty will help guarantee that your business makes it to year two and hopefully beyond that.
Reach Out to the Competition
It’s tempting to think that you need to be at odds with your competition, but that may hurt your business in the end. According to Entrepreneur, if you take the time to develop a good relationship with your competition it will benefit you in the long run.
Even though your businesses are competing against each other for sales, most small business owners are happy to offer advice. This could help you avoid some of those first-year pitfalls that other small business owners have fallen into.
What’s more, when you develop a good relationship with the competition, they may even end up referring clients to you over time.
Find a Mentor
You also want to find a mentor in your first year. You need someone who has been there and understands the problems businesses face in their first year. Start networking at your local Chamber of Commerce or seek out a networking group. Find someone that will be a sounding board and guiding light through your first year and hopefully beyond.
Find Marketing that Works and Stick with It
During your first year of business, there are going to be a lot of marketing opportunities presented to you. Each one will swear that it’s going to bring in more business and you’ll be tempted to try it. Be careful.
If a marketing system is working for you, albeit slowly, don’t be too eager to jump off to the next opportunity.
“I had a bad case of ‘shiny object syndrome’ in my first year of business. I was excited to try every new marketing tactic I found out about,” Nadine Joseph, founder, and CEO of Peak and Valley told HubSpot. “That led to me diluting my capital amongst too many marketing channels, which is a killer problem to have as a bootstrapped business. Once I doubled down on the one to two marketing channels that worked for Peak and Valley, I was able to see some scalable success. Focus and consistency are key!”
Listen and React
There will be a lot of friends, family, and customers offering you advice in your first few years of business. It’s easy to tune them out because they’re not the ones running the business. It would be a mistake.
Listen to the advice that you receive and take it to heart. Evaluate it within your business model and think about whether something needs to change. If your friends and family are thinking it, is it possible that your customers are thinking it as well? The insight that people close to you offer could help you perfect the customer journey as well.
Write Down Everything
Okay, this is an exaggeration, but it’s closer to the truth than not. When you’re starting a business, your mind is constantly coming up with ideas, plans, to-do items, etc. Write them down.
Some of the ideas will not go anywhere, but some of them will be essential to the success of your business. Take the time each evening to go over these notes and evaluate each one. You never know when one of them will be your next big source of revenue.
Take Down Time
With a new business, it can be tempting to go, go, go. Many times, you think, if your body can handle it, why not? You get up early, go to bed late, and then do it all over again the next day.
Sure, it’s sustainable in the short-term. However, in the long-term, you’re in for a fall. The most successful entrepreneurs understand that there needs to be time away from the business to refresh not just your body, but your mind.
When you take that time away, your mind has the time to reset. When you return, you often have a fresh outlook on your business and what it needs to succeed.
Good luck to all the business owners! For some more great tips for entrepreneurs be sure to check out other posts in the Intentionally Inspirational blog.
Written by Erika Towne