While running your own business has its advantages, it can be rocky in the beginning. Here’s some advice to help you get off on the right foot.
Small business owners are than the average worker. They get to choose their own schedules, they’re usually building a business based on their personal interests, and many don’t see profitability as the end-all, be-all success metric.
But every small business owner will also tell you that getting a business up and running is hard work — and things can be rocky in the beginning. After they’ve told you the hard stuff, they’ll be more than happy to dole out advice.
Here’s a culmination of what we’ve learned from an array of small business owners around the country.
Give yourself plenty of time — maybe more than you think you need
It’s safe to say your job will consume your life for a while when you’re starting up a small business, and if you’re not ready to commit to that, you might need to hold off until you are.
When he got involved at in 1994, Roy Farmer says, “the biggest challenge [was] definitely time.” Roy and his wife, Shawna, came in to help Shawna’s father run his fledgling business, but they had no idea of the commitment they were making.
“The amount of time we needed to get our business off the ground and running was extraordinary,” admits Roy. Almost two decades later, the pair is still at the helm of the business — and still married, too!
While it can be tempting to dive right into things and start scheduling meetings, consider giving yourself more time than you think you need. It’s better to under-promise and over-deliver than to set ambitious goals and fall short, especially if you’re the one who will be held responsible. ( to Tweet this thought.)
Your time is just as valuable after you open up your doors, so make sure you’re spending it on clients and customers who help drive your business, not stall it. As you’re starting out, you might take on projects to get experience and build relationships. But you shouldn’t feel obligated to keep spending time on a client you’ve outgrown (or vice versa).
Be unapologetic about asking for help
We’re not talking about nepotism here. Instead, , and let your friends know what they can do to help your small business venture succeed.
Crowdfunding, whether you’re using a site like or hosting a giant bake sale, is a great way to simultaneously drum up funding and interest for your product. If someone donates to your business, they’ll probably want to try out your product or services, too.
Reach out to artistic friends for help with your logo and branding. Have some fellow small business owner cohorts? Ask them if they’d be willing to do some cross-promotional marketing or events with you.
When you’ve hired your primary employees, bring in an expert to train or coach them in areas you’re not an expert in. Better yet, hire these experts on as contractors if you can afford it — their experience and efficiency will help get your business off the ground more quickly. A prime example: young entrepreneur Lucas Duplan is in his early 20s. His secretive startup, Clinkle, on former Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy to be COO.
In his interview with , CEO of Sketchfab.com Alban Denoyel encourages young entrepreneurs to “just ask for it! You’ll be surprised how often people are more willing to help than not.”
Speaking of being willing to help: hire on a few driven, intelligent and resourceful interns. Interns provide fresh perspectives and can act as sounding boards for new ideas. And if someone fits your team especially well, you’ll already have gone through the vetting process before hiring!
Get to know your audience and engage with them
It’s something new entrepreneurs often overlook, but is one of the most crucial pieces of your company. Getting to know this target group will help you make educated decisions about your business’s location, product pricing, advertising strategy and branding.
(If you’re not clear on how to establish this group, consult this quick and dirty ; it will help you identify your current and desired target audience.)
One of the best ways to engage with your audience and customer? Old-school observation and interaction. Roy Farmer explains that, when his father-in-law Gary was trying to drum up interest in his company’s products, making himself a fixture in their haunts was crucial to success.
Gary would leave the office in the evening and go straight to local bars, where he would approach people playing billiards and darts and let them know where they could buy at-home equipment to brush up on their games. Those one-on-one interactions helped Gary establish lots of his first customer relationships — and those relationships stayed strong for years to come, with most customers being repeats or referrals from friends.
When you’ve gotten to know your customers in a real, face-to-face way, you’ll find that it’s easier — not more difficult — to continue coming up with new marketing efforts.
Getting involved in your community is an easy, effective and rewarding way to communicate your long-term investment in your customers and company. Plus, it’ll create new opportunities for cross-promotional partnerships and expanding outreach. And having the faces of your business at a small community event is a great way to cement your brand in your customers’ brains.
Try something new… and then try again
Getting a small business up and running is hard work. But if you believe in the organization, it’s one of the most rewarding things you can do.
If some of your brilliant ideas don’t pan out, try something new. You might not have the budget of a commercial giant, but you do have an enviable amount of flexibility. Don’t be afraid of a little trial by fire. Whatever happens, about your goals and your company.
is an outdoor enthusiast, musician, writer and food junkie. He likes to write about many different topics, ranging from digital marketing to career advice and even men’s fashion. Follow him on Twitter .