While businesses open and close their doors every year around the country, there are many things that entrepreneurs look back upon and wish they knew. Hindsight can truly be 20/20 when it comes to running a successful business that sticks around. Those who find success are often great springboards for helping others learn from their experiences.
“When I created a new and better nasal aspirator to ease our son’s chronic congestion, I didn’t realize that I was actually starting a business,” explains Peter Champe, owner of Baby Comfy Care. “I now recognize that there are a lot of things I wish I had known before starting this venture. Though I’ve managed to muddle through various challenges, I would have been better off, and perhaps others will too, by having these insights.”
Now, Baby Comfy Nose is available in 7,800 Walgreens stores nationwide and the larger company, Baby Comfy Care, is expanding. Here are 11 things that Champe says he wish he knew before starting a business:
1. Delegate Online
It is tempting to try to do everything yourself, including branding, web design, marketing, product design, and so on. This is a fast track that will leave you overwhelmed and headed for failure. Online services, such as oDesk and Expert360, put top-notch freelance skills a few clicks away. It is not necessary to hire a staff and deal with all of the difficulties of employees when you can hire the talent you need by the hour and only when you need them.
2. Don’t Have a One-Track Mind
You may lose interest in anything that does not have to do with your business—and you may wonder why others are not as enthralled with your business as you are. Don’t forget to maintain balance in your life and keep alive other areas of interest. Make time for things that are not directly related to your business, and you might find that by entertaining new ideas, you actually have more inspiration to bring back into your business.
3. Keep Your Goals in Mind
You probably decided to start a business because you wanted more time for yourself and less time at the office working for someone else. That is a great reason to go out on your own. But be aware that when you have your own business, you can’t leave your job at the office. You live your business. Your goal should be to automate as much as possible.
4. Have a Beginner’s Mind
Because you don’t know, you often come up with faster, simpler, better solutions. Just because others have done it one way, does not mean you need to do it the way it has always been done. Trust yourself and make a mistake or two, but you will probably emerge with the better idea.
5. Focus on Scalability
Ask yourself if your business model would be different if you made 100 widgets or 100,000 widgets. Ideally, the answer is no. A massage therapist can only work on one client at time, which you appreciate when you are getting a massage, but earning capacity is therefore limited. Computer apps are the ultimate scalability in that you design them, then launch them, and the number of downloads makes no additional demands on the creator. Creating and selling physical products is not as hands-off as digital apps, but if your manufacturing and distribution channels are in place, it can approach that degree of scalability.
6. Trust But Verify
Particularly on the web, there are those who will try to trick, con, and steal from you. Small business owners are a particularly juicy target for scammers, as we make independent spending decisions and require new products and services to grow our businesses. Champe is still embarrassed that he fell for the “Nigerian government agency” that was interested in purchasing 50,000 nasal aspirator for distribution to hospitals. They provided purchase orders on what appeared to be official letterhead, and he felt protected as he had stipulated that the company would not ship until the funds had been deposited into my bank account. What could go wrong? The scam became evident several weeks into negotiations when the agent said that they would need him to pay government application fees. He immediately broke off communications before losing any money, but he had wasted the important commodity of time.
7. Don’t Take it Personally
Occasionally, Champe will read Amazon reviews for his products and alternate between satisfaction with the 5-star reviews and indignation at the less-than-5-star reviews. It is important to remember that the comments of a dissatisfied customer are not a personal attack. He has learned that a respectful response to a complaint or a poor product review is a powerful generator of brand loyalty in the long run.
8. Connect With Mentors
People who have more experience and are far more successful than you want to help and build ongoing relationships with you. Take advantage of others’ experience and kindness.
9. Know One Product is Not Enough
You have worked to create a product; you have brought it to market, established sales and distribution channels, and created brand recognition. If you only have one product, you are essentially wasting a majority of the time and effort you have expended. It is much easier to bring the second product to market because most of the work is already done. When Champe attended his first trade show, The ABC Children’s Product Expo in Las Vegas, he still remembers when one buyer asked him what his next product was. He couldn’t believe it! He had worked so hard to create this product, and all she wanted to know was what was next? He still appreciates the message of this indirect advice: Keep going.
10. Plan Your Exit Strategy
Champe reports that he doesn’t have an exit strategy, and he wished he had done more over the years to design his business so that when the time is right he can step out and sell. This kind of strategy requires planning from the beginning. There is an art to structuring your business to look attractive to a potential buyer, and it is important to think about early.
11. Create Your Vision
Focus on creating your vision and allow the cooperating components to appear. We seem to think that our world is solid and that we have to struggle to move solid things around to succeed. But our world is more fundamentally vibrations and thought forms. How do you want your life to be? Traveling to France for a month in the summer, tropical beaches in the winter, and adventure and abundance year-round? Create a mental picture of that, and live as if it is already done. The thought and the feeling always precede the reality.
“Just being more prepared and knowing these things can go a long way toward helping your business be more successful,” added Champe. “The more prepared you are, the better off you will be.”
Photo of ribbon cutting courtesy of Shutterstock.
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