If you're looking to start your own company, you're probably well aware of the rather daunting statistics for launching a successful small business. According to the SBA Office of Advocacy, "About half of all new establishments survive five years or more and about one-third survive 10 years or more." The outlook for startups isn't rosy, and of the ones that do manage to survive, most of them don't make it big.
However, you should know that your chances of thriving as a startup increase exponentially if you take the time to prepare. One of the best methods of preparation is talking to those who have gone before you; learn from their successes and, more importantly, from their mistakes. If you were to talk to successful entrepreneurs, here are a few things they'd probably tell you.
Small Business Startup Advice
1. Don't Go It Alone
If you look at a list of successful startups over the last few years, you'll notice that most have one thing in common: multiple founders. Starting a company by yourself puts you at a distinct disadvantage for several reasons. Beginning a business is a lot of work, and several important things will likely fall through the cracks if you don't have more than one of eyes on the ball.
Furthermore, you'll lack the companionship necessary for celebrating your successes and for brainstorming ways to overcome your mistakes. Take it from the pros: not sharing your profits isn't worth trying to handle a brand new business by yourself.
2. You Need Lots of Money
However much money you've raised, it probably isn't enough to fund a successful business. You'll need to find more funding at some point in order to keep your bills paid and your dreams afloat. Seeking out investors is always a good idea in the beginning stages. Equity crowdfunding can also be an extremely lucrative option for startups.
3. Location Still Matters
Even though more businesses are starting out online, your physical location can still be an important factor in the success of your business. If you plan to set up a physical shop, you'll need to go where your target audience is. If you plan to set up an online store, you still need to consider your location, at least for networking and economy purposes. Currently, the Silicon Valley, Atlanta, Boston, and Boulder are some of the best places to start a business.
4. You Can't Slay Giants Right Away
Most of the major giants in your industry got where they are because they developed extensive resources, have years of experience, and are well known in the consumer industry. They didn't get that way overnight. It took time to develop that name and to become a popular industry tycoon.
As a startup, you shouldn't try to compete with the big wigs. Instead, focus on the small things and work on beating your immediate competition. If you use your resources right, with time, you may have the chance to go up against the giants and win.
5. Don't Overlook Your Target Market
Your startup should always have a target audience, and the goods or services you offer must solve some kind of problem for this audience in order to take off. Too many startups get so caught up in the details of launching the business that they forget to consider the people that will keep them in business.
6. Choose Your Employees Carefully
As your business begins to grow and develop, you'll learn how difficult it is to retain employees. They will always come and go as they move onto the next best thing or transition to different points in their lives. However, flighty employees are the last people you want to hire when you're starting a company. You need people who are willing to see your vision and stick with your company at least until you're airborne.
In order to do this, take your time on the hiring process. Rushing it will leave you with sub-par employees and missed opportunities to hire the ones that could have made your company soar.
7. Make Customers a High Priority
Though it should go without saying, your customers keep you in business, which means that customer service should be at the top of your priorities. But customers can do more for your business than make purchases. They can also help you to improve your products and services so that your business can thrive. By listening to customer feedback, you too can learn the best ways to improve your products and services to meet your customers' needs.
As a startup you'll make your share of unique mistakes, but maybe these lessons from experienced entrepreneurs can help you to avoid any unnecessary ones.
Larry Alton is an independent business consultant specializing in social media trends, business, and entrepreneurship. Follow him on Twitter and LinkedIn.
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