Typically, small business owners are quite a bit happier than average employees. They set their own hours, and often get to work on things they’re passionate about, and for many of them, making lots of money isn’t the only marker of success.
Every small business owner knows that getting a business off the ground is difficult, and in the beginning, things are often shaky. Once they’ve shared this with you, they’ll be more than pleased to give some advice.
We asked a variety of small business owners around the country what they have learned and compiled their responses here.
Give yourself plenty of time — maybe more than you think you need
If you’re not ready to have your job consume most of your waking hours, it might be best to wait until you are prepared to make that commitment.
When he joined Allstate Home Leisure in 1994, Roy Farmer’s top challenge was making time for the business. Shawna and her father asked Roy to help them run the company, but they had no idea of what a big undertaking it would be.
“The amount of time we needed to get our business off the ground and running was extraordinary,” admits Roy. Almost 20 years later, the pair is still leading the business – and they’re still married!
The pressure to succeed can be immense, however, try not to let it discourage you from taking the necessary time for things. It’s always better to aim lower and go above expectations than set grandiose objectives and fail, especially if it will adversely affect you.
After you open up your business, continue to spend time wisely on clients and customers that will help your business succeed instead of those who will hold it back. When you’re first starting out, it’s ok to take on projects even if they’re not perfect matches in order to gain experience and build relationships. But don’t feel like you have to keep spending time with a client that no longer needs your services (or vice versa).
Be unapologetic about asking for help
We’re not talking about nepotism. Instead, we’re talkin getting advice from experts and consultants, letting your friends help you succeed with your small business venture.
No matter how you collect it, crowdfunding is a great way to raise money and create buzz for your product. If someone donates to your business, they’re likely to be interested in using your product or service as well.
Collaborate with friends who are artists to help you with your logo and branding. If you have any small business owner colleagues, see if they would be interested in doing cross-promotional marketing or events with you.
After you’ve hired your first few employees, it’s beneficial to bring in an expert to teach them things that you’re not knowledgeable about. If possible, try hiring these experts as contractors instead of full-time employees so they can help get your business up and running more quickly. For instance, Lucas Duplan is a young entrepreneur in his early 20s who owns the startup Clinkle. Recently, he decided to hire former Netflix CFO Barry McCarthy as the company’s new Chief Operating Officer.
Alban Denoyel, CEO of Sketchfab.com believes that young entrepreneurs should “just ask for it!” in an interview with Mashable. More often than not, people are willing to help out if asked politely.
Hiring interns is often a great way to find new employees. Interns can provide fresh perspectives and 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 crucial to get to know your target audience when you’re starting a business, as this will help guide major company decisions such as where to locate the business, product pricing, advertising strategy and branding.
(Not sure how to establish your target market? Check out this guide from Intuit; it will help you understand both your current and desired audience.)
One of the best ways to interact with your customers is something that’s been around for a long time: observation and interaction. Roy Farmer explains that, when his father-in-law Gary was trying to get people interested in his company’s products, becoming a regular at their hangouts was essential to success.
Gary would leave work and go to local bars every evening. He would then talk to people playing darts or billiards and tell them where they could buy equipment so that they could practice at home.Gary built most of his first customer relationships through these one-on-one interactions — which remained strong for years because most customers were either repeats or referrals from friends.
It’s far simpler to come up with new marketing strategies when you have a genuine understanding of your customers.
Demonstrating your commitment to customers and company through community involvement is an excellent way to build relationships with other business owners, as well as marketing and expanding your customer base. Additionally, putting faces of your business in front of potential customers can help them remember you when they need your product or service.
Try something new… and then try again
Though it takes a lot of dedication, starting your own small business is one of the most gratifying experiences you can have.
It’s okay if not every one of your ideas work out- try something different next time. You might not have as large of a budget as a commercial company, but you are more flexible. Do not be afraid to risk it all; whatever the outcome, you will learn more about what you want and need for your business goals.
Thad Baker 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 @ThadBaker87.
Brazen Life is a lifestyle and career blog for ambitious young professionals. Hosted by Brazen Careerist, we offer edgy and fun ideas for navigating the changing world of work. Be Brazen!