Top 10 Tips for Launching Your Startup and Building a Payroll
It starts with an idea—and often times it stops there. How many times have you heard someone talk about a great idea for a product or business, a startup? Turning that great idea into a business takes determination, passion, creativity and endurance—among other things. In fact, the entrepreneur’s path is the road less traveled with twists and turns; pivots and pirouettes; and stops and starts. Starting a business is riddled with risks and rewards—and it’s not for the faint of heart.
At the core, entrepreneurs have one thing in common. We're problem solvers, who can create a vision and take action to make it happen. To celebrate Start Your Small Business month, consider these 10 important pieces of advice as you launch or grow your startup and begin putting people on your payroll:
- Research: So you've got a new idea? Or perhaps you have an idea of how to do something better than what currently exists today. Now you need to understand the industry, potential competitors, how they are reaching and converting potential users into customers and if you can do it better, easier, cheaper. Through your research, you need to assess demand for your product or service. If it is an untapped category, make sure that you are solving a problem.
- Create a business plan with supporting goals and timelines: Of course, the business plan should include all of the essential categories with a laser focus on what you will deliver. Yet, the plan is only valuable if you use it as a roadmap for success. On this journey, an often overlooked but critical path is goal setting with timeframes to achieve this business plan. Specific goals with timelines will help you stay on course and be accountable. Without time-set goals, you can wander off the map.
- Plan for how much money you'll need to start your business—and then double it. Plan for what you know and what you don't. Think about every dime you will need to launch including marketing, operations, salaries (even if it's only your salary), legal costs, accounting and more. Plan for what you cannot see as well. Expect unforeseen problems and challenges along the way. Determine where you will find the money to fund it. Research funding options like investors, savings, friends, family, loans, crowdfunding and grants. Don't wait until you desperately need money because it will either cost you more or worse, sink your business.
- Develop a customer-centered business. Identify your target customer. Know what they want. Walk in their shoes. Understand what their needs are. Research their interests and habits. Then, deliver an experience that exceeds expectations every time. Remember repeat customers are essential to your business. Loyal customers build your brand for you. Word of mouth marketing will help you to grow your business. And never stop listening to your customers as their needs change and world around them changes as well.
- Learn from mistakes—but make sure to do it quickly. It goes without saying that you will make mistakes. But learn from them quickly, adjust the course and reach out to any customers who were negatively impacted. Own up to mistakes with customers, employees—and with yourself. Recovering quickly and adapting is how you'll succeed in the long run.
- Be honest. Transparency is key. While the truth may be difficult to deliver, build a reputation of honesty and transparency with customers, vendors, consultants, employees and the community. Your reputation is something that takes time to build but can be destroyed in minutes.
- Spend time working on your business not for your business. While this sounds easier said than done, it is important. Inevitably, in the beginning, an entrepreneur wears many hats, juggles too many tasks and feels overworked. But if you spend all your time running the business - working on purely operational tasks like payroll - and not building it, then it will not grow. If you are skilled at something, but you are the only one in your company that is able to offer this skill, how will your business grow? Instead find opportunities to lead, train, grow and delegate. You cannot be everywhere at once. Identify redundant tasks and automate them with software tools. Hire outside consultants to take care of accounting and legal requirements. And when possible, hire employees to help run the business.
- Build a team of people who share similar values—but look at the world differently and hopefully they are smarter than you. Synergize. Surround yourself by the brightest people who buy into your vision but offer a different lens. Think about the customer experience you want to deliver and find employees who will help you. Intelligent, flexible employees are easy to train.
- Identify mentors. Don't go it alone. You cannot know everything so rely on others to advise you along the way. Find honest, seasoned advisors to help you think through your business. Always learn and grow. Seek out new mentors continuously. Find local networking events through SCORE or your local SBA office. Online mentors are available as well at places like Micromentor. Entrepreneurs are naturally curious. As you build your business, don't become too busy to ask questions. Network, develop and help others along the way.
- Schedule time daily without interruption. Make sure to create your own schedule rather than allowing others to drive it. Entrepreneurs need time without distraction to think and work without interruptions. This time is about continuously focusing on business and priorities.