The No. 1 Key: You Gotta Really Want It
If you think starting a small business would merely be “a nice thing to do,” or something that you simply want to try, you probably aren’t dedicated enough to insure your success at it. You need to be totally committed to it.
That doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t have plenty of second thoughts when thinking about starting a business. It doesn’t necessarily mean that you shouldn’t have hard limits to your risk such as, “I will only invest a certain amount of money,” or “I will not risk my day job.”
But it does mean that once you have decided to launch a business, you should be determined to give whatever effort it takes within those prescribed limits.
You need to have the kind of drive that will keep you going even when the chips are down, a drive that pushes you to keep giving a little more energy, even when things are not looking good. The kind of drive and determination that keeps you working hard day after day, even when you are hitting one obstacle after the next and the future is looking bleak. You need to have a dogged determination that keeps you plugging ahead, whether it feels like the sun is shining on you, or it feels like you are continually wrestling alligators in a swamp.
If you have a really strong desire to start your own business, then you have the number one most important ingredient in what it takes to succeed in business.
The No. 2 Key: Choosing Your Business
People frequently make a lousy choice on their very first business decision: which business area to enter. In fact, it is often given little consideration, a choice that people may drift into without consciously looking at the options.
Too many people choose a particular business for the wrong reasons, such as their limited experience in it, their familiarity with someone who made a lot of money in the field, or that it seems fun and prestigious. To be sure, it doesn’t hurt that you have experience in a business, but that alone doesn’t necessarily mean it is an excellent choice.
Related: How to Start a Business in 5 Steps
Choose Your Business the Way a Venture Capitalist Chooses Their Investments
You should carefully consider a broad range of factors before committing to starting a particular business. For example, your evaluation should include factors such as the state of the market, market segments, the competition, your strengths and weaknesses, and available opportunities. These are all factors that venture capitalists demand are solidly researched and carefully evaluated before they consider investing even a nickel in a startup.
Do you want to be more careless with your money and time investment in starting your one business than a venture capitalist would be in financing one of dozens in which they might be involved? Of course not.
The No. 3 Key: A Great Business Plan
I view having a great business plan as a super important factor in determining your likelihood of business success. In fact, much of the work that goes into a solid business plan you should already have conducted even before deciding on your area of business. This is vital for every business, so much so that I have many, many presentations relating to this topic.
The No. 4 Key: A Solid Strategy
Strategy goes hand in hand with business planning. Many businesses do not have a great strategy, yet a strong strategy is extremely important for increasing your chances of business success. You want to have compelling answers to questions like, “Which part of the market am I going to target?” and, “How am I going to compete in a different way than my competition?” I also have a number of presentations on strategy as well.
The No. 5 Key: A Nimble Approach to Marketing
Your mindset and approach to marketing will also greatly impact your chances of business success. You don’t need a Madison Avenue background to create a powerful marketing program, but you’ve got to give it some deep thought and probably try a lot of different approaches. It’s hard, but you can do it. I have many presentations giving specific ideas on what to do and what not to do.
The No. 6 Key: Mastering the Basics of Accounting
Many people who start a small business are concerned that they don’t have the knowledge to master finance and accounting. I have a number of presentations that take you through the basics, even if you have no experience in accounting. As long as you stay meticulous and organized, you can master small business finance.
The No. 7 Key: Learning from My Experience
There are a lot of people out there who have built and run successful small businesses. But what tends to set me apart from them is that not only have I started and ran a lot of successful small businesses, but several that weren’t so successful.
That’s how you really learn small business lessons – through your mistakes, particularly when you are able to not only identify, but are willing to recognize and admit to your mistakes. It is not necessarily an easy process. I think this is an area at which I’ve gotten pretty good. In fact, I wrote an entire book on my small business mistakes alone.
But you have an advantage. You don’t have to make all of these mistakes yourself to gain wisdom from them: you just have to listen to my advice. I’ve already made the mistakes so that you don’t have to make them. I encourage you to invest the time to study my lessons on running a business and avoid learning to do so the expensive way – by making mistakes.