Entrepreneurial thinking has been around since the development of money. And it has grown exponentially since the pandemic forced people to re-think and adapt their own prospects. That leaves the small business community with an outsized contingent of new business owners. While many of those new companies are owned by seasoned business professionals, many are doing start-ups for the first time—without the benefit of having tried multiple times before.
If you’re a small business owner without a lot of experience, you’ll need to keep focused on long-term sustainable success while you attend to all the short-term imperatives and challenges that come your way. It’s a daunting challenge. Consider these insights for long-term success gleaned from others who’ve been in your position and thrived:
- Remember the big picture. Over time, you’ll surely feel distracted and face detours. Though frustrating, it’s natural to feel sidetracked; you’ve only got so much bandwidth. But while you’re giving priority to the most immediate challenges, stay mindful of what success looks like from the 50,000-foot level. Remember the original business idea that inspired you. That vision can, and should, sustain you when you feel overwhelmed. A corollary to this insight: Learn to differentiate learning experiences from actual failures. No outcome is a failure if you took away an important lesson you can act on later.
- Follow through. If you’ve reached a decision to explore a certain path for your business (a particular location, product line, key employee), don’t be too quick to abandon it if it doesn’t produce the immediate results you hoped for. Give your idea every chance to succeed, tweaking as necessary as you implement. Stick with your concept unless and until it becomes untenable. By the same token, learn to recognize when it’s time to stop digging and try a different approach.
- Plan, but don’t obsess. By all means, invest the time and resources to develop a solid business plan, marketing plan and other formal documents. They should include realistic assessments of your (and your competitors’) strengths and weaknesses, as well as well-researched milestones you’re comfortable striving for. Yet stay nimble. Revise your plans as necessary whenever you discover your assumptions don’t fit the realities you’re facing.
- Play to your strengths. As the owner of a startup, you’ll need to wear many hats (planner, tech consultant, HR professional, economics guru, etc.) at first. But to the extent possible, hand off the tasks you can delegate so you can make the most of your expertise. That means developing a core team of reliable self-starters—employees and/or trusted freelancers—who excel in their skill sets just as you do in your own. The last thing you want is to be so distracted with tangential responsibilities that your top-level strengths become underutilized.
- Take advantage of others’ lessons. Many of your challenges will not be unique; someone has already encountered similar problems and developed workable solutions. Those are often easier to implement than doing all your problem-solving unaided. That’s especially true with systems that often come pre-configured. Think accounting structures, business processes and policies, even tried-and-true marketing and advertising campaigns. The time you’d spend developing your own systems may not always be worth it compared to the cost of adapting an existing one. You can also gain knowledge and guidance simply by doing some networking. Get to know the people in your market and draw upon their experience; at some point, you’ll be called on to share your own insights with other newbies.
Guiding the launch of a startup requires flexibility, but that doesn’t mean you have to do all your learning through experience. Leverage the resources available to you, so you can set yourself, and your fledgling business, up for long-term success. For more insights on resourceful entrepreneurship, contact our small business financing experts at 1-855-WHY-PANGO (1-855-949-7264).