Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
Founding a business is a monumental undertaking — a crucial life decision that may not always be made rationally or with cemented fundamental business practices. Even still, many entrepreneurs found themselves nine months into a 9-5 soul-sucking job, taking the proverbial (and more challenging) road less traveled.
The early days of this voyage can be filled with excitement and enthusiasm. Watching your business take its first steps toward success is incredibly rewarding, but it typically takes little time to realize that it's not always smooth sailing. Your business will give you many sleepless nights, demanding all your attention and testing your resolve at nearly every stage. Endure, however, and you shall be rewarded.
As a very successful entrepreneur with a 40-year track record recently reminded me that entrepreneurship is the ultimate endurance game by saying, "There were times in my business where the only thing I did right was not giving up."
So how do successful entrepreneurs endure? By continually executing these five foundational business practices and making them core to their process.
1. Evaluate your product or service — as a business person, one must always strive to deliver products/services of the highest quality. Before starting your business, you must ask yourself several questions — will my product fulfill consumers' needs? Is there a market for the product/service I'm delivering? Is the pricing right? A thorough SWOT analysis of your product will shed light upon different aspects of your product and will help you identify key strengths and weaknesses and how they can be overcome.
2. Gauge the market and your competitors — the business environment is highly competitive, you often don't have complete control, and your fate depends on the exterior environment, your competition, and your teammates. Potholes can be everywhere, and an entrepreneur must have adequate knowledge about the market his product/service exists and the competitors in that market. This knowledge is indispensable; it serves as a crucial decision-making factor in charting the growth route of a business. The product/service should be strong enough to withstand intense marketing campaigns by competitors.
3. Evaluate yourself — successful small business owners continuously monitor the value of their business and their personal wealth. The value of a business plays a crucial role in making future business and personal financial planning decisions. When matters such as mergers, acquisitions, product development, the sale of the company or purchasing a home, sending a child off to college, and how to save for retirement arise, having a detailed understanding of the business's value and personal wealth is quite literally mandatory for good decision-making.
4.Transparency — record all financial transactions undertaken by and for the business. Having a clear view of the vital financial statements of the company, preferably with modern fintech accounting software, will allow the owner to understand the business's financial performance and make better business investment decisions. Further, in an environment where audits, fraud, and lawsuits are rampant, being transparent will add credibility to your business and create a favorable perception in the minds of the consumers. Maintain the transparency of your business, and it'll go a long way in adding goodwill, ultimately leading to increased equity value.
5. Set realistic expectations — don't expect to win 8 Olympic golds like Phelps in 2008 in the nascent stages of your business; it's essential to set reasonable and achievable expectations. Don't wade into waters too deep to survive in. Typically, you should give about 12 months before seeing a customer bring more value to your business than how much it costs to onboard. It's essential to take on as much as you can handle and no more. If not, you might compromise the quality of your product/service, which can harm the business's customer retention, credibility, and brand. Further, while especially important in the early days, this practice remains true at all stages of the business.
While starting a business is a path many people choose to generate wealth, independence, and security, sustaining and maintaining its viability are the biggest hurdles over the long run. These business practices will help you endure obstacles and ensure your business stays a going concern in this entrepreneurial ultra-marathon.
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