Trying to narrow down a list of tips for first-time business owners is like trying to narrow down advice for first-time parents. Almost anything can and will happen during your journey, but these pointers will give you a strong foundation on which to build your flourishing company.
1. Collaborate with diverse and trustworthy partners.
One of the most important lessons a new entrepreneur can learn is that it’s OK to be picky about whom you work with and who works for you. Whenever possible, aim for diversity in your partners and colleagues across a variety of levels — not just racial and gender diversity, but a diversity of experiences, backgrounds and educations. Insist on working with people who are trustworthy, even when it comes to the small things.
2. Build and participate in a culture of learning.
Successful entrepreneurs understand that they will always have gaps in their knowledge and experience bases. While they will never be completely filled in, they can be alleviated through a commitment to lifelong learning. Invest in professional development training for you and your employees, and take advantages of the resources around you such as industry publications and your professional network.
3. Respect the importance of a professional network.
Speaking of professional networks, many new business owners underestimated their importance and neglect them over time. Their natural inclination is to devote all of their attention to the company itself, but building a robust professional community is actually one of the best ways to help a nascent business. You’ll gain new insights about your industry and competitors, market your brand effectively and forge relationships that can turn into partnerships, collaborations or even hiring opportunities.
4. Remember that every interaction is representative of your brand.
As a business owner, you are the steward of your brand image in every interaction that you have. This includes when you’re in the office speaking to clients, giving an interview to a journalist and unwinding at the bar after a long week of work. Your words and your actions can have a significant impact on your employees, your company and your partners.
5. Spread value through thought leadership.
Entrepreneurs have a unique opportunity to share the value of their experiences with others. Reach out to publications and offer to write pieces for them based on your specific expertise and knowledge. Most outlets have a lot of content need to fill, and as a bonus,you will be enriching your organization’s brand at the same time by aligning it with the promise of valuable content.
6. Embrace failure.
No one goes into business wanting to fail, yet failures are a fact of life for every single one of us at some point. How can you combat this reality? Do what the most highly-regarded entrepreneurs do and use every failure as a learning opportunity. Recognize that setbacks actually present you with chances that you wouldn’t otherwise have if everything had gone as planned, and make the most of them.
7. Practice and demand honesty.
One mistake that many inexperienced leaders make is withholding difficult developments from their team because they don’t want to be the be the bearer of bad news, or they think that doing so they will protect them. Don’t fall into this trap. The best way you can lead is by being honest and transparent every step of the way and demanding the same from them.
8. Scrutinize your finances, especially cash flows.
If your business gets into a bad cash situation it might already be too late. Don’t expect your employees to be charitable when you can’t make payroll or new investors to take pity on you when you’ve shown you can’t manage your cash up to now. The only way to avoid becoming one of the many startups that fold due to lack of cash is to be proactive about monitoring the health of your cash flows early and often.
9. Learn to value your personal time.
Your business is important, but it isn’t your entire life. You still have friends, family members and hobbies that deserve some of your attention. Don’t let your desire to give everything you have to your company cause you to burn out early and endanger the future of the business. Make a commitment to using your personal time when you can, so that when you return you are ready to achieve more than ever before.