The One Thing I'd Do Differently in my First Month as an Entrepreneur
The earliest days of any new venture are critical, because they set the tone for how the business will operate. With a third of new businesses failing within the first two years — and a whopping 96% coming to an end within a decade — it's important to get as much as you can right from day one. Below, five successful entrepreneurs who've navigated the early days to build multi-million dollar companies share the one thing they'd do differently if they could go back in time.
Know the fundamentals
In the excitement of building something new, it can be easy to forget that you need to maintain it afterward. Nadine Hanafi, founder of creative presentation company We Are Visual, says she wishes she had taken a class in small-business management. “If I had known then what I know now, I would have invested in a course to help me learn and brush up on the basics of running a business: accounting, operations, systems, legal, etc. I realize now that the skills and creativity needed to launch a startup are not the same skills needed to successfully run a business."
New businesses are accosted by information, in particular, new client relationships and all the history, context and communications that come with them. Drew Gurley, co-founder of the independent insurance agent community Redbird Agents, says he would not have tried to manage it all on his own. “If I had a do over, installing a Customer Relationship Management platform (CRM) would be the first thing I would have invested in. Tracking the data, managing my call-back lists, documenting milestones and tasks, etc. are not the fun work, but they're wildly important for laying the foundation of success." Of course, the right CRM varies business to business based on client size and needs. Here's a good starting point if you're currently in the market for one.
Take meticulous notes
Rob Riggs, founder of web development agency Your Design Online, advises new entrepreneurs to “document everything you do, step by step." That's because “as you grow, you're going to pass off the mundane tasks so you can focus on growth. Having those tasks ready to hand off to an assistant, a virtual assistant or whomever you replace yourself with will be a much easier transition if you've been taking notes along the way." Use your CRM to document your task list, or spend 15-20 minutes per day logging new tasks and processes in a shared document. Building a list as you go will be infinitely easier than trying to recreate it months later.
Make time for content creation
Entrepreneur and speaker Jean Ginzburg wishes she had began creating content from day one of her first business. “I should have been creating blog posts, filming videos, and writing articles that I could disseminate across social media," she says. “Had I started in my first month, by now I would have several hundred pieces of content to share with my network and prospects." Creating content will help position you as an expert and drive regular traffic to your website. If the idea of creating content sounds intimidating, check out these 25 tips from Forbes.com that will have you up and running in no time.
Ask questions early and often
Adam Mendler, CEO of The Veloz Group, says he would have taken a cold shower. “Entrepreneurship is a lot harder than anyone realizes before they take the plunge," he says. “I would love the opportunity to go back and retroactively knock out some of the naivete that led to mistakes early on." Every entrepreneur feels overwhelmed from time to time. Don't be afraid to share your questions, concerns, or insecurities with other small-business owners around you. Building relationships with peers and mentors will not only make your business more likely to succeed, it will also remove some of the isolation that comes with building a company from the ground up.