What Should First-Time Entrepreneurs Know Before Starting Their Very First Business?

June 28, 2016

What should first-time entrepreneurs know before starting their very first business?

According to Bloomberg, eight out of ten first-time entrepreneurs fail within the first 18 months. 80% crash. Research on new ventures, such as the four-year study conducted by PricewaterHouseCoopers shows that there are certain qualities that may help you succeed. Most of these recommendations buck conventional marketing and business advice, but, then again, each individual and business has to tread its own path. The unconventional usually succeeds.

A. The Launch

Do it: You’ll learn from results.

Traditional business advice recommends a business and marketing plan. It emphasizes conducting intensive research and thoughtfully outlining your goals before you launch your business. John Bradberry in “Six secrets to startup success” quotes research that shows that business plans are useless. The best businesses meander towards their goal, learning from trial and error as they proceed. You never know what clients will like, or how they’ll react to you. Life is uncertain, and political and economic affairs of your region may throw you surprises or shocks. Put another way, traditional business talks about ‘actions’. Action is for gods that know the future. Humans are fallible. As a business owner, you can only ‘re-act’, namely respond to events. Plans are out. Learn to adapt with agility.

Do what you can: Delegate the rest to professionals.

Traditional business tells you to run a skimpy ship. Don’t know a skill such as word programming? Teach yourself.

In reality, it’s the reverse that helps you.

Henry Ford, in his Autobiography, ”My life and work”, mentions how he bucked trends to overpay his workers. They could do what he couldn’t, and he realized attractive checks leveraged their performance. In the long run, he saved. Similarly, stick with your strengths. Embellish them. And delegate the rest to qualified others. Hire the best workers you can afford and pay them accordingly. It’s your first-time business that we’re speaking about. You can’t afford to skimp.

Slow rather than fast

Traditional advice stresses speed. There are books that talk about setting up businesses in one day. Typical business advice such as Mary Ellen Tribby’s in “Reinventing the entrepreneur” focuses on fast steps of getting your first 1,000 subscribers. She writes how she gathered 5,000 subscribers in 24 hours for her business website, Working Moms Only, and how readers could adopt double-whammy strategies to copy. I prefer the turtle approach. Remember the parable of the turtle and the hare where the turtle beat the hare to the finish-line through its unflagging plodding? Experience taught me that running full-throttle right away hikes stress, wastes money, and aggravates clients. So what if you’re slower than the norm? I find I waste less money and am more likely to delight clients and workers by taking it steadily, thoughtfully, and slow. A good idea is to use Jack Canfield’s approach of five strokes a day. The author of the “Chicken Soup” series recommended doing five small things every day that will bring you closer to your goals.

Small rather than large

Similarly, gurus talk about Big Business. That may be the American way. Big is not necessary better. Focus on a small niche. Give a certain coterie of people what they need, maybe what no one else gives them, and you’ll likely attract a greedy, loyal following. The Davids can make you more money than the Goliaths. Aside from which, micro is easier to manage, easier to improve, and healthier for your sanity than macro.

B. The Business

Just one. Powerful. Idea

All you need is one idea. It need not be different than competitors, but it should help people. The problem with too many businesses, says Joel Kurtzman in “Startups that work”, is that they tend to be too ambitious, try to help too many people, or cover too many needs. That is admirable. At the same time, they tend to ripple into chaos. Relevant case studies quote Coca Cola’s 2004 venture with Dasani bottled water as a case in point. Clients loved the company for its carbonated dark brown liquid that became Americana. When Coke spread to water and other beverages, it diluted its brand and lost business. Everything special is simple. Pare your marketing, organizational, leadership plans to muscles and bones, and you’re more likely to succeed.

Forget about competition

Just because you’re the 78th marketing agency does not mean you need to heckle the toes of your competitors and constantly look over your shoulders. That distracts you! If you’re giving your clients what they need, following up on whether you’re satisfying them, and doing your best – people will come to you. You can be the 101st – and still be tops!

C. Promotion

101 of Marketing, Advertising, Selling

So-called experts inflate these subjects. They’re simple:

  • Marketing is approaching those who need you. Use Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn if your prospective clients use these, otherwise ignore these platforms. Go where your clients go. Workers on sites such as Fiverr will offer you seemingly amazing bids of $ 5 for around 1000 leads. Ignore these “offers”. Two people who are fascinated by you will give you more business than 1000 randomly selected individuals.
  • Advertising is showing your targeted market how you can give them what they need. People need to know what your ‘store’, or service, gives them. Tell them so in language that they can understand. Get to the point. Clarify and illustrate with straightforward directions on how to buy.
  • Selling is listening to their problems and answering their concerns. The old model made it intimidating with its hand-twisting techniques. Larry King’s advice is most effective: “I listen in order to learn. The more I listen, the more I can learn”. Ask people what they need. Listen. And revise accordingly.
  • The short of it all? Client comes first.


MicroMentors is a barely known resource where more than 5000 entrepreneurs and experts from 50 states and 92 countries volunteer to mentor you on all aspects of your business. Some give you seed money, while others may volunteer to become part of your team. On MicroMentors, you can ask your questions and choose people who worked for the White House to help you with PR, vice presidents of major corporations to advise you on sales, or serial entrepreneurs who started and sold multiple businesses to guide you with launching your own.

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