5 Things Many Entrepreneurs Wish They Knew When They Began

Linda Jenkins, January 16 2016

avoiding business failureHindsight is 20/20 when it comes to many things, and being an entrepreneur is no exception. There are plenty of things that seem counter-intuitive when you're first starting out, and only after years of experience do they make sense. Figuring these things out can take a lot of time, and it can feel like time wasted. After all, many others have made those same mistakes. You could have avoided a lot of heartache if only you'd known earlier. Here are a few things many entrepreneurs wish they had known at the start.


1. Increase Your Estimate of How Much Money You Need


It is sad but true. You've spent countless hours estimating your startup costs, meeting with your partners, researching supplier pricing, and filling in spreadsheets and dashboards of all types in your quest to come up with your best estimate for startup expenses. The sad truth is you've woefully underestimated how much money you will need to get your small business off the ground! Do yourself a favor - take that number and double it. Nothing in business will ever go exactly as planned, and you will need ample protection against unanticipated events.


2. Delegate Whenever Possible


There's always something to do as an entrepreneur. Every day there's an issue to resolve or something to discuss with your partners and/or employees. You can easily run out of time trying to keep the plates spinning, and in many cases, it's impossible to do it alone. That's when you delegate. Just make sure you delegate with follow up.


Delegating gets important tasks done while freeing you up for other tasks. It's a difficult process, especially if this is your passion project, but it's necessary. You'll only have more responsibilities as the start-up grows, and if you keep insisting on handling everything yourself, you'll quickly burn out.


3. Keep Track of Relevant Metrics


When people go on a diet or exercise in an effort to lose weight, they're encouraged to keep track of their weight periodically. This tells them what works best for them. As an entrepreneur, you should do something similar.


Keeping track of your metrics gives perspective, which is something you may lose as the excitement of a start-up turns into a grind. It allows you to make informed decisions and do what's best for the company. It can be a chore, but if you want to succeed it's absolutely necessary.


4. Start with One Product or Service


It's good to pattern yourself after successful businesses. They're doing something right, so you can learn from them and improve your start-up. The problem is that many things large companies can handle are not applicable to you as a start-up; chief among them, multiple offerings. Well-established businesses can afford to produce, market, and sell several different products and/or services at the same time. You may be struggling to get just one off the ground.


Instead of firing a product shotgun and hoping something hits, focus on improving and marketing a primary offering. You can use that product's success to power project development. It's difficult and scary to do what seems like betting the farm on that one product, but it's often better to start with one amazing product than to offer mediocre options.


5. Focus on Relevant Sources of Information


There are plenty of things to process as a business owner, but not all of them are important to you. If you try hard enough, you can spend months examining a single day's worth of information and trying to figure out how it relates to the rest of your business. Make sure they're relevant, not just to the start-up but to you. Some information is more useful for your accountant, for example. 


These are far from the only things you'll want to learn early in entrepreneurship, but they'll serve as a good start. You're bound to make a mistakes, and that's OK as long as you learn from them. The aim shouldn't be to avoid making mistakes at all - that will keep you from innovating and trying new things. The aim should be to make as few avoidable business mistakes as possible.

(top photo courtesy of nenetus & freedigitaphotos.)