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10 Vital Tips for New Entrepreneurs

As business management and strategy consultants, we work with many new entrepreneurs and start-up companies. We've seen how the entrepreneurial journey can take a lot of twist and turns.

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I don't think there's anything more exciting, rewarding, terrifying, and frustrating all at the same time! A new business definitely tests the resolve of its owners and it's critical to have the advice and consult of experts that can guide you along the way. It takes a dedicated group to deliver on an entrepreneur's vision. Here are 10 tips to consider on the journey!

(1) Be realistic: It's great to be a cheerleader for your business when dealing with customers, but you need to ensure you can provide an exceptional product that exceeds expectations. Making promises and missing on the delivery never works out well for the business or customer. You must also be realistic when it comes to making financial projections, accepting apparent weaknesses, etc. Not being realistic can get a new venture in real trouble. Be honest and realistic as you move forward; otherwise, trouble can come before success!

(2) Slow down: It's a never-ending problem all founders and small business owners endure. There's never enough time in the day to get everything accomplished. It's either too much to do by yourself or a lack of delegation. Whatever the problem, you must find time to step back from the business to relax, enjoy, and think. A new business is a marathon...not a 50-yard dash. Without some "down" time, you can't properly plan, innovate, or make improvements. Work smarter, not harder and longer!

(3) Full focus. Full energy: You can only be successful in a small business when you devote your full energy and focus to your new venture. This doesn't mean working yourself to death. It does mean, however, that whatever hours you devote to your new endeavor...whether full-time or needs to have your full energy and devotion during those hours. Who wants to do business with you or, possibly, invest in your business when you're not giving it your 100%? Work on your new business with partial energy and see only minimal results!

(4) Hatch your eggs: Make sure your eggs hatch before moving forward. Every entrepreneur wants to make a big splash right out of the starting blocks. It would be wonderful if it works that way but most of the time, it doesn't. Throw a small pebble, make a ripple, and see what works. Then you're ready to throw a boulder and make a big splash. Make sure the eggs hatch before moving on as it's easier to realize success on a foundation of success.

(5) Competence counts: Entrepreneurs "think" they know best and, maybe, they do when it comes to the technical aspects of their businesses. When it comes to other areas such as business consulting, marketing, taxes, accounting, insurance, or legal, it pays to obtain professional and competent advice. Don't try to do something yourself today only to hire a professional tomorrow to undo your mistakes. Invest in getting the competent advice right from the start. Invest now or regret later!

(6) Narrow your focus: It would be nice to be all things to all customers, but it usually doesn't work that way. Narrow your focus and concentrate on what you do best. Determine your strategy, define your target market, and don't deviate. New opportunities and new markets can be profitable, but they must match the internal resources and strengths of a business. Be a great business in a narrow market rather than a mediocre business in a broad market. Focus first, then expand! As the saying goes...Be a big fish in a small pond!

(7) Market research: Of course you know that your product or service is going to be successful, but have you checked with prospective customers for what they really want? Market research is a powerful tool that can help lead a new business in the right direction. Ask, talk, send surveys, read industry publications, search the Internet, have a "think tank" dinner with respected business colleagues. Market research just might be an eye-opener! Consider hiring a business consultant here also. Often the "fresh-eyed" approach can look at a market much differently than a long-time insider.

(8) Be prepared: It's exciting to get a new business off the ground, but you must be prepared. This means having everything in place, so there's no faltering when the "doors open." Financing, employees, marketing, procedures, etc. must be in place and ready to go. Why stumble at the opening when you can start running? It's all about being prepared!

(9) Be passionate but prudent: You can't be a small business owner if you're not passionate about what you do. Unfortunately, being passionate does not always equate to being successful. Be practical, wise, and sensible when making business decisions and investments. Most startups don't have the luxury of funding poor decision making. Take the opposite approach. Be prudent and succeed!

(10) Know your numbers: You're not an accountant...You don't want to be an accountant...You dated an accountant once and it didn't work out...but you still need to know the numbers of your business...inside and out. What's your estimated revenue, cost of goods sold, gross profit percentage, cash burn rate, or current ratio? If the numbers don't work, then your business might not work.

OnTarget Strategy is a business management and marketing consultancy based outside Boulder, Colorado. They work with local clients in Boulder, Denver, and Fort Collins and national clients across the country. Their customers vary from fledgling start-ups to seasoned mid-size organizations.

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