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What are some things you wish you thought you knew when you started your own business?

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Ashley’s Answer

When you own a business there is no 9-5 its 24/7. It is a constant worry and theres nothing wrong with that however you have to make sure that you manage your time wisely. With that you need to make sure you make time for you and your mental health. I worked for many years nonstop and although I grew tremendously I was burnt out after 3 years and ready to find a new career. Instead I made changes in my staff (got rid of negativity) and started to take a day off . On my one day off I do ZERO business work. I dedicate it to myself and my family.

Ariel, there are many things: - Make sure there is a market for that not just now but in the long run - Follow the trend of the economy and the politics where you are going to open the business - Understand what your target public actually needs and if they can continue to afford your product, in case a crisis arise. For the company I am one of the co-founders one way to improve the connection, the productivity also to have a break from work I found ways to create team building activities in which we would play, go to a place and after I would analyse the pros and cons, see how the team absorbed the experience. Irene Sobrinho

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G. Mark’s Answer

When I first planned to start a business, I was very naive. I assumed that if I just put out some information and ads, the business would come. Business takes a lot of preparation and teamwork. And teamwork includes funding, because without significant funding, it's unlikely you'll survive against competition in any endeavor that is likely to pay off enough to pay the bills. Unless you need no income and you're working out of your parents house, you will be competing against serious folks who are willing to put in huge effort. As I've said before, over 86 percent of businesses never make a profit at all. And if you end up being a small player, you will fail if you actually want to produce more than a bake sale or two. Another thing I underestimated was competitive research. No successful business stands still. As soon as you get competent at something, someone else is also competent or more so. So you need to evolve and learn and research, particularly in any tech business. I remember as a young mechanic back when the corporate guys would come around with paper manuals and instruction presentations, some of the guys would absolutely dread that. There was always a possibility that you would have to spend either long hours studying or at least trying out techniques, failing, getting confused, finding holes in the documentation or instruction or even bugs in the new products. I recall a new Chevrolet in the showroom for the unveiling that was a station wagon with a new tailgate that could open as a horizontal door or a drop-down tailgate. Brilliant design and very simple. It had two handles -- one for the "door" and the other for the "tailgate". And they were interlocked so only one could be operated at a time by a single operator. Until one guy's kids came in and worked the handles with one kid on each handle. They overcame the interlock and the tailgate fell off on a single pin, dropped to the ground and fell off. Now think if you were a single business owner and you introduced a product like that, and instead of a team of engineers jumping on the problem with work-arounds, you had to stay awake for the rest of the weekend or week or month figuring it out while the customer simply refused to pay you for a defective product. That's the risk of the small business person and the preparation and ingenuity and fortitude required.

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Sanjay’s Answer

Starting a business can be an extremely rewarding experience in your life, but it will be one of the most challenging things you do. I started a company in my late 20s that was moderately successful for quite some time, but ultimately failed, however, I consider that time one of the most transformational experiences of my career.

Here are some things that I learned:

  1. There's no "right time" to start a company -- if you try to optimize starting a company when every single thing in your life is perfect, you'll likely never find the time. The single hardest thing to do to starting your own business is simply starting it. You'll convince yourself in many ways why something won't work (I'm not qualified, competition will be tough, how will I be able to do this?, etc). Once you start, it actually becomes a bit easier to start putting one foot in front of another and continuing to execute on your path. When you have been at it for a while, you can look back and realize just how much you've accomplished.
  2. It will be "all consuming" -- the only caveat to the right time is that you need to be prepared for this to take up nearly all of your time. Your family will need to be supportive and it will have a direct impact on your emotions... it's important to have a good support structure in place.
  3. There is no substitute for "doing" -- many people get bogged down thinking that they have to do a ton of research and read lots of books before starting on their journey; books are not going to teach you what simply trying something will teach you. If you've gotten down the path of understanding the market opportunity and whether there are customers for your business or product, then the best thing you can do it take action. You'll make mistakes and figure out things along the way. There's no way to mitigate that, so it's better to try and learn as you go (and make sure to seek the help of others along the way.)
  4. Find 100 people who would be customers of your business before you start -- when you're starting out, you don't need to figure out a plan for world domination. Find 100 people who you're confident would be your customer or user (preferably not family who may sugar coat their answers). If you can find 100 people, you will be able to find 1000. And, it forces you to talk about your idea before you've done anything. Many people feel like ideas should never be shared. The reality is 99.9999% of people will never be more willing or able to take action on an idea than you. Sharing your idea forces you to consider how to communicate it, get feedback and understand whether it's worth pursuing.

Sanjay recommends the following next steps:

Talk to small business owners who may be willing to share their experiences
Keep a running list of ideas (on your phone or paper); constantly add to this as you think of things you'd like to see in the world

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Gary’s Answer

We started a side business two years ago and what has benefited me the most is having strong mentors.  I have had several friends who have ran business from retail, to cafes, to service industry and used car lots.  The one thing they have in common is they have an incredible work ethic, they understand delayed gratification and they are willing to do what ever it takes to be successful. 

Gary recommends the following next steps:

Look towards small local business that are successful and ask questions about what they did to make themselves succeed.
Work on developing the skills listed above: Work Ethic-- Get the assignment done when it is assigned, don't wait for the night before it is due. Delayed gratification-- don't buy that thing today, think about if you really need it, if it is the best use of your money. Wait 24 hours, or a week, or a month and see if you really need it. Willing to do what it takes-- Just keep swimming, understand that there is not an option to not finish what you start.

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Kieran’s Answer

Hi Ariel,

I started an Online Ad Agency and spent 4 years building it up. The first advice I will give you is, you have to be willing to overcome obstacles and challenges and survive lows. There will be a lot of them, and at times it will seem as if they are too much. But if you truly believe in your Startup, then you will overcome them all. It has to be a pure passion and not just about making money. If you have a real passion for your business, then getting up everyday will be exciting.
I think the biggest misstep I wish I had know before hand was- To stay focused. Concentrate on your initial Business Plan and get the business up and running and making money, before you decide to add new features that may delay launch. The important thing is to get your business launched, running correctly as you envisioned and start getting some traction before you decide to add new features.

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Jessica’s Answer

I wish I read more books. Not just business books but also personal growth/leadership books. If you are starting a business, people will look up to you for direction and you have to be a great leader if you want people to follow. I also highly recommend finding a mentor who has created results and have them give you tips and tricks!