25 Tips On Starting A Business From Scratch

Laurel Delaney
©2003 All Rights Reserved

Are you thinking of starting a business from scratch? Then you have come to the right place. Here you will find the top 25 essential steps to building a business from the ground floor up.

After eighteen years of running my own business and recently taking on the consulting assignment as local chapter facilitator for the Women Presidents‚ Organization, I have come up with a list of the most important lessons I’ve learned over the years.

My advice is summed up below and much of it is quite unusual. For example, who ever thought that creating luck or living like a farmer, were essential ingredients to starting a business? Well, they are and you’ll soon find out why.

Now take a deep breath, put on your jack-of-all-trades hat and get those wild and crazy entrepreneurial juices flowing. What you are about to read will empower you to take that first dramatic step toward starting your own business and doing it right the first time.

1. Act like you know what you are doing even when you don’t.
Boasting is nothing to be ashamed of. If you move full speed ahead with aplomb, people are bound to move with you despite the fact that you have no clue as to what you are doing. You won’t always feel confident, but that doesn’t mean you can’t perform.

2. Be patient if you want BIG clients.
Landing the BIG one takes time. It’s like fishing. You bait the hook and swing it high and mightily, but it can take hours to catch a big one. The same holds true for landing a corporate giant. Finding strategic customers or vendors who know your industry and believe in your product or business is manna from heaven. But it won’t take days or months to woo them. Count on years.

3. Believe in yourself.
If you do not believe in yourself, who will? Every day, look in the mirror and say, “I am the best I can possibly be and I am going to do great things today!” You have to convince yourself first before you can convince others.

4. Build a core team of people unlike yourself.
When the going gets tough, you want people at your side who are responsible, accountable and reliable. Look for people who complement you, compensate for your weakness or offer a fresh perspective. Impose on them to challenge you constantly by taking a critical or contrasting position. How else will you and the organization grow?

5. Create luck.
Sure, we all run into bad luck at some time or another but the secret is learning how to squeeze out the negative and only work with the positive. In other words, search for ways to turn a misfortune into a benefit. Give yourself plenty of time to turn things around. The key to creating luck is to seek opportunities. Think about the good things happening in your life and work your way toward making every day an even better day.

6. Define your business but remember to put the customers first.
Refer to Henry Ford’s classic statement, “An American can have a Ford in any color so long as its black.” The business is not about you, it’s about the vision you have that should serve customers. Theodore Leavitt had it right when he said, “The purpose of a business is to get and keep a customer.” Peter Drucker stated, “Companies are not in business to make items, but to make customers.”

7. Delegate when you can.
Control freaks, perfectionists and compulsive people are “out.” Delegators are “in.” Who’s going to get more done, the gal who delegates the work to 100 people or the guy who does it all himself? By delegating responsibilities early on, you will have time to consider the needs of the business as a whole.

8. Don’t quit your job until you have your first BIG customer.
What’s a business without at least one rock-solid customer? It’s a frustrating hobby. Before you even think of starting a business and running it full time, you better have a BIG customer or a handful of small ones who pay well and are committed for the long haul.

9. Evaluate the source when you seek advice.
If you ask a homeless person whether you should launch a new product and he shouts, “Full speed ahead,” and then burps -- would you heed his advice? Pose the same question to the CEO of a publicly traded company and her answer will differ greatly. Respect and trust your source.

10. Exude enthusiasm and positiveness.
What turns you on -- an enthusiastic and positive person or one who never smiles and never jumps up and down at your new idea? Start jumping up and down and look for people who will happily join you.

11. Figure out how to get around or through an obstacle.
If you can’t get around it, then prepare yourself to go through it. Each of us has experienced problems that won’t go away. The best solution is one that allows you to break an “issue” down into manageable parts until nothing is left unsolved. Another method is to talk it over with friends, colleagues or family. You’ll be surprised at how many people have faced a similar situation and are more than happy to share what they have learned.

12. Get a grip on cash.
To run a lean, alert and ready-for-challenge business, you have to tidy up your balance sheet and have enough money at your disposal. Know where your money is coming from and where it’s going. Most new businesses fail, and many do so because they are undercapitalized. Small businesses by definition tend to be thrifty even in good times, and bad times are all the more the reason to keep belts tight.

13. Go to the bank when you don’t need to.
Just like going to the store when you are hungry makes you buy more than you intended, going to the bank penniless places you in a very vulnerable position. Get the paperwork for a loan done well in advance of being in a desperate situation and build a relationship before the economy sours. You want to always be in a position to weather the storm.

14. Have a mentor.
Nothing beats turning to someone who’s been there and can provide you with perspectives that you are unable or unwilling to see. Mentors spare you from making costly mistakes or learning lessons the hard way.

15. Hire the best team you can afford.
Don’t be cheap. Don’t be stupid. Offer what you can afford and be willing to explain why. If there is more to come, tell them so. If that’s unlikely, then say that too. No one ever walked away from a great opportunity just because the money wasn’t there. They turned it down because the person behind the offering wasn’t a straight shooter.

16. Learn from all of your successes.
Don’t be defined by one moment. If you learn only one lesson, you‚re destined to fail because you will apply it in every situation. However, if you learn many important daily lessons, you will have a war chest of material from which to draw.

17. Invest in the people you hire.
Think vacation and flex time, bonuses, health clubs, recognition for performance, opportunities for growth and advancement and the need for respect, sponsors and mentors. Employees look at both the “soft” and “hard” sides of the job before they decide to take it. Invest in your people. They are precious assets that will appreciate as you grow.

18. Keep your business plan simple and clutter-free.
Don’t over-complicate your business plan. It should be easy to follow, easy to execute and easy to modify. Clarity is more important than bulk. Use the plan as a compass to guide your business. Keep it clutter-free.

19. Live more like a farmer than a parachute salesperson.
A parachute salesperson drops in and stays for a moment. A farmer, on the other hand, plants different seeds to mature at different times and harvests them constantly. Properly nurtured crops (customers) can take care of you for the rest of your life.

20. Overhaul your business to survive.
Given the choice between staying with a sinking ship or finding a new boat to float, overhauling your existing business may be your only chance for survival. For example, if you already have a website, start a monthly online newsletter. If you already have one that has become popular, offer its content to customers or vendors in your industry. You want to increase the odds that your customers will find your business offerings valuable.

21. Prepare yourself to work hard.
Remember the days when you took long walks in the park, picked up seashells by the seashore or watched television for a couple of hours in the evening? Those days are gone forever. Starting a business takes lots of hard work. Don’t be in it to make fast money. Be in it because you love what you do and it doesn’t feel like work.

22. Stay focused, do something sensational and keep going.
Blah, blah, blah and more blahs. That’s what people are sick and tired of -- the same old thing and too much of it. People are tuning things out like never before. Focus on your business, do something sensational and keep doing it until people buy into it. Sooner or later the blahs will turn into WOWs, you’ll get noticed and your business will turn into a yellow godzilla. Hard to ignore that, right?

23. Stick to your knitting.
If you are great at marketing snacks, why start selling computers? Stick to what you do best. Make the most of your company’s core strengths.

24. Take the long-term view of building your business.
Building a great, enduring business takes a lifetime. Make it your own. Enjoy every moment.

25. Use common sense.
Mom always told you to use common sense. Why do it any differently now?

Sure, there’s a lot more to consider in launching a new business, but by practicing even a handful of these tips, you are guaranteed success.

Laurel Delaney runs Global TradeSource, Ltd. a Chicago-based global marketing and consulting company and is the creator of Borderbuster, an e-newsletter that is highly regarded for its focus on global marketing. She was recently appointed Chicago chapter facilitator for Women Presidents’ Organization. She can be reached at ldelaney@globetrade.com

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