Reactions were mixed from friends, family and colleagues when I announced that I was leaving a good, well-paying, secure, job to start my own business. Many knew I was not particularly happy with the status quo and certainly a new business was everything but going to be boring. At the same time, the economy was faltering and the question was asked if this was the right time. Two and a half years into the adventure, there is no question it was the right decision but I also know that I have learned from lessons in the process.
First. Hire a business lawyer.
This (and finding a reputable and trustworthy accountant) is probably the first advice that an entrepreneur should receive the first time they start a business. It is not sexy advice but nevertheless it is very useful. The fact is that businesses are legal entities and the decisions you make in those early days about how your business will run will have significant implications for everything from day-to-day operations to more critical issues like the disposition of the business.
I made this mistake and now will need to untangle myself from some of my dumb choices made in those first days.
Second Embrace Your Story Not Your Plan
Business plans may be useful tools for many people, but the lesson I learned was to focus on the story of your company (and you personally). Why are you doing this? What are you offering that differentiates you in the market? How does this offering fit into your worldview?
Your plan will change as you adapt to business conditions and buyer response so it will quickly become nothing more than your starting point. Your story, however, is what will ultimately drive your business success. People need a reason to buy.
Find Your Patience
Growing your business is about the proverbial “longtail.” Yes, you might have early success, but most business stories are about perseverance and commitment. Year one was an encouraging year for the company but year two was devastating… year 3 is better. Why? Because, in year two I did a lot of things that would take months to start paying off.
If I was doing it again — and I would by the way — there are things I would do differently. I got the accountant thing right but not the lawyer. I am learning as I go about the importance of my story and someday maybe I will have patience!