Do you have a great business idea and don't know where to start? We've all been there. Starting a business is a lot more than just a perfect business plan. That's why we interviewed 10 entrepreneurs to share their insights for those who are ready to start a new business.
Speaker, author, Barry Maher, has appeared on the Today Show, NBC Nightly News,
CBS, CNBC, and he's frequently featured in publications like the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the London Times, Business Week and USA Today.
"Having worked with hundreds of new entrepreneurs, my top three tips all begin with the word DON'T.
1) DON'T overpay for office space or luxurious appointments that have absolutely no impact on customers. I've watched entrepreneurs whose customers never see their offices waste hundreds of thousands of precious capital buying the latest and coolest office furniture for the most expensive addresses, when they should have been developing their business in a home office or a garage someplace.
2) DON'T eat your seed corn. This year's profit isn't all profit. Much of it should be plowed back into the business. And make sure you have a cash reserve for when times get tough again. Which they will sooner or later.
3) DON'T overpay for "expert" help when the time comes to stop going solo. When you decide to bring in help to run the business don't be overly impressed by big name experience. First, check them out every way you can to make sure the person is everything they claim to be. (If so, why did their last employer let such a wonder escape.) And even if they are, will that expertise translate to your business? A successful executive at Boeing crash and burn disastrously working in a start-up without the kind of resource that were available. It's not necessarily the same skill set."
BJ Minson, Founder/Owner of Grip6
When I started Grip6 I had one good thing going for me: I'm a mechanical engineer. I would even say I'm a damn good one too. That was great as a starting point because it allowed me to design and develop my first product. As soon as I had a working prototype I used it for a while and I really liked it. I made a bunch more for my family and friends. Their feedback was great and it looked like I may have created an actual product that people would buy. Then came my first major problem. I had no idea what to do next. My personal skill set was exhausted and I was heading into uncharted territory. It was tempting to find someone with the skill set I was missing and just hand it off or do everything they suggested, but I wanted to learn. I decided to tackle my next set of problems by myself. While it was scary, it wasn't as difficult as I thought.
Of course I made mistakes along the way, but when those happened I corrected them as quickly as possible and kept pushing forward. Trust yourself and develop great problem-solving skills.
Mat Winegarden,Product Design Manager
"I'm a product design manager at a user experience and design agency called ConnectFive
and we are creating an interview platform called Handrail
I've mentored entrepreneurs and startups on my own and as a Mentor in Residence with the Iowa Startup Accelerator
for over 15 years and have, in my opinion, the single most important piece of advice that all entrepreneurs should follow: Focus on what really matters
Time seemingly goes really fast when you are an entrepreneur. There's a constant sense of there's so much to do and not enough time to do it in
You can get twisted up pretty quick by guessing answers to key questions like:
Not knowing answers to these questions before you start development can make it almost impossible to know how to spend time most wisely.. In fact, you might end up wasting a lot of time and a lot of money working on something no one cares about.
- What set of functionality should be worked on first?
- What would provide real value to our users?
- Is this a "must have" feature or "nice to have" feature?
- Are we building too little? Too much?
My advice is to do a lot of interview based user research and create artifacts that will help inform design and development direction and priorities. These artifacts can include:
The more you understand who you are building this product for and why, the easier it will be to get everyone on the same page. Good Luck!"
- These are accurate depictions of typical users and their behaviors. Personas can represent the buyer of your product, an end user or anyone else that may influence design and development efforts.
- User Scenarios
- Not to be confused with user stories, user scenarios give context to why users are using your product. They outline goals and the steps needed in order to achieve those goals.
- Customer Journey
- This illustrates the experience your customer goes through in order to achieve a specific goal. Typically it will contain the main actions or phases, touch points with a brand or technology and the emotions or stress level they may feel during each phase.
Erin Vaughen is
the owner of Vinley Market
, a wine boutique and wine club that curates fancy wine at friendly prices.
"Some tips I can share when starting your business:
What problem are you solving? In my case, it's hard to find good wine on the internet as user experience is very antiquated, and new sites peddle bulk wine to entry level consumers that they make good margins on. We are different, bringing simplicity to the joys of discovering wine, and providing a highly curated, artisanal selection.
Know your unique selling proposition. How are you different from the competition? Do you save customers time? Save them money? Offer something unique? Make sure that messaging is clear when customers first get introduced to your site.
Do you really have a market for your product? One simple way to test is to create a landing page on a site like Unbounce where maybe you just collect emails, and run some Facebook ads to see if people actually respond to your pitch. Facebook can now do some really niche targeting so you can see if your exact demo exists and wants what you're pitching.
Fortune favors the bold. Never give up! Just keep tweaking and reworking until you nail it."
Derek Hales is the founder of Sleepopolis, a one of a kind comprehensive mattress review site where I personally test every mattress I review in my own home. I research it. I sleep on it. Sit on it. Lie on it. Stand on it. Have sex on it. I do this to ensure I fully understand every attribute of the mattress in order to provide the most in-depth, thoughtful, and informative review possible.
Over the last 2 years I've tested close to 90 mattresses and scores of other bedding products. By my estimation, I have tested and reviewed more online direct-to-consumer mattresses than anyone else in the world.
"My best piece of advice is to simply get started.
It's so easy to continually delay, for months or even years, while you try to formulate the perfect plan, await market conditions, or seek the right time in your life. While these are important, if you use them as a reason to not start you are delaying what could be a wonderful and successful adventure. Don't let fear, life, or anything else delay you. Simply get started and learn by doing along the way."
Marc Prosser is the co-founder and managing partner ofFit Small Business, a site that provides reviews and articles for small business owners. Prior to starting Fit Small Business, Marc was the CMO of FXCM for ten years. He joined as FXCM's first employee and grew the company to more than 700 employees.
"My one piece of advice is to find a great business partner. Starting a business is difficult for one person to do themselves and requires a variety of skills and a certain level of consistency. By finding a business partner, your chances of success early on radically increases. Ideally, you should find someone you’ve worked with before and isn’t a close friend. They should have a different skill set and personality from you. Overall, don’t do it alone. Find a business partner."
Michelle Messenger Garrett Owner/Consultant of Garrett Public Relations
"I started my business 17+ years ago and my best piece of advice is:
Start before you're ready.
If you want to start your own business, you may tend to wait for the "perfect" time--which may never come. Of course, you want to be wise in laying the groundwork for success for your business, but, don't just keep waiting to get it off the ground. Do it--then tweak it as necessary.
When I began, I had fears of failure--but 17 years later, I'm still going strong."
My #1 tip for entrepreneurs is to constantly network, both online and offline. I always connect people. Call it Karma or 'give to receive' values, it feels good and it works. For instance, each week I align creatives with other people and opportunities in person and through my 12,000 contacts on LinkedIn. I also make a point of meeting entrepreneurs and creative types for coffee several times a month. It helps me build and nurture meaningful relationships, and enjoy a steady stream of valuable referrals.
Nellie Akalp, a serial entrepreneur and CEO ofCorpNet.com, a small business located
in Southern California that helps entrepreneurs incorporate, form LLCs, file DBAs and more. Nellie has been a business owner since 1997 when she started her first business with $100, which was acquired in 2005 for $20 million. Her current company, CorpNet, has been recognized on the Inc. 5000 list of fastest-growing privately-held companies in America in 2015 and 2016.
“My one piece of advice for new entrepreneurs is to not focus too much on your competitors but instead find a niche for yourself to stand out. When we started out with our second business, I focused so much on our big-name competitors and thought the only way we could survive was to spend as much ad dollars as they were. That only bled us dry and we were going to close our doors. Before closing, we decided to pull 90% of those ads and see what happens. To our delight we brought in just as much traffic organically through other marketing efforts. We immediately became a profitable company and from then out I stopped focusing/obsessing on what others were doing. Instead we carved a niche for our company that has worked to this day and turned us into a successful company making the Inc. 5000 list two years in a row!”
Ron Flavin is a Growth and Funding Strategist who has helped entrepreneurs
all around the world to launch and grow successful startups. I've also helped them to secure well over $200 million in funding over the last ten years.
I've worked with startups of every type and across many industries. I've even helped a 15-year-old entrepreneur build his business model, secure venture capital and win an investment from Mark Cuban on the Shark Tank. In addition, I am frequently called upon to assist private and public sector funders to determine which companies and organizations to fund. In this capacity, I have either led or been part of, the decision-making teams that have awarded more than $1 billion in funding over the last five years.
With this in mind, my one best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs is this: Don't ignore the downside
Look at your business model and startup/growth plan from a 360-degree perspective to identify:
This process should be carried out with input from outsiders who will be objective, frank and honest. New entrepreneurs should examine their business models/startup/launch plans as if they were investors. They want to ask themselves the difficult questions that a potential investor would ask - and more important, develop realistic strategies and approaches to address these challenges or weaknesses.
- Potential weaknesses
- Unanswered questions
This approach is essentially the 'secret' to my success.
Adam Binder, founder of digital marketing agency Creative Click Media.
"My best piece of advice for new entrepreneurs is to network well and network often. For any entrepreneur just starting out it is important to make your presence known in the community, and networking acts as a great starting point in accomplishing this goal. Prior to optimizing our website for SEO, nearly all of our leads came from the connections I made at networking events and from the relationships I've formed with other local business owners. A great place to start forming these valuable business relationships is at your local Chamber of Commerce --- in 2015 alone, the connections I made networking at Chamber events made up 33% of our business that year!"