If becoming your own boss is high on the to-do list for 2012, your best bet is to listen to the advice of those who have blazed the path of starting a business before you, so 2013, 2014 and beyond may still find you in the driver’s seat.
Nellie Akalp has been there on a number of occasions and wants to pass on the things she wished she knew when starting her first – and even second – business.
1. Don’t underestimate a business plan.
If you’re not seeking outside funding at the start, it’s tempting to forgo writing out a formal business plan. However, taking the time to write out your business plan, forecasts and marketing strategy is a particularly effective way to hone your vision. All planning should center around two essential questions: How is my business serving a particular need or pain point, and does this represent a major market opportunity?
In addition, don’t overlook the exit strategy at the beginning. Do you want your children to take over the company? Do you want to sell it? It’s critical to think about these questions from the start, as the building blocks of your company (such as legal structure) should vary depending on your preferred final outcome.
2. Don’t get stuck in the past.
My husband and I launched our first online legal document filing service in 1997, and then re-entered the market with our second company in 2009. While our previous experience certainly gave us a leg up the second time around, we soon realized the market landscape had changed dramatically since our first company. We had to stop dwelling on previous competitors, customer needs and service expectations and write a brand new playbook.
The marketplace and your business plan are living entities; they’re continually in flux. Whether it’s your first company or fifth in a given market, you’ve got to keep asking: What do we need to do today?
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