Practical steps to starting and growing your business: tips from a someone who fell flat on his face a few times.

Starting and growing a business is hard. Really hard. I’ve done it a few times and have fallen on my face regularly. Luckily – even though I was bruised – I always asked myself why I fell and what I could learn to do better the next time. Here are some of the things I’ve learned from my experiences, though I advise you to read them with a pinch of salt:  entrepreneurship is a very individual journey and though you should read as much as you can, do remember that this ad-venture is yours to create and shape.

Practical steps to starting and growing your business:

  1. Start working on your solution in the real world rather than spend too much time perfecting assumptions and theoretical solutions.  Nothing will make you understand the  problem you are trying to solve like you actually working on the solution, especially on the practical elements.
  2. Don’t go for funding until you have at least 5-15 clients and one or more years of accounting records (hint: start keeping accurate records as soon as you start!)
  3. Build a website/brochure/business card  that makes people want to buy your services/products even before you services/products exist.
  4. Developing a business solution is probably only 20% of your battle. The bulk of your struggle will be sales. Without sales you will be a broke innovator. Make sure you spend 80% of your time figuring out that part of your business problem (and, No, hiring a sales person or advertising on facebook is not an answer).
  5. You do NOT need nice offices, fancy phones or laptops or expensive apps (even save on Microsoft Office and go for free software like freeOffice etc). Cut out as many of the costs as you can.
  6. Most people you will meet will be positive and cheer your business and encourage you. Appreciate it but don’t believe them. The only voice that counts is that of your clients (clients not prospects) and the invoices they pay.
  7. Freebies, pilots, etc are the fastest way to go out of business. Be open and honest with your customers/prospects – they’ll understand. Just don’t be greedy and be open to hybrid solutions. Just know that there is a real cost involved in freebies, and you’ll probably pick up the bill.
  8. Just like you wouldn’t get married on your first date, so don’t go into a business partnership at the start. Rather work together on a few deals and projects for a while until you know each other really well (you can  always pretend to be business partners).
  9. Focus on finding clients and references as quickly as possible. Nothing convinces new clients like existing lists of clients and users.
  10. Be careful: users are not always the clients. Know the difference and speak their respective languages in terms of value offering.
  11. Be wary of experts and especially  people who have steady jobs giving you advice unless they have personally walked the entrepreneurial part. It is like asking a virgin who watches porn about marital sex advice (sorry… terrible example… couldn’t help myself)
  12. Being an entrepreneur is like being in love: you can talk about it as much as you want but you will not know what it is like until you try it.
  13. Do post regularly on the projects and opportunities you are working on – the  more you share the more the chances that others will partner with you.
  14. You’ll struggle financially no matter how brilliant you are. When you do, first DON’T PANIC and secondly, go hang out with other entrepreneurs and share your worries – you won’t believe how much that will help you.
  15. In good times be  humble and stay under the radar screen. In  bad times, speak up and ask for help…. And whatever you do  be nice to people on the way up: they are the ones you’ll meet on the way dow
  16. Different levels of success in your business will require different skillsets and different CEOs Make sure you take the backseat sometime or you’ll likely end up being the reason for your downfall (hint: if while you are growing your business you are still doing everything, please treat this as a major red flag.
  17. Cashflow is everything. Unfortunately you won’t understand this until you run out of cash (and you will). Just know that no entrepreneur worth something hasn’t had problems paying wages, suppliers and themselves at one point.
  18. Different levels of business success will require different skillsets and different CEOs. Make sure you take the backseat sometime or you’ll be the one who will have screwed up your business.
  19. Get a board of advisors who kick your ass and scare you. Don’t bring friends and prominent people on board for the sake of it. Put together a kick ass team that is engineered to support your journey.
  20. Try, try, try to see setbacks as opportunities  to become a stronger business  person rather than just a stressful disaster.
  21. Don’t develop an app until you have a few thousands of users on your mobi-site. Websites are a fraction of the cost and headaches of apps.
  22. Be careful of hope and wishful thinking: they will be your worst enemies because they will be the most charming around you but stab you in the back in the long run.
  23. The journey is definitively more fun when you do it with someone, ideally with complementary skills and experiences.
  24. Do write, blog  give workshops and offer free advice to the world at large about your area of expertise: create credibility and trust. You don’t need a budget for this.
  25. Your network and ability to tap into networks will make or break your business. But don’t just randomly network, rather be like a spider who builds a finely interconnected web and always feels the movements for any potential leads.
  26. Do what you do for the right reason. If what you are passionate about is not the business you are building there’s a good chance you’ll regret having invested a chunk of your life in it.
  27. Be careful of  new business ideas. Lack of focus can destroy you…. On the other hand, also be  careful of being so stubborn that you don’t listen anymore: finding the right balance is what differentiates a good entrepreneur from a great one.
  28. Think of your social media profiles as if they were employees of yours: make them work for you (e.g. finding leads and building your reputation).
  29. Think of time like you think of money: invest it wisely and try to be conscious of the actions you take.

… and if all of the above fail, do email me and let’s see if I can’t lend a helping hand. We entrepreneurs have to stick together!



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