Thursday, October 9, 2008

What I Learned My First Year In Business

I was asked to be a presenter at Touchpoint presented by Startup Princess. The topic I was given is "What I Learned My First Year In Business." I came up with eight items I think are essential for new business owners, though I have to say, that some of these things have been helpful in every year that I've been in business. (Doodads has been operational and running profitably for 9 years.)

Though these have been simplified for presentation and article format, each one could be a topic in an of themselves. You'll see more information on these topics in the future, but for now here are the eight things I have found to be a good place to start: (In no particular order)

1. Business Plans are Non-Negotiable: If you don’t know where you’re going, how do you plan to get there? Resources are available online, check out a book at the library, or ask an experienced friend for help.

2. Include Money for Marketing in Your First Years Budget: How do you expect people to buy your product or service if they don’t know you? I don’t know why, but many companies think of marketing and advertising as “optional” or think they will just use whatever money they have leftover. When you’re running a startup, what do you have left over?

3. Surround Yourself with Good People: Hire good people, pay money for good people, find mentors. It doesn’t just have to be one person. If you don’t know very much about finances and accounting, get good people who do. If you don’t know very much about operations and processes, find good people who do. If you don’t know very much about marketing, find good people who do.

4. NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK: Be active in online groups (like Startupprincess.com and LinkedIn.com), but don’t give up on face to face networking. Go to trade shows and expos that match your product or service, join your local chamber of commerce, find networking groups. This will help you find good people, mentors and friends along your journey. It can also be an easy way to get some cheap local advertising and exposure.

5. Set Goals and Check In on Them Weekly:
a. Be realistic. If you can’t sell a million pieces in one year, then don’t make that your goal. If you can, set that as your goal. But often in your first year you’ll have goals like: find a good solid manufacturer, get my social networking going, don’t loose the house, and so much more.
b. Be specific. I use some generic examples above, but really break down your goals.
Work backwards to create your action item list. If you want to sell 500 orders in a year, what steps do you have to take to get there? Use this list to drive your daily activities, and don’t spend time on things that won’t help you reach your goals!

6. Keep Up: Keep reading, keep learning, keep up on marketing trends, keep up on business trends, subscribe to magazines that inspire you and keep you informed on your industry and your competitors.

7. Don’t give up! Believe in your passion, remember why you got into this business and remember your dreams. Times will get hard, I guarantee that, but keep track of all the good things that work, write them on a white board or keep them in a file on your computer so that you can remember the good things that happen when you feel like you are swimming in only things going wrong.

8. Prioritize: If you have a family, decide now how many hours a week you will spend on your business dreams. Are your goals in line with your priorities? Ask yourself these questions every week! Spend time in the most important areas of your business and outsource the rest.

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