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If you are planning to start your own business or if you have already done so, congratulations to you! You have overcome one of the main obstacles that every entrepreneur faces: not letting fear and self-doubt keep you from trying to make your dream come true.
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I am not playing the role of a motivational speaker here. But the majority of successful entrepreneurs who participated in our recent 2020 Sage Startup Survey said that they had no previous experience running their own business before taking the plunge. They didn’t let him stop, and you shouldn’t either.
Despite their lack of experience, these successful business founders shared some of the best business practices that provide information to help other new founders succeed. Spend a few minutes learning from those who walked in your shoes:
1. No experience, no problem! But have a plan.
One step that our most successful entrepreneurs have emphasized is that you absolutely must take before opening your doors or putting your website online is to create a formal business plan. It may seem tedious if you already have a good idea of your client base and marketing tactics, but don’t do it. Developing the plan will help you answer questions you may not have even thought of, such as how to identify and take advantage of the latest marketing techniques. A plan is also needed to approach potential sources of funding.
Once you have started, be sure to update your plan on an annual basis. The market may have changed or you may see new customer opportunities. You have to step back and be strategic in your approach. As Yogi Berra said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you may not be able to.”
2. Do your research.
The basis of your business plan should reflect an understanding of your customers’ needs and wants, and the nature of the messaging that will resonate with them. Thorough market analysis also examines your competitors and identifies business trends that you can exploit. Each of these goals should be built around a story and specific numbers you are targeting, such as revenue and market share.
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3. Hire a trusted advisor.
Overcome the temptation to do it all yourself. I understand this temptation: your business is your baby, and who is better to feed it than the parent? However, the best startups rely on the wisdom and experience of trusted advisers such as accountants and mentors. For example, 54% of the top performers in our survey said they were more likely to hire an accountant, at least part-time. You can’t do it all, so figure out where you need advice and support and how it could help your business.
We also interviewed over 100 senior executives from firms who advise, advise and invest in new businesses. These advisers echoed this recommendation. Thirty-six percent even went so far as to say that they had somewhat to extremely low confidence in the financial information they had received from entrepreneurs. Absolutely no one has said that they have an extremely high level of confidence in these financial statements.
4. Maintain a work / life balance.
The stereotypical image of the successful entrepreneur – the person who spends every waking hour in the office, does not remember eating and sleeping in the office on a sofa or blanket under the desk – is a myth. More than half of the successful founders we interviewed said that one of the main lessons they could pass on to anyone is “adopt a work-life balance”. This clearly indicates that entrepreneurs work smarter, not more.
There is no doubt that you have to be passionate about what you do to be successful, but don’t let passion trump common sense. Balance your passion with sound business practices, and most importantly, remember what is really important in life.
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