06 May 2013

What is the best piece of advice you would offer to someone thinking about starting their own business?

I have been offering advice to start up business owners for years. Most of it based on the mistakes I have made in my own endeavors. I would really like to know what other small business owners and entrepreneurs have to say.

So my question to you is “if you were sitting down and having a conversation with someone who was thinking about starting their own business, what is the best piece of advice you would offer?”

I would love your thoughts in the comments box below. I will collate all of the responses and put them into one document so do me a favour and include your name, business name and website (if you want to).

What is your smartest piece of advice for aspiring business owners?

 

33 thoughts on “What is the best piece of advice you would offer to someone thinking about starting their own business?”

  1. Jerry Parker says:

    Andrew,

    I have started a few so here is what I think.

    You better be passion about the daily work, the grind. You need a hook in it that will give you the staying power for the 80 hours weeks.

    Be passionate about the numbers and know the quick ratios that tell you if you are making money or not…be paranoid about costs…have a reporting system that delivers you the numbers daily and weekly.

    Understand and know what your customer is, and who they are…then love them and make sure they feel it.

    ditto above for staff…they are customers too.

    Review your overall plan often…and change it when based on the numbers.

    never quit…unless you sell…that is success

    Cheers,

    Jerry

  2. Hi Andrew, this is a great question. I think one of the best pieces of advice I could give someone is to say: ‘There is no failure, just feedback’.

    When starting out, I think we can sometimes overthink things or be paralysed with fear or feel that everything has to be done perfectly or not at all. I think we worry about making mistakes, but on a deeper level, we worry about ‘failing’.

    But what if there was no such thing as failing? When I think about the mistakes I made with my first business (it was short-lived and had nothing to do with copywriting), I know that every single mistake taught me something that helped me in my next business. To many, that business ‘failed’, but to me, it was the necessary path that led me to an exciting new road.

    So I’d say, ‘Do the best you possibly can in every area of your business, but when you make a mistake, just learn from it. There is no failure, just feedback’.

  3. Gail Rogers says:

    My best advice is to attend Andrew’s speakers boot camp as this will provide you with essential keys to starting your own business as all businesses require effective verbal communication skills even in this age of e-communication. Also at this event you may find yourself a mentor or a mutual mentee to continue to learn and develop with.

  4. Sarah-Jane Wood says:

    Hi AG

    Simples: do your homework-knowledge is power! And keep doing it; keep up to date with what is going on in your industry and your business-network, network, network!
    SJ

  5. Yakov Morris says:

    Hi Andrew, my advice would be “pay yourself first”. This opens up your universe to an abundant flow as you declare your worthiness to be wealthy.

  6. I nearly agree with you Lucinda, the statement should read, ‘when you fail, listen to feedback’ it’s similar to another PIQ where the saying goes, ‘ failure is not an option’

    Well failure is an option, it’s just not one we should choose. We are giving start up businesses sometimes false hope. So for some gung ho start ups it’s about the reality, the researching, the study, investment in others, choosing family over work, meetings, road humps, negativity, sacrifices, stress, overcoming fears, self doubt, client knock backs and so on.

    My advice would be to include what Jerry and Lucinda have said and then to clearly outline the reality of what it will take to start up their business.

    Good luck, it’s fun when you get there.

  7. Michael Taylor says:

    Think about this- a business CANNOT fail if it doesnt incurr bad debts.
    Dont borrow money to start a business, dont borrow money to prop up a business and anyone who tells you that debt is a tool which uses someone elses money for your business is either a fool or heading for bankruptcy at some stage.
    Some people manage to do it on debt but if they strike a tough time, that debt makes it harder to survive until they can trade out of the problem.
    If your business has no debt and minimal ongoing costs, you can drop it and go back to a normal job at any time with no ongoing debts being brought with you.
    If you can run it from home to start with, and outsource the parts you cant do from home or cant afford the equipment for, then do it and plan to expand as your profits allow.

  8. Jose Respall says:

    This would probably be the best advice I can ever give to someone starting in business:-

    “Act or Decide in Haste!

    Repent at Leisure!

    Thank you and Mabuhay!

    From Speedy Gonzalez! LoL!

  9. Jamie Johns says:

    Andrew,

    I have been an Accountant for 20 years helping small and large businesses. I am currently writing a book called Sellable Startups. After working with thousands of businesses during this time the one main factor startups need to consider is this;

    “Business By Design, not by Default”

    Design your Business, don’t leave it to default, don’t have it operate like your past employer’s business just because thats how it’s been done for the last 100 years ! To make your business sellable and successful implement these 3 factors into your standard service offering. They will ‘You Proof’ your business and make sure you think about the long term purpose of your business. Make sure you design and offer products and services that are;
    1. Teachable, 2. Repeatable, and 3.Valuable. (TRV) Read the book Built to Sell by John Warrillow, that is a great start.
    My Book Sellable Startups outlines 7 Success Pillars for Sellable Startups and guides the reader step by step through each one.

    So Andrew my best advice is “Business by Design not by Default”.

  10. Ian Morris says:

    First of all do a study of similar businesses in the area and see if they are successful and if they are not successful try to find out why not. Do up a comprehensive business plan that is achievable and can be amended as the need arises. Talk to your accountant to get advice and then approach your bank if you will need finance to start up. Your bank should look at your short and long term needs and advise you on the path to take.Too many people go into a business with no prior cash flow and struggle from the start.
    While the business is operating monitor the financial performance of the business regularily and discuss with your accountant and bank.

  11. Things always take longer than you think! So plan for the long haul especially when it comes to finances.

  12. Andrew I have two pieces of advice for aspiring entrepreneurs:

    1. Love what you do because you will do it for longer and more intensively than you would if it wasn’t you paying the bills, and

    2. Systemise as much of your operation as possible while you have the time because when you need those systems to help with business growing pains, you won’t have time to do them well.

  13. Matt Powe says:

    Key single piece of advice would be to get educated. All problems you will encounter in business (and life) will have been already solved by someone else on the planet at some point in time. Find that person. Buy them a coffee, or attend their seminar, or buy their DVD. Whatever it takes.
    If you are in a regional area like Cairns, invest some time and money to travel and find out what the best practitioners in the country (and possibly on the planet) in your line of business are doing and do your version of that.

  14. Obu Ramaraj says:

    1. Understand if the business is your passion; otherwise it is difficult to succeed in the long run.
    2. Get ready to write a book 😉
    3. Take time off regularly so you don’t get burnt out

  15. Hi All,

    My most important advice to startup founders is that their business idea works in their mind, but that their customers minds are completely different. Until they shape the idea to a stage where strangers will give them money for it (in advance of the product existing) they haven’t found that secret recipe for success. If someone gives you a deposit, letter of engagement, or pre-registration to get it first based on just a promise, that’s currency for success.

    Winning ideas are born of 1% inspiration, but built through 99% perspiration, so don’t make the mistake of “thinking till it’s good”. Talk to others and measure response so you can know your customer and their problems intimately.

    And don’t ask your friends and family. They love you too much to tell you if your idea is crap.

    Looking forward to the next book!

  16. Jesse says:

    Hi Andrew,

    I have 2 bits of advice if I may:

    1. Begin with the end in mind
    2. Understand the importance of team – both internal and external.

    Cheers,
    Jesse

  17. It sounds ‘unbusiness-like’ to say this but in my experience in the first 12 months of a new business – think very seriously of throwing out your business plan!

    It’s good to have an outline but assuming you know how -very much of anything – will work before you get out into the ‘real-deal’ world is more likely to thwart you than support you.

    It’s important to be very open, exploratory and adaptable in the early stages (any stage, really.) The real marketplace is fast-paced and changing all the time – the best opportunities may be the one’s you haven’t known about or thought about, yet – as could be collaboration with people you still haven’t met.

    “Hang on in there loose” as Clint Eastwood and my father used to say. Have an outline planned but don’t use it like it’s ‘locked-in’.

    A “Good” business plan gives your business Wings with a Flight Path – It doesn’t have to be a ‘grind’ – you can enjoy the flight!

  18. If you are GREAT at what you do, and you are PASSIONATE about what you do, you are on the right lines, BUT if you are not strong at the figures and analysis, you MUST have someone you trust to work with you, from the outset. That combination of passion and logic work incredibly well, one without the other just won’t be successful.
    Oh…… and a great person to check in with regarding your branding and marketing, is Andrew Griffiths…. he is an excellent mentor.
    Good Luck!
    Sally Mlikota
    CBC Staff Selection

  19. Peter Martin says:

    Do the numbers!
    Get the numbers done by someone who knows and understands business, many accountants do a token gesture that is useless, find someone who can do the expected targets, breakeven sales and cash flow.
    Then make the numbers happen with at least monthly profit & loss, cash flow updates and with the application of tireless work, endless worry and dedication and you will stand a good chance of succeeding.

  20. Kathy Joyce says:

    Know your numbers: Break Even Analysis, Profit & Loss. how many leads are you getting? what is your conversion rate?Boring? Yes. Crucial, definitely! Without knowing the financial health of your business you are just ‘treading water’. Make sure you keep a close eye on your numbers so that you know if you are making a profit or not. No profit? Then you don’t have a business, you have a hobby.

  21. 1) Before you register and make any financial commitments to start your business, be sure that this is what you want to do by working for someone else for FREE or if your lucky then get paid for it.

    2) Watever your business is try it on your friends, family etc and have a feel for it.

    3) Then once your convinced spread the word. Work on this for atleast a year. Once you see there are enough contacts then you register and spend all the money you want in developing or buying etc etc.

    This will be a practical way to start without wasting money as you may then change your mind and realise that this is not for you. Hence, you would save a lot of money by doing it this way.

    Unless your very sure then go ahead and develop your website and the rest.

    Good luck.

  22. Have a support network around you – whether it be family, friends, a work support group or online community – just have someone that you can vent to when it all seems like its getting too much and you’re not sure there’s light at the end of the tunnel. Having a group of encouraging voices around you will be enough to carry you through those dark business times when there’s nothing seemingly happening….but the bills keep rolling in!

  23. Dale Edney says:

    If you want to reduce your risk exposure and maximise your chance of success, devour everything you can from Steve Blank and Eric Ries.

    Read ‘The Lean Startup’ by Eric Ries. If you can’t read the whole book. Just read Chapter 7. No, just read the whole book. I’m 6 months into my startup and I’m just reading it now… 6 months too late.

    And learn about Steve Blank’s Customer Development Methodology steps:
    1. There Are No Facts Inside Your Building, So Get Outside
    2. Pair Customer Development with Agile Development
    3. Failure is an Integral Part of the Search for the Business Model
    4. If You’re Afraid to Fail You’re Destined to Do So
    5. Iterations and Pivots are Driven by Insight
    6. Validate Your Hypotheses with Experiments
    7. Success Begins with Buy-In from Investors and Co-Founders
    8. No Business Plan Survives First Contact with Customers
    9. Not All Startups Are Alike
    10. Startup Metrics are Different from Existing Companies
    11. Agree on Market Type – It Changes Everything
    12. Fast, Fearless Decision-Making, Cycle Time, Speed and Tempo
    13. If it’s not About Passion, You’re Dead the Day You Opened your Doors
    14. Startup Titles and Functions Are Very Different from a Company’s
    15. Preserve Cash While Searching. After It’s Found, Spend
    16. Communicate and Share Learning
    17. Startups Demand Comfort with Chaos and Uncertainty

    If you’re in Sydney, attend a Pollenizer startup bootcamp. Mick will challenge your thinking and you will thank him for it.

    Actively network with people who have already achieved what you are working towards.

  24. My smartest advice is:
    1) Have boundaries between work and personal life. Workaholism leads to workahellism and you end up hating what you do. Don’t buy into the myth that you have to work 60, 70, 80 hours to make your business a success. If that was occurring in a not-for-profit organisation you would be reporting to the board and questioning the organisation’s sustainability. If it was an employee you’d be jumping ship. 2) Develop a specialty or become a Subject Matter Expert in a niche or micro-niche. You can’t be everything to all people and it’s arduous trying to retain skill and knowledge across multiple domains. People value expertise and where there’s perceived value clients/customers/patrons will give respect and pay a premium.

    And here are a few lores I live by:
    -Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
    -What we say yes to determines what we say no to. [Steve Jobs: “You have to pick carefully. I’m actually as proud of the things we haven’t done as the things I have done”.]
    -Better the pain then remain the same. [Remember this when you’re going through business/personal growth or change.]
    -HAVE FUN! A sign at a childcare centre reads: ‘Play is a child’s work’. We ‘grown ups’ should reverse it making work “child’s play”.

  25. Tim Leposa says:

    A business should run intentionally not accidentally 🙂 That is, an organization should be run with organisation! Systems & structure for EVERY aspect of one’s business is KEY.

  26. Tony Woodall says:

    Cold hard logic. Due Diligence with all it entails.

  27. John Flett says:

    Hi Andrew
    My advice is find out what you love to do and are passionate about; be a specialist not a generalist – specialist doctors make a lot more money than G.P.s!
    Associate with the right people for advice (that by the way is not family and friends) but successful business owners who will tell you the truth without worrying about hurting your feelings.
    I read a book a week – and I’m 59 years young and still love learning and putting into practice what is relevant for business 2013. Andrew’s books are a good easy read and contain great advice – there is a place to start!
    Find a Mentor who is not in it for the money but who really is in it because they care about you.
    Be 100% honest, and take 100% responsibility for your life.

    Cheers!

    John Flett

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Andrew Griffiths is Australia's #1 small business author with 12 best selling books now sold in over 60 countries. He's a writing and publishing expert, an international speaker and leading business advisor with over 20 years' experience. Andrew presents around the world and is considered an expert in entrepreneurship and an authority on building a profile. He is a thought leader through writing, publishing and speaking and is featured regularly in mainstream global media.

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