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Entrepreneurship: Before and As You Begin
You’ve decided to take the plunge, to take the risk and start your own business. First, congratulations! Second, get ready for one of the most fulfilling and frustrating things you will do in your life. I, along with my partners, founded AdSpark Communications nine years ago at the ripe old age of 21. I made a lot of mistakes – mistakes that you can perhaps avoid. Here’s a couple of things that I wish I knew before I got started:
Lawyers, accountants, and permits, oh my: When you start your own business, no one mentions the amount of paper work, legal work, and otherwise drab tasks you’ll need to do to get your business off the ground. Things like registering with the city, Information Services Corporation (ISC) and GST all need to be completed if you incorporate your business. It’s important to know all the permits you’ll need to operate your business as well as the associated costs.
Ignore the haters, listen to the critics: Everyone has a right to an opinion, however, that opinion might not always be right. When you launch your business, people are going to come out of the woodwork telling you how to run your company (yes, I’m aware of the irony of this article). You’ll hear everything from advice on paying taxes to people dismissing the thought of you being an entrepreneur. It’s crucial to filter out the people genuinely providing solid advice from cynical armchair CEOs. My two cents: pick a handful of people that you think bring a valid opinion to the table, look for people with experience in your industry and other entrepreneurs.
Know what you don’t know: If you’re like I was and you’re starting your company on a shoe-string budget, you’re going to be tempted to do everything. While you will wear many hats running your own company, some things are better left to the professionals. You may feel the urge to bust out the Crayolas and Picasso your own logo, but stop and think: is this an efficient use of your time? Maybe you should outsource design and focus on the core of your business.
Build your core: What makes you different? Chances are unless you invented a new product, you’re probably entering an already existing market; meaning you will have competitors. Before you start your company, you need to ask yourself: what will make me stand out from my competitors? Will you provide a different method of practice? Will your pricing structure be different? Before you begin, you will need to be able to answer these questions and be able to effectively communicate this differentiating factor to your potential customers. Quick hint: exceptional customer service isn’t a big enough differentiating factor, people don’t go to restaurants just because the servers are friendly.
Take a step back: The best analogy that I can give as you start your own business is climbing a never-ending mountain. I know that doesn’t sound incredibly delightful but stick with me for a second. I use this analogy because once every six months or so I do two things. First, I take a step back and see how far I’ve come, I celebrate my accomplishments and acknowledge my mistakes – similar to looking down the side of a mountain you’ve just climbed. Second, I look up and forward, I see what I must do to navigate to where I want to be. It’s important to never lose sight of why you started your business in the first place.