Did you know that within five years of opening the first Walmart, Sam Walton was making over $12 million per year? And that’s in 1960s money! Today, that would equate to roughly $90 million per year. In reality, Walmart makes over $400 billion per year now. Yes, billion
This past Halloween marked the anniversary of my firm’s first full-year in business. A year later, I’m happy to say that starting my own business was one of the best decisions I have ever made! I have been able to help more people and small businesses than I could have ever imagined. Amidst the fun and excitement there have been some trying times and I wanted to share the top lessons I learned after running my business for a full year.
#1 Don’t be afraid to ask questions (or for help)
Starting a business is intimidating, especially if you do it by yourself. Be sure you ask as many questions as you feel necessary to figure things out. Seek out a mentor that you can run ideas past, and call on when faced with uncertainty or new challenges. You should also consider creating partnerships with your vendors so you can reach them easier if you run into an issue with a product or service. Having some humility and accepting that you do not know everything will help you find your way faster and make you a better business person in the long run.
#2 Be persistent & stay positive
You will be faced with some trying days, especially in the beginning. I was constantly told by peers and seasoned pros in my field that it would take three years for me to build a sustainable business that I could confidently rely upon for income. It hasn’t been three years but I feel like I’m well ahead of schedule. Even if you strike gold in the first few months of operation you need to remain persistent to bring in new business and stay positive when setbacks arise or business is slow. Think of successfully running a business as being the last man standing and you’ll do just fine.
#3 You can’t do everything yourself
Take it from a guy who has written about delegating tasks and responsibilities over and over again. Unless you are a freelancer, or have an ultra-rare lucrative passive income stream, you really can’t do everything by yourself. Consider hiring contractors that can help you get through tough projects or assist with administrative work so you don’t find yourself working 80 hour work weeks, missing important deadlines, or compromising on the quality of your goods or services. Businesses grow by scaling, and hiring people is one of the most common ways to do just that.
#4 If it’s not broke, don’t fix it…
As your business grows and you progress in your journey, you’ll be tempted to try new things or sell new products and services. Some of those that work will become cornerstones to your business. Eventually, you may be tempted to make changes (probably several times). My advice here is that if something works, then let it be. There is no point in disrupting a great marketing plan, a steadily selling product or service, or highly engaging customer-service experience. Even if everyone else is jumping into something else, do so with caution until you know a change is necessary.
#5 …but if it doesn’t work, adapt to change
All that being said, if something isn’t working, scrap it. This includes your business altogether. Time and money are too precious in the early years of your business to let things drag on. If you implement an idea then give it a pre-determined amount of time and measure the performance. If it does well then keep it, but if it’s flat or faltering then end it and move on to something else. Think about it, if an idea isn’t taking off and you’re investing time and money into it you might be better off doing nothing at all. Even if the measurable results show some success, if it’s not to the extent you desired it may not be worth all the effort. Be open to change and adapt when you feel the circumstances are right.
#6 Read & listen to others
Starting and running a new small business is hard but finding inspiration and motivation can be harder. Read a book from time to time and even consider listening to podcasts or attending seminars. Some of my best ideas from this past year came from a seminar I attended. I realized some obvious things I should have been doing but it took getting into a room of my peers and having it choked down my throat for a full day to take action. I also picked up some new tricks from that seminar which offered me a little competitive edge. Like me, you might just stumble upon a nugget of information your competition has never thought of that could benefit you immensely.
#7 Pay your taxes!
Last but not least, pay your taxes! Business taxes can be extremely complicated to understand and first year business owners commonly fail to seek out the proper knowledge. Not because they are lazy or don’t want to, but because they don’t know they should have done so until it is too late. In your first year invest in a great accountant that will take the time to guide you through small business ownership. Their service won’t be free but I promise you that the mistakes you will never make because of their guidance will more than pay for their fees.
There you have it, my top 7 tips from my first year running my business. I hope you found them insightful. Be sure to follow my Firm on social media for more posts like this.