If you’re an early-stage entrepreneur, you know that everything you do in the first few years of your business can set the stage for a lifetime of successes or failures. Getting your new business off the ground starts with a well-devised growth strategy that covers marketing, branding, product development, and diversification. It also relies on some creative muscle-building and implementing advice from the experts.
What every young business has in common is that its founders make mistakes along the way. Sometimes, those mistakes translate into measurable gains and an opportunity to adjust and grow. Luckily, many of the most successful business owners made mistakes that new entrepreneurs can learn from.
As Warren Buffet once said, “In the business world, the rearview is always clearer than the windshield.”
1. LEARN FROM YOUR MISTAKES.
In the words of the richest man in America, Bill Gates: “It’s fine to celebrate success, but it is more important to heed the lessons of failure.” Celebrating every milestone is good for boosting morale and keeping your early employees engaged, but make sure that you’re spending just as much time digesting and implementing feedback. As you probably know, today’s most successful businesses are entrenched in a quality customer experience (CX), and a cornerstone of that philosophy is listening to and applying both negative and positive feedback.
2. PARTNER WITH GOOD SUPPLIERS.
You’re only as good as your worst supplier. Make sure that you properly vet your talent, manufacturers, shipping partners, and suppliers based on their quality standards. In the same vein, understand the most important facets of your business from a CX perspective. For example, if you run an e-commerce business, it’s important to improve shipping quality and speed with super-efficient barcode making software and barcode labels in order to prevent shipping snafus, which can translate into a poor customer experience. Any business that focuses on shipping should prioritize that and other high-CX factors right alongside marketing and product development. Unhappy customers are a young business’s kryptonite.
3. FIND THE RIGHT MARKETING CHANNEL.
When you’re a new business, every dollar invested must have a strong ROI. But savvy business owners know that most modern businesses depend on successful marketing. So how do you ensure that your branding dollars are spent wisely? It all comes down to finding the right channels. This means deeply evaluating your target audience. Ask yourself vital questions, like: Where does he or she spend time online? What would be the best way to reach them? Once you’ve nailed down your core consumer, you can wisely invest in the right channels.
4. SKIP THE PINBALL MACHINES.
As tempting as it is to move your early-stage operation into a fancy office with pinball machines and ergonomic office chairs, don’t overspend on superfluous things in the early days. “Your wallet is your company’s life-blood. Practice and perfect the art of being frugal,” says Sizzle It! Founder Scott Gerber. The money saved from swag, décor and unnecessary extras could go towards marketing your brand, hiring new talent, and perfecting your product. Billionaire investor Mark Cuban echoed this sentiment: “A sure sign of failure for a startup is when someone sends me logo-embroidered polo shirts,” he told Entrepreneur.
5. CREATE A BRAND NARRATIVE.
These days, attracting customers through online ads and promotions isn’t enough. You have to connect your brand to a bigger story or narrative. Storytelling can strengthen your brand by making it more authentic and approachable to potential customers. Not only that, but a well-devised brand story can make your company stand out from competitors, which is extremely important in the early days of your business. “A brand’s narrative can set a company apart in a competitive sector,” said Adnams marketing director Emma Hibbert in an interview with Marketing Week.
6. FOCUS ON BUSINESS, NOT JUST TECH.
Investor and “Shark Tank” superstar Mark Cuban has a few words for Silicon Valley types. “There’s way too much hype on the technologies and not enough attention on the real businesses behind them,” Cuban said in an interview with Inc. In other words, the most successful small businesses — even the ones focused on technology — have a solid background in business that informs decisions every day. SLOK Group Founder Orji Uzor Kalu agrees: “A good businessman must have the nose for business the same way a journalist has the nose for news. Once your eyes, ears, nose, heart, and brain are trained on business, you sniff business opportunities everywhere.”
7. KEEP LEARNING, NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU KNOW.
What’s the secret to success for billionaire Bloomberg L.P. founder and 12-year New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg? Always keep learning. The mega-successful entrepreneur explained his feeling on his weekly radio show in 2013. “I’ve never met a Nobel Prize winner who didn’t think they had an awful lot more to learn and wasn’t studying every single day. So, when a parent says, ‘How much does my kid have to learn before they can stop studying?’ I don’t know how to break this to you, lady or sir: there is no answer to that.”
8. TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RESOURCES.
Small businesses are some of the strongest and most active facets of a local economy. Partnering with other businesses, chambers of commerce, and your region’s office of the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will help you connect with experts that can provide valuable advice. Take it from Ben & Jerry’s Founders Ben Cohen And Jerry Greenfield. They told host Guy Raz in an episode of NPR’s “How I Built This” podcast that though they had no background in business, they sent away for pamphlets from the SBA, which helped them build a business plan. They credit the SBA for helping to save their business when the administration partnered them with a retired executive who helped them convince the bank to issue a loan moratorium.