By Levi Lapp, founder and CEO of Atlantic Outdoors, an outdoor living company that builds decks, pergolas, pavilions and gazebos.
Starting a new business can be a leap of faith. If you are considering this path, you have probably faced roadblocks along the way. Statistics show that many new businesses fail within two years of launching. But take heart. It’s possible to launch a business and cultivate a thriving empire. Becoming an entrepreneur requires planning and patience, plus a little more.
If you’ve been dreaming of turning your passion into your career but aren’t sure where to begin, here are five things to consider as you get ready to move forward with your business.
You have a strong idea for a business and think you are ready to take the plunge. Before you quit your job, do as much legwork as you can. Entrepreneurs have fresh ideas—which is great—but putting those ideas into motion can sometimes be tricky. Before you make a life/financial change, do your homework:
• Create a business plan. This foundational step is crucial and is the blueprint for how to steer your business forward. If you aren’t sure where to start, SBA.gov has resources for creating one.
• Study the market trends and acknowledge your competition. This can help you set your prices competitively and help you to respond to rival marketing campaigns with your own promotions and initiatives.
• Prepare your credit/assets for loans and lines of credit. It is smart to open lines of credit or apply for loans before you accrue much debt and while your credit score is good.
• Line yourself up with business professionals and coaches. They’ll look after the details (such as bookkeeping, payroll, policies, etc.), leaving you free to look at the big picture for your business growth.
• Have cash on hand to cover expenses. According to banking experts, it is smart to have approximately three to six months’ worth of expenses in reserve as a rule of thumb. And don’t forget to price out inventory, staffing, supplies, etc.
Think of it this way. Farmers wake up early every day and tend to their crops and animals. It makes no difference if it is pouring rain or if the farmer didn’t sleep well the night before. They don’t have a choice. They must tend to daily tasks to meet future goals.
So it is with starting—and maintaining—a business. Especially at the beginning, your time is money. By creating a morning routine, you can feel comfortable knowing specific tasks will be done before the day gets busy. This routine may change as your company grows, but the core tasks should always be tackled first thing. From checking on inventory to responding to emails, be sure those tasks are tended to daily.
Likewise, schedule all business-critical items early in the day. Even if your day goes off track, the lesser items can be pushed back.
You’ve created a business plan. It reflects how you want your business to operate and plan for future growth. Although your intentions may be solid, unexpected things happen. That’s why it’s essential to line up professionals to help you with an objective point of view. From an accountant to an insurance agent, it is wise to seek out professionals to do what they do best while you focus on your business.
And here’s the big one: Hire a business coach. Most coaches have been in your position before and have successfully made it through those challenging first stages. Take advantage of the professional experience offered and apply what you can to your fledgling business.
Having someone “on your side” with a practical business focus can help you tread through unexpected twists and turns. Your coach will want you to succeed, and sometimes they will give you advice that might be difficult to hear. Their insight has merit and should be taken seriously.
Things may be moving just as you planned, but then the world changes overnight. Circumstances have occurred over the past 25 years to prove that theory—including a global pandemic. Many successful businesses thought their plans were solid, only to find themselves on uncertain grounds.
You’ve heard the old adage “trust your gut,” but sometimes in business, that isn’t always enough. That’s why having a coach, and other professionals in your network, can work in your favor. They can help you see things you might not be able to see yourself or even things you don’t want to see.
For example, let’s say you have a business plan with three different product offerings. Product 1 and Product 2 are taking off, so you spend a little more attention on Product 3. Eventually, you see more activity there, and all seems well. Then something unexpectedly shifts in the market. All of a sudden, Product 2 nose-dives.
Now what? Your coach may tell you to drop Product 2 and turn your focus to a new one. This may be scary, and you may be reluctant. Since this new opportunity was not part of your original plan, you might feel like you failed somehow.
However, that’s not the case. It’s the tough times that can cause you to shift in a new direction. It’s not a failure, but an opportunity. These moments may feel like make-it-or-break-it situations, but that’s OK. They can keep you sharp, and with the assistance of your coach, you can forge new grounds with the same momentum you first had.
In the first couple of years, you’ll have highs and lows. You might be planning to expand one day, and worried about payroll the next. It’s all part of ownership. The important thing is to continue to look at the big picture, but with realistic eyes.
As time goes on, revisit your original business plan. Appreciate the areas that went as planned. Know that the parts that didn’t go as planned have been learning experiences and made you wiser.