We have curated contributions from industry leaders on some of the most important components of starting a business.
When you start a new business you need to select the right entity for your business. We made a huge mistake when forming our company initially that ultimately cost us $20,000 in legal fees to correct. When we formed the company in 2012 we did it simply as a Tennessee LLC. Quick and easy and cheap we figured it was the best way to get our company up and rolling, however we did not realize is that an LLC is a no go for institutional investors. Any outside investors such as private equity, angel investors, or venture capitalists will insist that your company be a Delaware C Corp. This is because Delaware has an abundance of case law that is favorable to corporate structure, investors, and board members and is generally accepted as the standard by the investor community. When we raised capital last summer we came to the table with our Tennessee LLC and almost got laughed out of the room. We had to pay a specialist attorney to dissolve the old LLC and very carefully assign everything to the new proper entity which is a Delaware C Corp. My advice to anyone forming their company is to to carefully consider going with a Delaware C Corp. if they plan on raising outside investors capital.
Grit--its what it takes to start a business. You have to have the courage to leave the security of a job for the unknown with a high probability of failure. Passion and perseverance are strong characteristics of someone who has grit. Grit will move you forward and help you overcome whatever obstacles come to light.
The one thing you need is a manifesto. If you want your staff to believe in your business and ultimately your customers/clients to believe in it - you need a written manifesto that is on paper that you can feel. Not on email, not online in a shared drive or database but a piece of paper.
You need to have a written manifesto that everyone knows by heart and understands what we are (the company) about and why. This is what they think of when they hear your company name, when they see your logo, your letterhead, when they see your email domain, and you leave a voicemail with the company name. This is the first step for a business, before a marketing plan, before a business plan, or a sales strategy or the respective divisions. This is what truly matters about a business. Everything will flow from this manifesto. It has to be clear, concise and heartfelt. It has to be what you're about and convey why a customer/client would want to work with you.
You need to take a good, hard, long look at yourself and make sure you are willing to put yourself out there. When you start your own
business, all you have on Day One is you. You will do the fundraising, you will do the sales, you will train the employees or vendors. Clients will be buying from you because of you. Even if you are selling through a website and never meet customers, your voice will come across online. If you’re selling creative items, you come across in what you are creating. This is sometimes harder for introverts than extroverts, but either way: the tides are against you if you are not 150% willing to stand loudly and proudly behind your business.
One of the most often overlooked parts of starting a business in our now digital age is to network with people in real life. Becoming a part of local business groups - including the Chamber of Commerce and referral networking groups - helps to introduce your business to a wide variety of people who can then become raving fans of you and your business, even if they are not your client/customer. However, you can't just join and expect business to come to you, you do need to put the work part in networking into action. Attend mixers (virtual or in real life), ask people to meet for a cup of tea, refer business to others - all of this is networking in action. What you put out into the universe will return to you tenfold, so make sure that you are creating opportunities and growth by giving your time, resources and connections first.
Whether you are building a national, international or local company, being an active participant in your community is vital to your business growth and to also help you grow personally and professionally. It is easier stay abreast of local economic changes and you may even have other business opportunities presented that you can benefit from. Being the go to expert in your local area will help your business grow, and being seen and remembered as that expert requires you to establish personal relationships in real life.
To start a successful business, the most important thing you need is a solid understanding of the people you want to serve and how you’re going to serve them in a way that’s meaningfully different from your competition. This is a critical step that many entrepreneurs and businesses fail to define, which makes their marketing efforts ineffective and their products and services lack impact. When you do the legwork to define, know, and understand exactly who your ideal customer is and the pain point you’re going to solve for them (in a way that’s meaningfully different from your competition), you have a solid foundation for a business. Marketing, at that point, feels very easy and obvious. This clarity you’ve created quickly passes to the consumer who immediately understands what you do and who you do it for. This all results in one thing: conversions.
You need to be internally driven to do whatever it is you want to do. In other words, you need a true passion, drive, or desire to start this business. *Intrinsic motivation*.
Execution is what differentiates successful entrepreneurs from unsuccessful ones, and intrinsic motivation is what drives execution. Anyone can make a plan and identify all the things they should be doing. But actually doing those things, consistently, and doing them well, is what's key. If you don't want to be doing those things, you'll quickly hit burnout and you'll stop doing them. I’ve started five businesses, sold one, closed two, and am currently working on two. And the difference between the ones I sold or am working on compared to the ones that I closed was clear: intrinsic motivation.
So, does extrinsic motivation work? It does, to some extent. But eventually, even if you have great extrinsic motivation to do something (such as a highly profitable business), you will burn out and start doing a half-ass job – the bare minimum – if you aren’t intrinsically motivated. I know this from experience.
That’s why I sold my last business. Even though it was highly profitable, I wasn’t driven to keep pushing forward, and I realized one day that if I was my own employee, I would fire myself. I was no longer intrinsically motivated to work on it, so I made the decision to sell. Find what brings you intrinsic motivation and do that thing! You’ll be more successful and be happier. And you won’t regret a single minute of it.
A strong business plan which ensures the sales and profits are sustainable and can cover the costs and ideally weather a storm, or nowadays a virus. In order to do such most likely, the owner and founder will need to take on ALL rolls in order to minimize costs. While not ideal someone with a multi disciplinary approach and business savviness may be able to be successful. When the sales allow for sustainable growth and the cash reserves add up, then it will be time to slowly (adequately) add employees who bring value and help manage and grow the business. Lastly, if it doesn't make you happy, don't bother. There is no point in working hard and making money if you're going to be miserable. Exchanging happiness, health, and relationships for success is never a good deal. The way to develop it is to be BRUTALLY HONEST with yourself about your weaknesses and your strengths. Play the strengths. Hard. Be merciless with your weaknesses by developing or delegating them.
So, my biggest piece of advice to new business creators out there is to trust yourself and actually listen to the positive things people are telling you about yourself instead of only focusing on your worries or intimidations. I have always found that every time I reach a hard choice - jump or walk back - jumping has been the most amazing and scary decision. I advise people to trust themselves, because the challenge is there because it is a challenge you should accept. I chose to swing and fly without a net. It is the most exhilarating and terrifying choice I have ever made. And I would do it again tomorrow. It taught me more about myself and my capacity to learn and create than any other decision I've made in my career.
If you’re starting an online business, make sure you focus on researching the platform you plan on using. A big mistake we made was that we originally used Magento, and that proved to be a near-fatal error. After appearing on Shark Tank, we knew that being featured on a highly viewed television show would attract quite a bit of website traffic. In the year leading up to the episode’s air date, we purchased thirty servers, simulated load tests, and invested over $200,000 to make sure the site could handle the massive influx of traffic that would be coming our way. But when the episode aired, the site went down. In the world of eCommerce, uptime means everything! A lot of money was lost that day, and it made what should have been one of the happiest days, one of the worst. Since then, we've switched over to Shopify, and our lives have been made immeasurably easier. We likely would never have had this issue if we had been with Shopify from the beginning. All this to say - patience was definitely learned in a situation where we had to expect the unexpected. We didn’t let that situation sink our company. Instead, we grew our company and surrounded ourselves with excellent employees who would help us continue to grow in the years following.
Once you have a sound business idea, the next thing you need to do is to prepare some sort of business plan. A business plan is a living document that maps out the details of your business. It covers what your business will sell, how it will be structured, what the market looks like, how you plan to sell your product or service, what funding you'll need, what your financial projections are, and which permits, leases, and other documentation will be required. A business plan will help you think through and answer the questions you have overlooked. It will help you test profitability, understand your financial needs, and give you a roadmap for bringing your business to life and growing it. It will tell you what you need to be financially viable. At its core, a business plan helps you prove to yourself and others whether or not your business idea is worth pursuing. It's the best way to take a step back, look at your idea holistically, and solve for issues years down the road before you start getting into the weeds. A well fleshed out business plan can be a great asset. Yet, it is important to recognize that few utilize this document as much as they would expect later on. It is a living plan that will always be changing. Few investors or lenders will care to read all the way through it. Don’t get bogged down in this for too long and let time and opportunity pass you by.
You need a Stable Sense of Self because everything and everyone else will be chaotic, unpredictable, and unreliable. At the beginning, everything and everyone depends on YOU. Though you need others, someone else will drop the ball and it's up to you to be reliable enough to attract someone else to pick it up.
Try and ask yourself the following: what does your business do best and how is it better than your competition? Simply put, to start a business, you need to understand your brand. Anyone can have an idea, but successful entrepreneurs are able to take their idea and turn it into something tangible. A brand is the backbone of your business and will influence every decision you make going forward, from the people you hire to the clients you attract. You should consider the service you want to provide and why prospective customers will need or be willing to pay for it. It’s also important for you to think about how your business is different from others that offer similar services. This stage can either make or break your business. Building a brand will take time, and it’s important to be realistic about what you hope to accomplish and whether there is even a market for what you’re trying to do.
Make sure when you are selling something, whether it be a service or product – it needs to be relatable and not just marketable. Today more than ever, consumers want to buy products that they can feel loyal to, that they can show off on social media and be proud of. They want a real face behind brands and they want authenticity. When I started this business, I started it knowing that it would be relatable because it was literally created for my own problem that needed to be fixed. I knew I could relate to the customers in the same boat and share my experiences with them, thus cementing the brand’s authenticity and even our authority. They trust the results because we have real human stories with pictures and videos and testimonials. We use social media a lot to drive this home. To reach out to the community and remind them that we’re empathetic to their issues and we can do it honestly and that is something most consumers can suss out. They know when a brand is being genuine. I don’t like being the center of attention and I hate getting on camera. However, I do it because it allows others to see me, hear my story, and relate to who I was and how I can help them. So many times we think we are the only one dealing with something, and you find that if you put yourself out there, others will relate. What you sell has to be relatable. Your brand has to be relatable.
I'm Bryan Clayton CEO of GreenPal which is best described as Uber for Lawn Care.
I am a co-founder of GreenPal which has been described as Uber for lawn
Todd Spodek manages Spodek Law Group P.C., a boutique criminal defense and divorce law firm with offices in Manhattan, Brooklyn and Queens. Spodek Law Group prides itself on their ability to think outside the box, their proactive can-do attitude, their dynamic approach to litigation, and their concierge level customer service. After the highly publicized Anna Sorokin trial, Mr. Spodek will be played on the upcoming Netflix 10 part series Inventing Anna by Arian Moayed from Succession.
Clémence Scouten is the founder of Attics AnonymousFamily History Services. Through Attics Anonymous, Clémence helps individuals capture and share their family stories across generations by publishing heirloom quality custom books. She executes or oversees all aspects of book production, as well as managing all back office functions like accounting, marketing and new business development. She launched herself into this field after working as a philanthropic advisor in Boston, which unexpectedly opened the door to her first family history project. She is a native and lover of Philadelphia, and holds a BA in English from the University of Pennsylvania, and an MA in English from the Sorbonne in Paris.
Nikole Haumont founded Shield Bar Marketing in 2013. Shield Bar is a boutique marketing firm that helps service based businesses create and maintain a consistent, branded look across all assets. With clients throughout the United States and Canada - her team provides logo design, website design, graphic design, email marketing and social media management services.
After relocating to Arizona, Shield Bar Marketing was named the 2019 New Business of the Year in the Green Valley Sahuarita Chamber of Commerce. Nikole is also the co-founder of the Advantage Alliance Referral Networking Group and co-host of the podcast, Time2Fly - Give Your Business Wings. Nikole was also named one of the AZ-19 region’s Most Influential People and as the founder of Shield Bar Marketing was one of the finalists in Sahuarita's mini Shark Tank event. Prior to starting her marketing company, Nikole was co-founder of Today’s Horse Magazine that was sold in 2008.
My name is Kevin Geary. I’m the founder of DigitalAmbition.co a business and marketing site, as well as the Chief Operating Officer of a graphic design and digital marketing firm in Atlanta. Working closely with businesses on the front lines, I have a lot of experience in what it takes to start a successful business.
My name is Jayson DeMers, and I'm an entrepreneur and business owner. I'm a former long-time columnist for Entrepreneur, BusinessInsider, Inc, and various other major media publications, where I covered marketing & entrepreneurship.
Hector Maggi is the founder and CEO of TFT-Pneumatic, a Houston based Distributor of Industrial Pneumatic Tools and Non-Sparking Tools. All the products under TFT-PNEUMATIC Safety Tools are Classified as COLD WORK, thus not requiring a Hot work Permit, Habitats, Fire watches, slow down, shut-ins, or nitrogen purging. Started in 2007, Hector secured the company's first clients by going door to door to request meetings to demonstrate the products. TFT-Pneumatic's target markets are Oil and Gas maintenance companies, manufacturing corporations, with material removal applications. Other examples are forges, foundries, shipyards, mines, car assembly plants, heavy-duty equipment manufacturing, aluminum boat manufacturing, to name a few. Customers can purchase or rent tools and equipment, and also get maintenance and repairs from TFT-Pneumatic. Hector lives in Houston, TX with this wife and family, and enjoys spending his leisure time fishing or off-roading.
Before I went full time with my companies, I was working as a Business Technology Analyst for Deloitte Consulting for a couple of years. Figuring out the best time to jump into the boat with both feet and knowing you won't fall short or drown is one of the toughest decisions for entrepreneurs. I asked myself this question all the time and spoke about this topic with mentors and business folks that I respected. Ultimately, I continued working my day job and ran my side business during the nights and weekends until the business made enough revenue and profit to replace my day job. At that point, it was a no-brainer that I could increase revenue greatly if I could dedicate an additional 40 hours (80 hours total) and be solely focused on the business.
Manny Hernandez is a CEO and the co-Founder of Wealth Growth Wisdom, LLC. He is a consummate marketer and information technology professional with over ten years of experience in the fast-evolving arena of direct response marketing.
Dr. Lisa Schaefer is the founder & software engineer of ThinQ.tv, a new platform where social people with curious minds can join impromptu live video chat online - Conversations to make you ThinQ. Dr. Schaefer earned her Ph.D. in systems engineering at Arizona State University and was a Future Vision innovator at a think tank in Washington, DC. She taught statistics and engineering courses at several universities. Dr. Schaefer is the writer/producer of Budget Justified, a true story about #metoo and other shenanigans at FAA headquarters in Washington, DC, and Lisa's 80s Catholic High School Movie, a true comedy about class clown twins versus math girl. She is the personality behind Your Online Mom featured on various social media platforms and has spoken at many universities, conferences, and cable television shows.
Chargebacks911 COO Monica Eaton-Cardone is an expert in the fintech industry and a widely recognized thought leader in the business world.
I am the founder and owner of CJL CONSULTiNG, a niche marketing agency that serves the restaurant, hotel and entertainment chains across the U.S. I am also the founder of our philanthropic arm - The WITI Group - a 501(c)(3) organization that aims to promote the future female leaders of our industry through mentorship as well as financial and emotional support when they find themselves in abusive or otherwise hostile work environments. I started this company more than 10 years ago as a way to stay active in my career while I finished my MBA. But in 2017, I fully re-engaged in the company as it was clear that after years in the corporate world, I was making plenty of money. but I wasn't making an impact.
My name is Camille Chulick and I’m the co-founder of Averr Aglow. We’re a skincare brand that focuses on natural, plant-based, cruelty-free, highly-effective ingredients, most of which are botanically sourced. I started Averr Aglow because I needed to fix a problem for myself. I suffered from terrible acne skin problems for over 16 years and had tried everything on the market. I would cancel plans with friends or even call off work because my skin was that bad. I gave up on everything else out there and decided to make my own naturally-sourced treatments that actually fixed my skin. My results were life-changing and I knew that there were other women out there who were experiencing what I had. It’s more than just about wanting smooth skin. Having visibly bad skin can cause really terrible self-esteem issues, depression, and isolation. I knew I had something that would be a huge deal to people in this situation. I knew I could help. We’re located in Georgia but we’re a global eCommerce business, with over 20,000 people experiencing positive results from our line.