Launching your own business is a daunting prospect. If this is your first time serving as your own boss, you would do well to heed the advice of those who’ve come before you.
These six pieces of advice are particularly salient for ambitious young entrepreneurs.
- Find a Dependable Mentor, Perhaps More Than One
First, find a dependable mentor and maintain a fruitful relationship with him or her. While your mentor cannot (and should not) run your business on a day-to-day basis, he or she can step in at inflection points and provide incisive advice born of personal experience. No matter how strong your team or robust your own abilities, there simply is no substitute for experience.
Bear in mind that you may require more than one mentor: for instance, one to provide advice about management techniques, another to assist with product-related concerns, and yet another to keep you grounded amid competing work and life pressures.
- Start Early, Even If You’re Not Quite Sure of Your Calling
Some of the planet’s most successful entrepreneurs started at a tender age. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg both dropped out of college to found what would become wildly successful technology companies; Miami entrepreneur George Otte founded his first business while he was in college, and now oversees a multifaceted corporate portfolio.
- Remain Frugal, Even After Your Cash Flow Turns Positive
No matter how successful you become, frugality is a virtue that does not disappoint. Necessity will no doubt force you to watch every dollar when you are first starting out, but the real test will come once your cash flow has turned positive. Emulate other famously frugal entrepreneurs, such as direct marketing maven Rick Cesari, whose judicious use of airline credit card miles subsidizes a host of employee perks at his Seattle firm.
- Have a Solid Business Plan With Contingencies
Whatever else you do, hew to a solid business plan designed with every known contingency in mind. In all likelihood, you’ll draw up this business plan in close consultation with one or more of your mentors. Update it as necessary to accommodate your company’s growth, but do not stray too far from its spirit.
- Use Organic and Word-of-Mouth Marketing Whenever Possible
Whenever possible, let your customers do your marketing on your behalf. In the digital realm, organic SEO and social media marketing can dramatically reduce your promotion budget. Offline, word-of-mouth marketing is extremely effective at building and maintaining “buzz” around your products. Look for opportunities to generate conversation wherever you can.
- Never Compromise Your Hiring Criteria
Stay true to the maxim, “be slow to hire and quick to fire.” More to the point, it is in your best interest to stay true to a rigid, exacting set of standards to which you hold all prospective employees. Quality hires generally produce quality work.
Take the Road Less Traveled
Ultimately, you are in control of your entrepreneurial journey. No matter where this road takes you, stay true to the values and principles that have brought you this far. If that means taking the road less traveled, so be it.