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If you are planning to start your own business, or have already done so, cheers to you! You have overcome one of the chief obstacles every single entrepreneur faces: not letting fear and self-doubt prevent you from striving to realize your dream.
I’m not playing the role of a motivational speaker here. But a majority of the successful entrepreneurs who participated in our recent 2015 Sage State of the Startup Survey said they had no previous experience running their own businesses before taking the leap. They didn’t let that stop them, and you shouldn’t, either.
Notwithstanding their lack of experience, these successful business founders shared some business best practices that provide insights to help other new founders succeed. Spend a few minutes learning from those who have walked in your shoes:
1. No experience, no problem! But have a plan.
One step our most successful entrepreneurs insisted you absolutely must take before opening your doors or taking your website live is to create a formal business plan. This may sound tedious if you already have a good idea of your customer base and marketing tactics, but don’t wing it. Developing the plan will help you answer questions you may not have even thought of yet, such as how to identify and leverage the latest marketing techniques. A plan is also a requirement to approach potential funding sources.
Once you’ve launched, make sure you update your plan on a yearly basis. The market may have changed or you may see new customer opportunities. You need to take a step back and be strategic in your approach. As Yogi Berra famously said, “If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.”
2. Do your research.
The foundation of your business plan should reflect an understanding of your customers’ needs and desires, and what messaging will resonate with them. A thorough market analysis also scrutinizes your competitors and identifies what business trends you can leverage. Each of those objectives should be built around a narrative and the specific numbers you are aiming for, such as for revenue and market share.
3. Hire a trusted advisor.
Overcome the temptation to do everything yourself. I understand that temptation: Your business is your baby, and who is better to nurture it than the parent? However, the best startups lean on the wisdom and experience of trusted advisors such as accountants and mentors. For example, 54 percent of the most successful entrepreneurs from our survey said they were more likely to hire an accountant, at least part time. You can’t do everything, so determine where you need advice and assistance and how it could help your business.
We also polled more than 100 senior executives at firms who advise, counsel and invest in new businesses. These advisors echoed that recommendation. Thirty-six percent even went so far as to say they had a somewhat-to-extremely low trust of the financials they received from entrepreneurs. Absolutely no one reported having an extremely high level of trust of these financials.
4. Maintain a work/life balance.
The stereotypical image of the successful entrepreneur — the person who spends every waking hour at the office, doesn’t remember to eat and sleeps at the office on a couch or a blanket underneath the desk — is a myth. More than half of the successful founders we surveyed said one of the key lessons they would impart to anyone is to “embrace a life/work balance.” This is a clear indication that entrepreneurs are working smarter, not harder.
There’s no doubt you need to be passionate about what you’re doing to be successful, but don’t let passion trump common sense. Balance your passion with sound business practices, and most of all, remember what’s really important in life.