Start-Up Do-Overs

Even if you have done it before, starting a business will come with its fair share of mistakes.  But mistakes are experiences from which you can learn the most.  Some of my best lessons have cost me the most money, but have been incredibly valuable.  If I could, would I take the chance to go back and do things differently?  Sure!  So last week I asked the question –

If you were given one “do-over” during your startup process, what would it be and how would you do things differently?

Everyone has a story of what they would change.  We were fortunate enough to capture 17 from our panel of business professionals to share with you.  Perhaps some will feel familiar and others you may not have encountered, yet.  My hope is that you will learn from the lessons shared, and have greater wisdom as you continue to grow in your business.  Enjoy!

1. Not Enough Chefs In The Kitchen?

What we are cooking: apps (not appetizers really but actual Apps, for the iPhone/iPad. We had all our great ideas 3 years ago when we started making children’s educational Apps, but waited to hire enough graphic designers and developers to make the recipes! We thought we would save money initially and use just one graphic designer and one developer….lesson learned. Don’t skimp on ingredients, and get your ideas into fruition ASAP! Of course now there are over 60,000 Apps, tons are educational. We have branched into teaching Apps and designing Apps for companies, as well as still doing our educational ones. But that first year, we could have gotten out 4 quality Apps for the time it took us to do 1!

Thanks to Jill Mikols Etesse of SmartyShortz LLC

2. Don’t Go It Alone!

When I first started my business, I tried to do everything myself. I had some great learning experiences, but had I found others to network with and learn from, I would have been able to have much less stress. Work with a coach. Network with other successful business owners. Take advantage of SCORE and other business advisory services. You will be glad that you did.

Thanks to Stephanie LH Calahan of Calahan Solutions, Inc.

3. Start Up Do-Over

The biggest thing I would do over? I would begin hiring sooner. Operating on a shoestring (and a broken one at that), I originally had to do everything myself. The thrift that made it possible for me to survive and then thrive in the beginning, quickly became a hindrance when I delayed hiring people who could do any number of specific tasks easier, cheaper and far better than I could.

Thanks to Barry Maher of Barry Maher & Associates

4. If I Could Turn Back Time

If I could go back in time and do things differently, I would have spent more time networking and meeting new people, both within and outside of my industry. I have learned that building relationships is essential in business, and making connections with fellow entrepreneurs and professionals could make a huge difference to the success of your business. I would definitely advise new entrepreneurs to take the opportunity to network. You just never know who you’ll meet.

Thanks to Victoria Olubi of My Curls

5. Take Time To Plan

I’m actually getting that chance. Last fall, I launched my second business, Marketing in Bloom, and I’ve done things VERY differently. With my first business I started out freelancing and it turned into a full-time business. During this start-up process, I have dedicated a lot of time to setting things up right the first time. We have a systems manual (a must for every small business owner), a clear vision and strategic objective, and a functioning marketing plan. It has made all the difference.

Thanks to Allyson Piper of Marketing In Bloom

6. Be More Like Rocky!

You have to be a little like Rocky. When you start out it is easy to have the grandiose vision. But you have to dial it down. Take a look at what is making you money now. What you are you doing to be successful now. Rocky had to focus on each and every workout, making that workout the best it could be, because that is what would let him beat Apollo Creed. All the little steps are just as important, if not more important, than the big picture. I would try to be a little more like Rocky.

Thanks to Lauren MacEwen of SM Cubed Consulting

7. Business Start Over

If I had a chance to start over, in addition to being funded better, I would have gotten involved in marketing and public relations much earlier. We held off way too long on PR, marketing and viral web outreach. Initially, we needed to educate our customers about our Green, clean indoor air products and the health benefits they provided. Once they understood they would feel healthier indoors, and we showed them how our products saved money and energy in a home or office, our business surged.

Thanks to Steve Levine of AtmosAir Solutions

8. Founder Agreements — A Prenup For Your Startup

We go into marriage hoping for the best but use prenups to plan for the worst. Likewise, you and your friends on day one of the company are filled with hope, but need to have a prenup in place, i.e. a founders agreement, in case things don’t work out as planned and someone needs to leave (willingly or unwillingly).

Thanks to Mark Herschberg of White Knight Consulting

9. Stop Treading Timidly!

Our one do-over would be to dive into our business more seriously from day one. We dabbled in it as a hobby for almost a year and a half in our spare time before seriously committing to go full steam ahead. We lost a lot of the business advantage that we had back at the beginning, as there are now many more established competitors than there were previously.

Maybe it was fear, maybe it was conservatism, maybe pragmatism. Whatever the reason, I certainly wish we have been more committed early on.

Thanks to Daniel Trang of Veribook

10. Learn From Others Who Walked The Same Path…

If I had the chance to start over, I would spend at least 30 days reading everything I could on how other people started the same type of business I was interested in. This certainly would have prevented me from making so many false assumptions when I was new to the game, saving me time and money in the process. This time and money may just be the difference between success and failure in your new business.

Thanks to Sue Watson of Cleaning 4 Profit

11. Don’t Spend Money On A Client!

I am in music management, and when my business first started, I spent thousands on my artists to get them to a certain level. This included CD duplication, pictures along with other products. I learned never to invest in someone without requiring a percentage of whatever was earned from products sold. This is one smart way to acquire residual income in your business.

Thanks to Lorneth Peters of Number Seven Management

12. Small Business Lessons

I teach small business management classes at Santa Rosa Jr. College, Santa Rosa, CA as well as work as a small business consultant to assist companies find funding.

Lessons learned that I hear all the time are the following:

1. Should have had a business plan

2. Underfunded—did not expect to run out of money. No reserve fund

3. Did not have proper insurance. The partner was disabled (or worse, died) and the
business had to close because I could not sustain it.

4. Did know how to market the product/service. “I thought the product would sell
itself!!!”

5. No family support – “I did not realize how many hours that I had to spend away
from my family” – divorce.

Hope this will assist you—these are real life comments from my students and
clients!

Thanks to Denise Beeson of Santa Rosa Jr. College & Bay Sierra Financial, Inc

13. Open Your Mail

In 1993, I co-founded the Institute for Children, Inc., a think tank focused on creating more effective, child-focused policies on foster care and adoption. With a dedicated board of directors, an amazing staff and lots of help from friends, the IFC helped two administrations at The White House improve policies for some of America’s most vulnerable children.

I was, for years, so focused on all of the IFC’s projects that I let my correspondence (both incoming and outgoing) fall behind. The mail always came last, and it stacked up. At one point I had four in-boxes on my desk — my staff would sort the mail and though I sometimes worked until dawn, I never seemed to get to the mail in a timely manner.

I missed some great things: thank-you notes, letters of support and (I haven’t yet forgiven myself for this one) an invitation to the Inaugural Ball, which I opened a week after the event took place.

Today, I am in the process of a real do-over. I’ve moved across the country, have taken some time to address family matters and changed my focus from trying to do it all to doing my best as I re-launch the Institute for Children. Reading my mail — whether snail, email or texts — and responding promptly has become the start to some very productive and much happier days. I’ve even had time for a labor of love, a website championing organizations around the country that help foster kids: http://donateluggage.com

Thanks to Conna Craig of Institute For Children, Inc.

14. Startup-up Do-overs

When we first started we, like many others, had grand dreams. In pursuit of those unrealistic dreams, we spent our first 6 months seeking buyers for the usual large retailers. We spent 6 months writing and calling every company we could think of without success. After 6 months we stood back and re-assessed our situation and started selling our products ourselves. Our biggest mistake was shooting too big. Start with realistic expectations and start small, and it will save time in the long run.

Thanks to Michael Wang of Monyusa

15. Biggest Mistake Of My Start-Up

The biggest mistake of my start-up phase was to not take on help sooner. I went much too long trying to do everything on my own, instead of simply focusing on my strengths. There’s a lot of pressure to do this when money is tight and when you’re still feeling things out, and trying to get your business to grow some legs. After a while, I realized I’m ALWAYS going to be trying to learn things and get stronger. This doesn’t have to mean hiring employees. Delegation can take many forms.

Thanks to Christian Russell of Dangerous Tactics

16. Obstacles Facing Start Ups

All start-ups prove to face a certain amount of trial and error when finding their feet initially. A thorough financial projection must be made very early on. Monitor out going and in coming finances very carefully! Forming a strong brand identity from the very beginning is a necessity. This way you will engage your target audience. Once you have clients, they become your priority and internal projects are put on the back burner. Self-discipline is key, don’t get disheartened, be patient!

Thanks to Juliet Keane of RelevanSi

17. Get It In Writing!

Saving $500 on a lawyer today might cost you 50% of a multi-million dollar company someday. Getting the paperwork done up-front allows everyone to agree on what they expect to give and get in return. This is especially important when partners are making different contributions (money, experience, equipment), or are friends/family. If you can’t afford a lawyer, get a book of small business legal documents — even a template agreement is better than nothing.

Thanks to Ketan Patel of Integration Fanatics LLC



My sincere thanks to all our respondents this week! Openly sharing your expertise and experiences is a huge asset to this blog and the readership. I wish you all a wonderful week and hope to see you here again.

This week’s question is –

Whether you are just starting out, or have been in business for a while, one of the challenging decisions you face is when to reinvest in your business. Most of the time you are looking at low investments, but there will be times when upping your game requires something more significant and risky.

When is it a good idea to splurge when reinvesting in your business, and why?

Why should I join the discussion?

Because this online forum is a great place for us to exchange ideas, learn from each other and network. My goal is to unite successful women entrepreneurs to share our insights and solutions to the challenges we most commonly face in our businesses.

How do I get involved?


Every Monday I will post a new Question of the Week. This is a great opportunity for you to bring your expertise to the table. Using the link below, please submit a one paragraph response before the deadline, and the following week I will share our community responses on my blog.

CLICK HERE TO SUBMIT YOUR RESPONSE

I look forward to your response to this week’s question! If you have any questions you know where to find me. Have a great week!

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One Trackback

  1. By Start-up Do Over — Blog Cubed on February 14, 2011 at 10:02 am

    […] question is highly relevant for business owners and offers some great tips to start ups.  Click here to read the great advice and great stories!. Filed Under: Recent Guest Post blog […]

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