Survival Checklist for Startup Founders
Being a startup founder is anything but easy; it takes guts to take an idea and transform it into reality. For many entrepreneurs, it means they ignored the naysayers (which could be their closest friends and family) and found a way to support themselves while starting a business from scratch – not an easy task. It means they’ve pushed forward regardless of the numerous delays and setbacks they undoubtedly encountered along the way.
What sets successful business owners apart from those who fail? Often, it comes down to one thing: perseverance. We’re talking about the uncanny ability to bounce from one failure to the next with no loss of enthusiasm. Of course, you’re going to feel the “loss of enthusiasm” but you can’t let it affect you for more than 24 hours; you have to give the lows of business ownership a shelf life.
If you’re a startup founder, a president or CEO of a new company, this post is for you. After spending countless hours ghostwriting for successful business owners, here are my takeaways on surviving and thriving in the business world:
1. Hire a business law attorney. Before you form your business, invest in a business law attorney upfront. You don’t know what you don’t know in the business world and a business law attorney can prevent you from making costly, yet preventable mistakes.
2. Shield your personal assets. While deciding on a business structure, consider how each option (e.g. partnership, LLC, C corp, S corp, B corp) can directly impact your personal assets. My advice is to choose a structure that shields your personal assets. To review common business structures, visit the Small Business Administration’s website.
3. Weigh your funding options carefully. If you choose to go with an investor, take the relationship very seriously and view it like selecting the right marriage partner. If you decide to get an SBA loan, remember that your personal home may become collateral when: the lender requires it as collateral, the collateral in the home is substantial compared to other sources of collateral, or you operate the business out of your home. If you have a 401(k), you may want to consider rolling over your retirement dollars to fund your new business. Reputable companies like CatchFire Funding help entrepreneurs use their retirement dollars to fund their businesses – all tax and penalty-free.
4. Delegate as soon as you can afford to. Entrepreneurs simply can’t do everything forever, as they often do in the first year of business. As soon as you can afford to, delegate the non-income generating tasks to employees, such as answering phones, cleaning the office, ordering office supplies, and filing.
5. Hire out the things you suck at. I highly doubt you’re amazing at everything. Your strengths may involve product development, sales, math, networking, or marketing, but you’ve got to have areas that you’re weak – you’re only human! One piece of advice I’ve heard over and over from my clients is, “Hire the stuff you suck at as soon as you can afford to. Otherwise, you can make some costly, preventable mistakes.” For example, if you’re bad at math, hire an accountant as soon as you can afford to!
6. Realize business is all about relationships. I can’t stress this enough: Everyone likes to do business with people they like. Not fair? Too much favoritism? Sorry, but that’s a fact of life in the business world. That said, treat people well. From the investor to the employee to the customer to the vendor; treat everyone with decency and respect. And... don’t be afraid to build and cultivate relationships, whether it’s a vendor or a customer. Sooner or later you’ll realize that business is all about relationships.
7. Don’t burn bridges. It doesn’t matter if you work in a large industry with many players or a small one with only a handful of pros, don’t burn bridges. Word travels fast, especially because of the Internet and social media. Even if you run into an issue of breach of contract, verbal or written, consider Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR), such as negotiation, mediation and arbitration before heading to court. When the wrong bridge is broken, it can destroy a business’s reputation in an entire industry.
8. Take proper care of yourself. Are entrepreneurs stressed out? Ha, is that a trick question? If you’re a small business owner, you’re no stranger to stress, which has been well-documented in scientific research. According to the University of Rochester Medical Center, if stress is constant it can harm you. “Studies suggest that the high levels of cortisol from long-term stress can increase blood cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure.” To shield yourself from the everyday stressors of running a business, eat right, get plenty of exercise, build a strong support system, and get 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night.
9. If it doesn’t work, ditch it. In business, you have to develop a hard shell. You can’t get too attached to ideas or marketing strategies. If something doesn’t work, you need to ditch the idea without getting too emotional about it. All businesses have to pivot, it’s just a matter of how and when.
10. Build referral relationships. To be a successful business owner, you need to focus on building relationships with referral sources. Some of the best ways to do this is to arrange one-on-one meetings with referral sources, send handwritten thank you cards, send gifts, check in on referral sources once in a while with phone calls, display the referral source’s brochure at your office or place of business, include them in your newsletter, and of course, refer them business every chance you get.
Elainna Ciaramella is an independent journalist, business blogger, and ghostwriter for entrepreneurs and business professionals nationwide. She has written extensively on the topics of business, entrepreneurship, law, and medicine. She is well-versed in search engine optimization, content marketing, and social media. You can follow her at www.elainnaciaramella.com , LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, Google +, and Instagram.