THE BLOG
10/15/2014 05:04 pm ET Updated Dec 14, 2014

What I Learned As a Start-Up Business Owner

It wasn't that long ago when I started my business and was so looking forward to the challenges ahead of me. Little did I know that every day would be a challenge and new ones popped-up all the time that I didn't expect. This seems to be the norm, especially for a small start-up. As days turned into weeks, then months and even years, I continued to journal my thoughts so that I could reflect on the good and bad times. I wanted to learn from my experience of being a first-time business owner.

Here's a look back at the a-ha moments I experienced. Wow, they really do make sense. I wish someone had told me about these common misconceptions before I opened the doors for business.

First Time, Start-Up Entrepreneurs - This Is For You

You may think that you have it all together because your confidence is overflowing. You previously worked in the corporate world and were a rock-star. Everyone told you that you were so good you should start your own business. I know, I was there and my confidence was probably at an all-time high when I started my business. Don't let your confidence fool you. Business is not the same when you're responsible for absolutely everything and your confidence can't make up for the difference or do ten things at once.

Passion: What you actually loved about your corporate job is probably not going to be what you do every day as a business owner. There will be many other duties you must attend to that are not considered fun. Try to create balance and don't let those not so fun things get you down.

Focus On The Here And Now: Urgency seems to be the norm in small business. If you don't focus on the here and now, another business will and they will get the new contract and you won't.

Work Fast - No Time To Think: Sometimes you have to go with your intuition and just act on it. My suggestion is to follow what your heart tells you. Don't question your intuition, it's normally right.

Spend Time Planning: Like any business, you must spend time putting together a plan of action. This may start with how you plan on developing new business and making sales calls. Take time thinking about this; that way you won't spin your wheels trying to work prospects that are not in your sweet spot.

Study The Competition: Take a good look at your competitors. Know their business model, value proposition, products, pricing, strengths and weaknesses. This knowledge will help you overcome objections when talking to prospective clients.

Be Open To New Ideas: Sometimes your ideas may not be good ones. Always be open to other people's ideas that could be beneficial to your business. Don't be hard headed and think that only your ideas are best. Learning and adopting new ways to conduct business from others will open up new ideas and help your business be more innovative.

Your Network Matters: Make connections with professionals that can mentor you as a new business owner. These relationships are priceless and the knowledge you will gain from your network is worth its weight in gold. Also, find business leaders that are strong in areas that you are weak. Listen and ask for advice frequently.

Value The Free Time: I didn't have much free time when I started my business. I wish that I had known to put more value on the free time I did have. I definitely would have benefitted from it more if I didn't force myself to have an "always-on" mentality. Take time to shut down, rest, relax and re-charge. Your business needs you healthy and sharp.

Stay Focused When You Land A New Business Deal: This is always an exciting time and more often than not, you will be over the top with excitement. Sometimes this can cause you to lose focus. Don't let this happen. Know your business strategy and plan very well so that the exciting times don't lead to poor decision-making.

Take Risks: When you start the business, you are in essence taking a risk. But don't stop there. Take small, calculated risks because those risks will help you to learn more about yourself and your company's threshold for change. Taking risks will also open the door for more opportunities that you may never have seen if you didn't take the risk in the first place.

Research, Whitepapers, eBooks: Take time to read, study your craft and learn about what other companies are doing. This may only happen late at night, but at least you are continuing to feed your intellect with new knowledge, critical for creating sustainable growth.

Going The Extra Mile:
A successful business typically meets and exceeds their goals. Don't stop when your brain says "that's good enough." You must push through this barrier to reach new heights for your business.

You Are Capable Of More Than You Think: Many business owners are surprised at how much they can do when they put their mind to it. In other words, you are a whole lot more capable than you may think. When a project doesn't look possible, don't let it stop you. Take control and make it happen with confidence.

Free Is Not Always Good: Once you go into business you will soon get asked for "free" stuff. Seriously. You must be able to withstand the pressure of wanting to please a potential customer to hopefully earn the business. Sometimes it's good to say " free is not a good business decision for me."

The Elevator Pitch: This is one of the first things I learned from Guy Kawasaki's book called Art of The Start. You must be able to describe your business in a matter of seconds in a way that makes the person listening want to know more. Don't bore them with technical jargon and don't talk about yourself. They will tune-out within seconds.