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18 Things I Wish Someone Had Told Me About Starting a Business from Scratch

From keeping your mental game strong to getting a mentor to help make decisions, here are 18 responses to the question “What is one thing you wish someone told you about starting a business from scratch?”

  • Keep Your Mental Game Strong
  • Be Prepared For a Long Term Commitment
  • Think of the Cash!
  • Research Social Branding Before Purchasing URL
  • The People You Connect With Are What Really Counts 
  • Everything Takes Time
  • Have a Good Marketing Plan
  • You Can Not Be Everything for Everybody
  • Your Starting Costs Will be More Than You Think
  • Be Ready to Fail
  • You Haven’t Thought of Everything Yet, but You Will
  • Importance of Leveraging Existing Relationships
  • Hold On Tight
  • It’s Okay to Say No
  • Get a Bank Account
  • Embrace the Unknown
  • You Need to Have a Lot of Patience
  • Get A Mentor to Help You Make Decisions

Keep Your Mental Game Strong

Starting a business from scratch can be an intimidating undertaking, and it’s important to maintain the right mental attitude throughout the process. Without this, it will be difficult to stay motivated and stay on track. It’s easy to get discouraged by the challenges that come with starting a business, but it’s important to remain optimistic and have faith in yourself that you can succeed.

After months of stagnation on my new startup, I was starting to lose motivation and focus. Thankfully, I had a mentor who provided invaluable insight and helped keep me focused on achieving my goals.

Having a positive mindset will allow you to make sound decisions based on rational thinking rather than emotion, making it easier for you to navigate the complexities of running your own business. So before taking your first steps as an entrepreneur, remember to condition yourself for success by believing in yourself and maintaining a healthy mental attitude.

Jeremy Reis, Founder, Explore Startups

Be Prepared For a Long Term Commitment 

Starting a business from scratch can be an incredibly rewarding experience, but it also comes with a lot of challenges and responsibilities. I wish someone had told me that it is important to be prepared for the long-term commitment that is required to run a successful business. It is not enough to simply have a great idea or product; you need to be able to sustain it with hard work and dedication.

Jimmy John Liautaud, Co-Founder, Jimmy John’s

Think of the Cash!

When starting a business from scratch, it is essential to have a clear understanding of the financial aspect of the business.

One thing I wish someone had told me earlier is the importance of cash flow management. Having a handle on your cash flow, and understanding how much money is coming in and going out, is crucial to the success of a business.

I also wish someone had told me how important it is to have a reserve of cash on hand to cover unexpected expenses, such as equipment breakdowns or delays in receiving payments. This will help you stay afloat and avoid financial problems down the road.

Additionally, it is important to have a solid plan in place for managing your finances, including budgeting, forecasting, and regular financial reviews to ensure that you are on track to meet your goals. All in all, having a solid financial foundation is crucial to the success of any business and should not be underestimated.

Chinmay Daflapurkar, Digital Marketing Associate, Arista Systems Pvt Ltd

Research Social Branding Before Purchasing URL

Research social media handles and hashtags before setting up your website URL! Ensure you can brand using the same handles across all social media channels for consistency. Also, check the hashtag (of your handle) to verify that it is not being used by someone else who may negatively impact your brand. Once you are aligned, buy the URL if it is available. I once checked the availability of a URL and did not purchase it right away for $9. When I went back to check two weeks later, they wanted $2,700.

Lynne Williams, Resumes and LinkedIn, Executive Director, Great Careers Groups

The People You Connect With Are What Really Counts 

When I started my business, I, like many, focused hard on social media marketing. I still think, for new business owners, this is a good shout initially. But, in just a few short years, social media has changed.

It’s a bit tougher to be seen and the rules of engagement change every five minutes – that’s how it feels anyway. So, I wish someone had told me when I first started out that, although social media plays a useful part in marketing (I’m still using it, but with a very carefully thought-out strategy), the people you connect with are what count in the end.

These people, if you nurture them well, will fly the flag for you, recommend you, and put business your way. And now that joint venture partnerships and affiliation programs have become a mainstream activity, you can ask them to help you sell your offers too. And they get rewarded for it.

Start connecting straight away (there are many networking groups to help you with this) and, in a year or two, you’ll be glad you did.

Julie Brown, Visibility and Media Coach, I Am Julie Brown

Everything Takes Time

One of the hardest things I’ve found about starting a business from scratch is impatience. While there are some truly “overnight successes” that make great headlines, they are very rare and far between.

You read biographies or articles about founders and it all seems streamlined and simple – but you have to remember all the wrong turns and sleepless nights that were left out. Everything will take much, much longer than you want and seem nearly impossible when you start, but accept that it’s part of the process.

As the business grows, you’ll find it often expands exponentially, so all that hard work pays off eventually.

Larissa Pickens, Co-founder, Dapper Confidential

Have a Good Marketing Plan

The hardest thing about starting your own business is not the product or service you offer; it’s the marketing. Unless you get lucky or have unlimited resources, you must have a good marketing plan and budget. You can have the best product in the world, but if no one knows about it, you have a problem. You need to find unique ways to get your name out there, be it on social media, billboards, or whatever it takes. This is the key to any business, and if you don’t find a way to do it, you will very likely fail to build a sustainable business.

Matthew Ramirez, CEO, Rephrasely

You Can Not Be Everything for Everybody

When you are in the phase of shaping your ideas for your startup, everyone is willing to give input. And they have the tendency to want/need something just a little bit different from what someone else is looking for. As a startup, you feel the urgency to listen carefully and adapt each time just a little bit to please everyone. In that way, you end up in most cases with rising development costs, a longer time to market, and quite often ideas that are less sharp.

Bjorn Verbrugghe, Marketing Manager, Unigift

Your Starting Costs Will be More Than You Think

Your starting costs are almost always going to be more than you think they are somewhere within your calculations. When starting a business, you should strongly consider holding off until you can competently handle a business expense outside your estimates.

Not every start-up is going to have the same starting costs, so there isn’t really a specific number to consider when it comes to how much of a funding cushion you might need. You might want to try considering what your options are if your most expensive or integral elements put you over budget.

If you have no plan in place to handle an unexpected cost, then it’s a good idea to have the ability to secure funds beyond your expectations. This step can help you keep all your start-up plans on track and give you a sense of security by keeping you prepared for the unexpected.

Max Schwartzapfel, CMO, Schwartzapfel Lawyers

Be Ready to Fail

Most of what you hear when you’re starting a business is about all the over-the-top success stories. But the reality is that most people will fail multiple times before they finally find the recipe for success in their business. Being prepared for that failure and having a plan that includes ways to cope with failure is essential to success, and knowing that you’ll almost certainly fail at first would have stopped me from dumping way too much marketing money into an untested product!

Bobby Klinck, Founder,

You Haven’t Thought of Everything Yet, but You Will

I’m a planner, organizer, thinker, and doer, which gave me confidence when starting my business. Even so, there were lots of things I discovered as I went along that I hadn’t planned on when I first started. For example, I didn’t plan on growing into a team of writers, but that eventually became my reality when I started getting too many clients. I didn’t plan on getting clients that refused to pay or were impossible to please, but I eventually needed to learn how to deal with those types of clients (and learn how to spot a bad client before working with them). 

The point is, you don’t know what you don’t know. As much as you try to figure out every little detail, something will end up falling through the cracks. But that doesn’t mean you’ll fail in business — you can just cross those bridges when you get to them. The most important thing to do is to start doing.

Alli Hill, Founder and Director, Fleurish Freelance

Importance of Leveraging Existing Relationships

Starting a business from scratch is no small feat. It takes hard work, dedication, skill, and luck to make it successful. One thing that I wish someone had told me when I took on this endeavor was the importance of leveraging existing relationships.

An uncommon example of this would be from my experience starting an online gift shop featuring handmade jewelry: one of the initial steps I took was reaching out to others in my same niche who had been running their businesses for longer than me to ask how they got started and what advice they had to offer.

These conversations were immensely helpful as I navigated the complex world of starting a business, providing valuable insight into how others have managed similar situations or dealt with hardships in growing their own enterprise.

Michael Alexis, CEO, tiny campfire

Hold On Tight

No one told me straight out how entrepreneurship would be such a wild ride. When you tell people you’re starting a business, there are generally people saying things like, “Wow, that’s going to be hard,” or “Why not just work for someone else?” Since many people are naturally skeptical, I wasn’t sure what to expect. But it’s had its highs as much as its lows, and mostly it’s just been plain great. Starting a business isn’t for the faint of heart, but it’s a great ride.

Temoer Terry, Partner, Mommy Care Kit

It’s Okay to Say No

One of the most important things someone should have told me before starting my own business was how important it is to say no. At first glance, it might seem counterintuitive-why would saying no be beneficial? But believe me when I say that you are making a wise decision by doing so in certain circumstances.

The reality of entrepreneurship is that there will always be opportunities, some good and some not-so-good. Taking on multiple projects or tasks to generate income quickly is often tempting, but taking on too much at once can lead to burnout or failure down the road. If something doesn’t feel right for your business or simply isn’t feasible given your current resources, then it’s okay (and even necessary) for you to say no.

Mariusz Michalowski, Community & Career Expert, Spacelift

Get a Bank Account

One thing I wish someone had told me when starting my business is that I should open a separate business bank account. At the beginning, my business was small, so I assumed using my personal bank account would be fine-it would be easy to go through my bank statements each month and separate out business and personal expenses. In reality, this was a bad practice, and although it didn’t hurt my business, it hurt my time, which is precious as an entrepreneur.

Starting a separate bank account at the very beginning and using that bank account for all things business-related would have streamlined the business’s accounting. So now, my advice to other entrepreneurs is to always, ALWAYS work out of your business bank account when it comes to business expenses and income.

Promise Rhodes, Realtor, Properties with Promise

Embrace the Unknown

I first started my business like many solo entrepreneurs – tumbling in like a puppy that doesn’t exactly know what it’s excited about. Distilling your big dreams and goals into a business plan is great, but just know, those plans WILL get derailed and may take a completely different direction, and that’s usually not a bad thing! Be prepared to learn a ton along the way, trust your gut, find a community or two of like-minded CEOs to lean on, and remind yourself that every low will be followed by a high.

Alina Scarcella, Business Systems Integrator & Web Designer, Alina Scarcella

You Need to Have a Lot of Patience

When starting a business from scratch, you need to have enough patience for yourself, for others, and simply for the process. Apart from the paperwork such as registering the business, opening a business bank account, finding an accountant, and bookkeeping, there’s also the human element of hiring contractors or staff. Great leaders are those who have the technical skills, organizational skills, and people skills to easily switch between tasks. It takes time, energy, and money to get a business off the ground.

Gary Paull Jr., CEO, Gauss

Get A Mentor to Help You Make Decisions

The one thing I wish people had told me before starting my business was how important it is to have a mentor to help you make decisions. No matter how appealing it may sound, starting a business should not be an independent journey.

Finding those who have gone before you can help set you up for success. Network with other professionals in your industry, attend industry-specific workshops and events, and reach out to industry thought-leaders to learn about their approach.

Alternatively, consider hiring a coach who can provide you with specific advice. Learn directly from someone who has been assisting you in establishing your new business for growth.

David Reid, Sales Director, VEM-Tooling Co. Ltd.

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