I’ve been working for myself either in partnerships or sole proprietorships for almost my entire working life. Halla has worked the corporate sector for the same amount of time and because of this, we have come together to create a pretty unique outlook on entrepreneurship. She’s also from a small town in Texas and I’m from a small town outside of Toronto so our differences are somehow relatively similar. Being in business together and developing a friendship over two years we’ve learned some lessons and put into place some strong fundamentals that have seen us through.
Today we thought it would be fun to share some of our tips on what to do before you launch and what to do after to maintain and grow:
- Create your own BOD: Large corporations all have board of directors; a group of people who help advise and guide the company. Just because you’re not Microsoft doesn’t mean you can’t have a group of advisors around to bounce ideas off of. Your board of directors can be as formal or informal as you want them to be but this group of people should be trustworthy, excel in their field and interested in your success. Whether you meet as a group, once a quarter or individually, when you need some specific advice having a trusted group around you is key to your success (and extra helpful on those long dark days on the road to success).
- Ask yourself what your ‘why’ is: A lot of people think they want to go into business for themselves but let us tell you, the struggle is so very REAL. If you are steadfast in your why (meaning, why you’re going to start this thing in the first place) it will be something concrete to lean on when keeping the lights on is a real threat. Pro tip: don’t make your why money. Make money then go for your why.
- Get a good accountant and lawyer: we fumbled on this point as we went with cheap and fast rather than investing the time in finding the right fit. You will be surprised how often you need both a lawyer and an accountant and having good ones can actually save you more money than going the discount route.
- Understand real costs: it’s one thing to get paid for what you do but another to get paid properly and without a loss. Salaries, insurance, rent, your computers, and basically anything that you need to do what you do is a real cost. When taking on clients or hiring a team, knowing how much those things will actually cost to your business is the most important thing to fully understand. Turning down business can sometimes be just as hard as drumming it up, but sometimes you have to because the piece of business will run at a loss. Though you may want to take everything that comes to you, you need to know how much the work costs to your bottom line. Sometimes taking on a project will have an adverse effect to your overall success.
- Have a clear idea of your growth strategy/out plan: We all start a business thinking about how successful it will be. Ideally, your business plan is done along with 1-year, 5-year and (if you’re good) 10-year strategies all in place. Then you try to manoeuvre through everything that comes your way as an entrepreneur and suddenly the reality hits and you ask yourself: is this sustainable? We all go into a new business knowing how to start, and ideally what we need to maintain. Most of us do not, however, prepare for the out. Before starting a new business, understand what you will do if you ever want to sell, fold or hand over if it’s not what you eventually want in the long run.
Coco & Halla