When I first moved here I was amazed at how many people have tried their hand at owning small businesses. My neighbors who are now a banker and an educator for a non-profit, used to own Poets. A woman who used to own a athleisure clothing store is also the creator of magazines in town. The owner of a well-known cupcake shop used to work in the medical field. It seemed like anyone could own a business regardless of skill set or background.
Unfortunately, over time I started seeing these small businesses closing down. I wondered why businesses with what seemed like a great idea would end up in this business graveyard. What I discovered is that sometimes you can have all the passion in the world, but that doesn’t guarantee success. There are some essential things all businesses need to have in order to succeed: customers, support and a solid foundation.
Here are 4 tips to ensure your small business idea doesn’t end up in the business graveyard:
Be sure to do customer discovery first
This does not mean asking all your friends “If I open this business, will you buy from me.” Nine times out of ten your friends will say yes. (If not, maybe check on getting better friends). What if your friends or family aren’t your potential customers? If someone asked if I would purchase a fancy new fishing pole that made catching fish easier, I would probably say “SURE” because I’m a good friend, but I’m not their target customer. To get a better understanding of customer discovery and how to talk to potential customers, I recommend reading the book The Mom Test.
Find a good mentor (or two)
A good mentor is someone who has knowledge and also meets your needs. If you are a box checker and need to have all the information, find a mentor who is super organized. If you need a sounding board, find someone who will listen. A good mentor is not someone who tells you exactly what to do, a good mentor will meet you where you are at, listen and help guide you in your next steps.
Get VETTED professionals on your team
Putting an ask in a Facebook group for a lawyer, accountant or marketer will likely get you A LOT of referrals. And knowing what you are looking for in a professional will help you decide who’s best for you. Maybe you like your accountant to meet with you in-person once a month. Maybe you don’t care whether you ever meet your accountant face-to-face. Checking with places like us or the Small Business Development Center will help you connect with the professionals who fit your needs.
Gather all the knowledge you need
Whether you like webinars, talking one on one or group learning, find a way to gather all the information you need to create a solid foundation. You need to work ON your business verses getting bogged down working IN your business. I highly recommend taking our Start Up Your Startup program. This 8 session course helps you think through business concepts and gives you access to experts in accounting, legal, insurance and marketing.
Take advantage of our shop local supporting community
I love living in a community where there’s a lot of support for anyone and everyone to be a business owner. If you are thinking of starting a business or already own a business, be sure to lay the proper foundation so that you don’t end up in the UCSBG (Upper Cumberland Small Business Graveyard).