Info Entrepreneurs Wish They Would Have Known Sooner

Coming from an entrepreneurial family where I was able to help with family businesses since the age of 10, then later starting a number of my own small businesses, I have come to recognize a number of false assumptions new entrepreneurs often have. Guarding against these assumptions with additional knowledge should help new entrepreneurs prepare their mindset well in advance. It can also help them recognize challenges and opportunities on the journey ahead.

How Small Businesses Can Compete With Big-Name Competitors…And Win
How Small Businesses Can Compete With Big-Name Competitors…And Win

When I say new entrepreneur, I mean someone who starts their first business without unlimited financial support or network resources from established parents to help them out. Since starting my own businesses, I have helped many new business owners, and perhaps this information can be helpful to you as well. So, if you are in or considering a startup business and would like to begin your journey toward entrepreneurship, please read on.

1st assumption: “If I turn this good idea into a successful business, then it will lead me to another business which I really like to do.” Many people can come up with an idea for a new business, and they often assume that factor alone is enough for success. From my experience and observations of other successful entrepreneurs throughout history, a more important factor that plays a critical role in business success is the “ideal business,” not just the business idea.

An “ideal business” is something you enjoy and are passionate about doing to help others, which should be the core of any business startup. For example, if you like to play around with smartphones and add hardware which you personally like, and you see there are a fair number of people who could use your help, then you could explore the idea of starting your own smartphone repair business.

Here are the reasons why I think that having an “ideal business” within your business idea significantly increases your chances of success:

  1. When you like what you do and are passionate about helping others with it, you are no longer working, you are having fun. And believe me, when you have to work that many hours and wear multiple hats as you try to get your business off the ground, loving what you do will make the journey much more pleasant and exciting for you as well as for others who work with you, such as partners, employees, and customers.
  2. There are always challenges along the path of entrepreneurship. There will be times when you will meet a substantial challenge, and only your passion for what you do can motivate you to carry on and get past those obstacles. Many successful entrepreneurs can attest to this fact.
  3. 10 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Improve Odds for Success
    10 Things Entrepreneurs Can Do to Improve Odds for Success

    You will network with and meet many like-minded individuals as you grow your business. Since people like to be around others who are positive and enjoying what they do, running a business that you do not enjoy is like paddling your canoe upstream. It is not fun and most likely will affect your attitude and emotions. That will indirectly affect your relationships with other people around you. In fact, negative emotions are an opportunity killer in networking relationships where people can easily share their impression of you with their friends in seconds via social media.

As research has shown, everyone in the world is only six degrees [of separation] away from another person. That means if you don’t like what you do and it affects your emotions, most likely others will pick up on it and sometimes people you haven’t even met yet will hear about you from others. So, to me a business idea is not enough to sufficiently prepare a new entrepreneur for what will follow, including the challenges and opportunities.

I’m not saying that you will not be successful with just a business idea. What I’m saying is, with an ideal business (or passion) within your business idea, you will Not feel like you are paddling upstream, physically and psychologically. In other words, I believe it’s very important that you should have Passion within Your Profession.

2nd assumption: “If I work in my business from 8am to 6pm on week days only, I think I can get the business off the ground smoothly.” I would tell any new entrepreneur to scratch that thought—quickly. In all these years working with and among entrepreneurs, I have not yet seen one successful person who only worked on week days in his/her business.

Also, if you ask 100 successful entrepreneurs how many hours each of them worked per week during the beginning stages of their business, I would be surprised if one person says s/he worked less than 50 hours per week. In addition to that, here are more facts, as well as trade-offs, that are required from any new startup on the road to entrepreneurship:

  1. You have to wear multiple hats and learn to be a jack-of-all-trades within your type of business. You are the CEO and you are also the person who takes out the trash.
  2. Working while you are eating breakfast, lunch or dinner is a common thing.
  3. You would realize the true value of the words “referrals” and “networking.”
  4. You will be stressed occasionally throughout the ups and downs of your business.
  5. Your spouse (if you have one) needs to be a very understanding person.

Overall, you should prepare to work 50 hours or more per week, even if your business only operates from 8am to 5pm. You will need time outside your business hours to take care of your other business-related tasks.

3rd assumption: “If I can get only 1% of that market in two years, that will be more than enough.” Try saying that when you first walk into the Shark Tank or Dragon’s Den to ask for a financial investment from the sharks or dragons. You will get a negative impression in seconds.Why? Because those who make such a statement often have not done their research well enough to know what they are walking into (the market landscape). Such a statement would leave experienced investors unconvinced because of the many uncontrolled variables on the horizon.

Here are few examples to show what I mean by uncontrolled variables:

  1. You don’t know how the existing competition is going to respond to your new business entry.
  2. You don’t know how economic changes in that next two years might affect your market and business.
  3. You don’t know if there will be new products or services introduced into the market in the next two years that may lend your products or services obsolete.

To carve out a niche that will yield a better rate of success in a particular industry, refer to this article that I wrote specifically about this topic. I believe you will find it very helpful: Five Important Factors Startups Should Know To Have A Better Chance Of Business Success.

4th assumption: “I’ll just get a cheap website template, populate it with content about my business, and when people visit my website, they will know what I do and contact me.” In the real world, it often doesn’t work that way. Your website must communicate with your customers at a much more meaningful level. It must convince them that you are substantially different from competitive businesses on the internet.

Ask yourself this question: If your website displays similar information about your business and services as those of the competition, why should customers choose you? Here is an article on how to establish an effective website for your business. I think every business should know these key factors to establish effective website marketing before deciding which web development provider to choose.

5th assumption: “I saw an email claiming to provide SEO services that guarantees unlimited keywords and top 10 rankings for $99 a month. That should get me some business to start out with.” That’s a scam. Those guys make a lot of money stealing $99 from thousands of people who let price be the only determining factor in their decision. Any professional SEO company would tell you that $99/month is not even enough to cover the electric bill on the computers which they use during the 4 to 6 months managing your SEO campaign, let alone their other overhead expenses. Here is an article that will show you the right way to select an SEO company for your website.

Overall, these are some of the common assumptions I see new entrepreneurs make, and later, they wish they would have been better informed from the beginning. With a limited budget and unlimited, unknown variables, it’s always best if you can learn from others who have traveled this route before you. If you can minimize learning anything the hard way, you have made your life easier and increased your chances of business survival and success.

If you take this advice seriously, it will help you save time and money, while minimizing unwelcome surprises. If you find this article helpful, please share the links with others who might be thinking of starting their own business someday so they can benefit from it as well. Sharing is caring. Thank you for taking the time to read and share this article.

Phong Nguyen

BA from St. Olaf College
MBA from University of St. Thomas
SEO from "the School of Hard Knocks."

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