Expert Roundup: What You Should Know Before Starting a Small Business

Alayna Okerlund

Last Updated: February 24th, 2020

Business Meeting HandshakeThis is part one of our small business owner expert roundup series.

Becoming a small business owner means you have quite a bit of responsibility. The number of things you have to consider and think through before starting a business can add a lot of weight to your decision. There are countless questions you might be asking yourself right now because you know that starting a business isn't always the easiest thing to do. Do you have a good location? Do you know what payment processing system to get? Who is your target customer?

One thing that can help you get on the right track BEFORE you become a full-fledged business owner is getting advice from those who have already made the same transition. We asked some experts what they think you should know before you start a small business.

Here's what they said.

Be sure of your product, services, and niche

“The biggest tip that anyone should know to go into starting a small business is the niche that they are attempting to go in to. If you have done your research about the product or services that you intend on offering, you should be able to tell the average cost of the product, running expenses, as well as the profit margins in case of a financial switch that could be out of anyone's hand. You should also have a considerable amount of details of who your clients or customers will be and how to find the perfect candidate for a first time customer and how to reach them.” — Michael Russell, Ratchet Straps USA
“Small business tends to be twofold. First and foremost, you'll need a product or service. So you need to know how to access that product or service. Secondly, you'll need to know how you're going to sell that product or service. Both are equally important, even if most small business owners really only have a handle on one or the other when first opening.” — Mark Aselstine, Founder of Uncorked Ventures
“As the owner of a small business, I feel that one of the most important things you should KNOW before starting your small business is if there is a market for your product and do you have the knowledge and expertise in the business you are starting. Before starting a business, you should have adequate capital built up and money set aside for start-up costs and several months of income since it will probably take some time before you turn a profit.” — Mike Raines, Owner of Special Risk Term

Business HandshakeKnow your target market

“Have a complete understanding of your market and where you fit in. Do research on your customer, how to reach them, and why you have a superior product. If you can't answer this question well first, you're going to spend a lot of time and money figuring it out.” — Aubrey Young, Creative Brand Strategist and Owner of Babe Collective

“Make sure that you truly understand who your target customers are, what problems they are experiencing and what your company is going to provide as a solution that is different from the competition. Do not take this for granted and assume you know because you worked in the niche.” — V. Michael Santoro, Co-Founder of Vaetas, LLC

“Before starting a small business, you should know your audience inside and out. Who are the people you're working to serve? If you don't understand them, what drives them, and what compels them to make a purchase, then your initial months will have an added layer of difficulty.”— Ronna Moore, Owner of Fairy Homes and Gardens

“Understand your customers. It’s a mistake to think that all customers are good for business. Successful business owners first understand who their best customers are and focus on acquiring more like them.” — Nishank Khanna, CMO of Clarify Capital

“In the early going, it is hard to resist the temptation to offer discounts in order to win business. Customer Acquisition is important, but attracting the wrong customer at the wrong price is not a sustainable business model. If you are not careful, your business can find itself in a race to the bottom.” — Walt Capell, President and Owner of Workers Compensation

Know that it's not going to be easy

“One thing aspiring entrepreneurs should know is that you shouldn’t start a business if freedom is your goal. In start-up life, oftentimes your time is not your own. I largely spend my days catering to my staff to ensure they have the tools they need to be successful and meeting to drive long-term growth of the business. And when that’s all said and done, in my extra time, I do the work I need to do. So in other words, it’s non-stop.” — Melissa Butler, Founder and CEO of The Lip Bar

“It's going to be harder than you originally thought. Make sure you are incredibly passionate about the endeavor you are about to undertake and be prepared for the tough days. There will be days when you want to quit. We all have them. And that's OK. But, if you are going to make it, then you need to be able to push past the rough patches and weather the storm.” — Lindsey Myers, Founder of Concrete Blonde Consulting

“The biggest thing about a small business is that you’ll get work flexibility, but you will not work less. If you want to work 9 to 5 and keep your weekends, that’s cool! But if you want to work for yourself, you need to be okay with losing a lot of the free time you currently enjoy. I personally much prefer flexibility, but I know a lot of people who would prefer to leave their phone behind on the weekends.” — Emily Rowe, Chief Executive Sensei of Social Sensei

“Before starting a small business, it is hugely important to know and understand that the majority of your time and energy will be spent running and operating the business, at least for the first few years. Don't underestimate the amount of attention a new business requires, because it will need that attention in order to thrive.” — Jhonn Thomassen, Owner of Marine Park Coffee

“People should really know what the day-to-day life of running that type of business involves. It's all very well to think about the type of business you'd like to run or the problem you'd like to solve, but also get an understanding of what activities would take up the bulk of your time. Would you be talking on the phone, visiting clients for meetings, coding, managing developers, etc. My last business was an online reviews platform and I loved the idea of leveling the playing field with real customer feedback. However, I soon realized that the vast bulk of my day was spent running a call center — not quite what I had envisioned!” — Fiona Adler, Founder of Actioned

“While you’re developing, it’s not going to be easy. Focus on your goals, make connections you need within your niche (and outside!). And just keep growing. The one thing I believe people should know is not to expect a wage to come from your own business in the beginning. You’re going to put your time, energy, savings into this, and it may take time before you’re able to pay yourself.” — Emily Wood, CEO and Creative Director of Raise Vegan Inc.
Coworkers Talking

Know that it takes time

“That the result of all your hard work comes many, many months, or even years, after you start out on your journey. That means you need bags of stamina, conviction, and self-belief — but not delusion! You have to tread the fine line between confidence in your original vision for the business and also the ability to listen to hard facts and new realities when they stare you in the face.” — Alistair Clay, Co-Founder of Class:PR
“You’re probably not going to make money for a while, but don't be discouraged. The average business doesn’t see a profit for an average of five years, so be prepared for famine before you feast.” — Nate Masterson, CMO of Maple Holistics
“No matter how awesome your product or service, it will take some time to gain attention and credibility in the marketplace. Work smart, deliver fantastic results for your customers and clients, and don't panic if the timeline is longer than you think. As long as you're bringing valuable solutions and keeping your initial costs down, you'll be positioning yourself for long-term success.” — Rafe Gomez, Co-Owner of VC Inc. Marketing
“Ranking a Website In Search Engine Takes Time. Generating website traffic via search engines takes time. Search engines tend to discover websites only after several months and — depending on the industry and competition — slowly increase position in the rankings. If internet marketing is a piece of your marketing puzzle, developing a website sooner rather than later is a difference maker in the first year.” — Earl White, Co-Founder and Vice President of House Heroes LLC
“It's going to take longer than you think to succeed, and that's okay. We are surrounded by the message of how people get rich quick. Building a sustainable business that's going to provide you cash flow long term is going to take a lot of work and will take longer than you think initially. Have patience and don't give up on your dream. Make sure that your approach is proven in your niche so that you are not reinventing the wheel.” — Shawn Breyer, Owner of Breyer Home Buyers
“You have to be comfortable with uncertainty and stay up on sales. You may not know where your revenue is coming from in 60 day or six months, and you need to be at ease with that uncertainty. Further, you don’t know when things will change. Even if you have a large number of sales lined up at the start, they aren’t going to last forever and you may not know when they will go south on you. Accordingly, you need to always keep up on your sales pipeline. Complacency with sales is the number one mistake I see entrepreneurs (new and old) make.” — Gary Romano, President and CEO of Civitas Strategies, LLC

Try to get a mentor

“There is no need to re-invent the wheel. Working with a mentor will save time, money, and headaches by avoiding pitfalls previously encountered by others. Don’t overlook or underestimate the value of the personal relationship with a mentor. Friendship, companionship, support, and life lessons may come your way in addition to solid business advice.” — Carl Mazzanti, Vice President and Co-Founder of eMazzanti Technologies

Keep your day job if you can

“You don't have to dive in head first. The best way to build a small business is to start while you have your day job. That way, you can build up income and clients. This makes the transition to running a small business full time much less daunting. It also helps you to grow a business organically and test your business ideas without putting everything on the line. — Ashley Heidemann, Founder and CEO of JD Advising

Work Meeting

Plan, be open to learning, and create habits

"Know exactly what you want your company to be and what your company will do. Have the strongest, most solid belief in that. Then be totally flexible. If you are starting a business with any scalability or even sustainability to it you will completely remake that business over and over again as you adjust for every obstacle and twist and turn that comes your way The key to surviving in business is not to the tree that stands tall, but to be the one that can bend and sway with the winds to still be standing after the worst storm.” — Tracy Hatfield, CEO of Social Snacks

"Know what you don’t know! There is a lot! Be comfortable with the fact you sometimes won’t have answers to questions. Sometimes you will be faking it, so learn to look confident when you are faking it. Then figure out how to make those things you were faking into something you are. You have to grow up fast when starting a business because no matter where you start in business you are crawling. It is a steep learning curve, so you have to be someone who is willing to remake yourself over and over again to push your company to grow with you.” — Kayla Flam, COO of Social Snacks

“Habits prompt inspiration. Inspiration is necessary to create consistent actions, but habits will define your success or failure. It has been said that after the seminars and conferences only five percent of the attendees use what they learned. Why? It is because the inspiration is short-term, it feels good at the moment, but it does not reach the stage of production. The biggest inspiration is to see the progress and results. The great entrepreneurs focus on behavior and practices rather than thinking, thinking is important but doing is crucial.” — Sophie Miles, CEO and Co-Founder of

Think of your hiring process

“Before starting a small business, it is important to find out how you want to hire. It may not be needed now, but when you do need to hire employees, this will save you time and big bucks.” — Jen Teague, Owner of Jen Teague, LLC

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