Written by Alayna Okerlund | Last Updated February 24th, 2020Alayna Okerlund is a finance-focused Senior Content Strategist at BestCompany.com. Over the past three years, Alayna's finance-related research has helped readers feel more financially confident. She has worked with several reputable experts and has provided content for a variety of well-known publications like Forbes, Reader’s Digest, Lifehacker, and more.
This 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
Know 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 Shop.com.
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
Know that it takes time
Try to get a mentor
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
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 elMejorTrato.com
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