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Launching a Small Business? How to Start Smart

Advice For Starting A Business

Paradoxically, in the middle of the coronavirus pandemic and a tough economy, business startups are on the rise. Last summer Axios reported Americans applied for new Employer Identification Numbers (EINs)—tax IDs for businesses—in record numbers. And we’re not talking about gig economy businesses; this is about the formation of companies that intend to hire employees.

Whether driven to business ownership because it’s still challenging to find a job in the current environment or because with today’s affordable advanced technologies, and most people working from home, it’s easier and less costly to start a small business.

Before you leap into business ownership, there are some things you should know. I asked Ingrid Vanderveldt, a serial entrepreneur and founder of EBW and the SHEconomy Project, to share what she wished she knew before starting her businesses. Here are five lessons she learned:

  1. Protect your time. We all know entrepreneurs wear many hats. It’s easy to get pulled in multiple directions and spend your time and energy in the wrong ways. Over the years, I’ve learned to ask for help when I need it, take time for myself, and delegate by putting the right team in place to ensure I can focus on my job of running the business.
  2. Enjoy the process of uncovering your unique talents. We all have preconceived notions of what success looks like based on examples of other successful leaders. But don’t try to be anything you’re not. Sure, there are times when you have to tailor your communication style to appeal to specific audiences, but don’t risk losing your authentic self in the process. Authenticity is what makes people want to join you on your entrepreneurial journey.
  3. Mistakes are going to happen. If you’re not making mistakes, you’re not innovating. Mistakes are part of the startup process. The key to overcoming mistakes is to address them head-on as soon as they arrive, communicate with whoever needs to be in the loop, develop a strategy to solve the challenge, and, most importantly, learn from it.
  4. Your business will evolve, and you must too. With growth comes change, and that change won’t always be comfortable. Sometimes the most amazing people you’ve worked with in the past won’t be as amazing working for your business. I’ve had the privilege to work with so many great people over my entrepreneurial journey—people who supported my mission and who I then felt indebted to. Referring back to the importance of protecting my time, learning to make tough personnel decisions has allowed me to focus my time on what matters to me most—my family, my friends, and growing my business.
  5. Be a student of your craft. You don’t know what you don’t know. It’s essential to understand both the science and the art of entrepreneurship. When I was the entrepreneur-in-residence at Dell, my team and I started a $125M credit fund designed for entrepreneurs looking to scale. Shockingly, no women applied for the capital! We learned that it was because they didn’t understand how debt capital worked. My advice—always be a student, continue to read, learn, and understand your options.

If you want to get an idea of today’s hottest businesses and market trends, take a look at the webinar I did for SCORE earlier this year. Despite current market conditions, there are many opportunities out there for all types of startups, in both the B2C and B2B fields.

And, of course, SCORE can help. To help guide you, check in with your SCORE mentor and check out the Startup Roadmap. Don’t have a mentor yet? You can find one here.

SCORE

SCORE is a nonprofit association dedicated to helping small businesses get off the ground, grow and achieve their goals through education and mentorship. We have been doing this for over fifty years.

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