I’ve worked on all sorts of businesses with different people, personality types, and motivations. A through line with all of them: you have to pay attention to the small stuff, because the small stuff can turn into the big stuff. Molehills to mountains, as they say. And it's not great to be stuck on top of Everest with no gear.
Here are eight small issues you could be overlooking that have much bigger implications if not addressed sooner than later.
You haven’t faced your fears or at the very least surfaced what those fears are. Any person who starts a business has fears, insecurities, triggers. Having a really straight talk conversation with yourself and writing down what your fears are will get them out of your head and onto paper (physical or digital). A lot of times these fears, insecurities, triggers are intuitive sensations that we don’t have language for. They can creep up without us realizing and unconsciously sabotage us. Digging deep, bringing those fears to the surface and recording what they are, forces you to to create language for them so that as they pop up along the way, and they will, you will recognize them more easily and take them head on.
You haven’t decided WHY you actually want to build this business. Having an idea, knowing you’ve got the ability to execute it: all great stuff. But have you asked yourself what you want your business to do for YOU in the future? Thinking through and jotting down how your business fits into your overall life mission (determining what your life mission is in the process) is hugely important. This is a big question to answer but even taking a stab at answering it will be a helpful tool to in you connecting your business effort with a clearer purpose, so that you can do what’s right for YOU and get quicker into solving the problem at hand as you face different business challenges in the future.
You haven’t incorporated resting and recharging into your strategy. You haven’t made “whitespace time” a priority. I’ve seen a lot of owners fill their time with busy-ness--they equate constant movement with progress. All that go, go go energy is good for nothing if you’re not also balancing it with some chill, chill, chill energy to regroup, let things settle in, and give your business building muscles a chance to recharge. At the beginning of your business determine how you’re going to build “whitespace time” into your strategy. Otherwise, say hello to burnout.
You haven’t thought about how you’re going to make money -- MONEY. You have a business idea. You even know how to market it. You’ve got the network to start spreading the word and you’ve got the messaging and your target audience down pat. But have you thought about how you’re going to make money? Building that audience is one thing. Making money is another. Build your business with money and profits on the brain right out the gate. Taking the time to put together a financial plan--even if it’s rough and dirty--that can evolve as your business evolves will help you keep the lights on and set your business up for more sustainable growth.
You’ve made someone a cofounder when they shouldn’t be. There are a lot of reasons why I’ve seen this happen. Some business owners have been scared or didn’t realize they were scared to go at building their business alone (see #1-- if the person maybe knew this was a fear they would’ve probably been able to manage this) so they bring on a cofounder. Sometimes people make someone a cofounder because they don’t have money to compensate them as an employee so they make up for it in giving them cofounder status. Whatever the reason is, make sure you’re bringing on a cofounder to augment your business, not satisfy an insecurity or out of not being able to pay (there are other creative ways to compensate--apprenticeship, barter, etc.!).-- you won’t be setting up that person nor yourself nor your business for success if they’re brought on for any other reason besides being a strategic leadership partner.
You haven’t decided what you’re okay saying no to. Your time is a precious commodity. And you’re one person. If you haven’t figured out what you’re okay saying no to, next thing you know your calendar is chock-full and you’re taking coffees with people without really knowing how to maximize your java date. Being able to turn a conversation into something that will help you grow your business is a skill. But so is saying no to meetings that don't make sense. You need to focus on the more important aspects of your business that deserve your attention. Get laser focused on what you’re going to say “no” to (nicely of course).
You haven’t determined who to go to for what. Think through the strengths of the people in your network and uncover how they can help you. This will help you be clearer and more strategic in your asks of them. People like to help but don’t waste the wrong ask on the right person.
You haven’t written any of your plans down. If you’re starting a business chances are you’ve been thinking about it for some time and you’ve finally gotten to a place where you’re ready to pull the trigger. You’re ready to take that leap. Pause and jot down, even quickly, what your current plan is. You don’t have to do a full-fledged strategy; it doesn’t have to be fancy. Writing down what success looks like for your first week, month, year will help you avoid blockages going forward--this is not only a great way to clarify your thinking it’s a great way of firming up the commitment to yourself.
Alison Gilbert is a business coach and consultant. She’s helped over a dozen owners and entrepreneurs grow profitable businesses quickly and efficiently, including such companies as Well+Good, Levo League, Maiyet and Plum Alley. Prior to building her consultancy she was hire number four and COO of food media company Tasting Table where she grew it into a forty person team reaching a readership of millions. Visit her site and schedule a free consultation.