This August, I am starting my fifth year in business. Statistics show that 8 out of 10 new businesses fail within the first three years. According to the Small Business Administration (SBA), only 51 percent of new businesses survive at least five years. Pretty daunting numbers, and add to that the worst recession since the Great Depression.
I can write a book on the lessons learned and the roller coaster ride it has been. I am amazed every day that I have accomplished so much and have survived when so many do not. I am especially proud of the work I have done for many clients who have hired me and trusted my expertise to help them. Not only is my business in the 51 percent, I am especially proud of two personal achievements in the last six months:
I often say that starting a business is like jumping off a cliff. For me, it was a well thought-out, strategic decision, yet nothing ever truly prepares you for what it will be like until you’ve made the jump. And trust me, the great recession did make it harder.
If you are thinking about starting a business because you have lost your job or are done with corporate bureaucracy, you can do it if you are prepared to make the jump. If you already know your expertise and the type of product/service you want to offer, I can share some key points that were critical to joining the 51 percent. (If you don’t know the type of business you want to start, you’ll need to figure that out first.)
- Do your research. And don’t just concentrate on marketing. You need to be financially ready for the ups and downs. It’s very different when you do not receive a regular paycheck but the bills still need to be paid. One of the best pieces of advice I received from another business owner was to make sure I had enough cash available to self-sustain for at least eight months. (I would recommend one year with the uncertainty in the economy.) That was critical in light of what happened in 2008 – 2009.
- Create a strategic plan. Or plan to fail. It’s that simple. My strategic plan is updated every year and has kept me moving forward. And I used a coach to help me create the first plan. It was extremely valuable to have an objective perspective and be held accountable.
- Surround yourself with winners and positive people. You will have many people (especially family members) say that you are crazy for doing this and, while their intentions are well-meaning, you do not want to expose yourself to any negativity. It is hard enough to stay positive and forge ahead, so choose who you listen to and spend your time with wisely.
- Believe in yourself. This is not a time for the poor me, victim mentality. Believe with every part of your being that you can do this. (And see #3).
- Practice perseverance (steady persistence in a course of action, a purpose, a state, etc., especially in spite of difficulties, obstacles, or discouragement). It will be hard and there will be days you will want to quit. But don’t give up.
- Create a support group. This is different from the point above because these are the people who have experienced similar issues that you will deal with everyday. Find other business owners that will understand when you are frustrated when clients don’t pay or you wish you had an IT department to solve your computer woes.
- Have gratitude. One thing is very clear to me – I wouldn’t be where I am without the support, love and unselfish acts of many who believed in my dream. My clients make me want to get up and work for them – everyday! Life is full of possibilities, and I am so grateful that I am allowed to experience, explore and expand in the areas that I love.
Onward to the next year of twists and turns. I raise my glass to my fellow business owners and to those who decide to jump – Salut!
I’d love to hear your thoughts on what has helped you succeed in business.