Have a support network, diversify your income, and remember it's not just about the money
Five things I wish I knew before I became an entrepreneur
The title above may throw you off a bit, and may make you think I regret becoming an entrepreneur. But if I could have my time again, I'd choose the same course. I do not regret quitting my day job, and I definitely do not regret the long times spent brainstorming, researching, crying (yes, there were a lot of crying sessions), and wondering if I had gone completely mad. There are times as an entrepreneur where you question your sanity, and think that maybe your day job is not so bad.
As clichéd as it may sound, the journey to building a successful business is not an easy one. It is filled with landmines, detours, and unexpected falls; if it were easy, I would not have appreciated where I am today as much as I do. Nevertheless, had I known about some of the mistakes I was going to make, I would have saved myself a lot of time and money, and spared my nerves the stress.
Here are five things I wish I knew before I jumped onto the entrepreneurship wagon:
It is you and you alone
I remember when I told my colleague that I was going to start a business, and he told me that it would be one lonely ride. I did not understand what he meant. When you start a business, especially when you do not have business partners, every decision you make is your responsibility, unlike when you were working in a company where there was a sense of community and the responsibility was shared. If you embark on a small business venture without a partner, then having a strong support system is crucial. I suggest working with a mentor from the start, joining a support group either online, or in your local community. Their advice, and having someone to vent to who would understand you, not only helps, but could help save you unnecessary business drama.
Diversify your income stream
As much as it would be great to receive that first profit check at the end of the month, it will not be the case with your business. If you plan to quit your job to start your own business, ensure that you have saved an amount that would keep you going for at least two years. What I found to be useful along the way is to have a side gig to diversify my income streams. That way, if the season is slow or clients are on their summer holidays, I will be able to sustain my life.
Outsource and automate as much as you can
At the beginning of my journey as an entrepreneur, I did everything myself. It was great, because I learned new skills and became knowledgeable about every aspect of business. But there are some tasks that are very time-consuming and waste your brain energy, when you could have utilized it to do something else.
Outsource your admin work, social media management (if you can) and graphics work to someone else to save yourself time and energy.
I used to do my own graphics because I had some intermediate knowledge. But it took so much of my time, when I could have outsourced the work to a professional. There are countless professional web portals that could do an array of different tasks for you at reasonable prices instead of hiring full-time employees.
Know your customers
With many businesses having an online presence, customers may tend to feel that they are dealing with a faceless company. If you are on social media, or have a blog, make sure that you interact with your audience, reply to their comments, and answer their feedback. At the end of the day, you are not going to succeed without them. In addition, it helps you gain deeper insight into what they like, dislike, and what would they like you to offer in the future.
Remember that it is not only about the money
Do not get me wrong, you obviously need to make a profit; but don't let money by your sole focus. When I started my consultancy, I did it because I saw a lack of similar services in the market, and wanted to help companies understand our market better, and in return they would be able to provide us with better products and services. If you make your business about bettering your customers’ lives as well as making a profit for yourself, you will work with passion, deliver exceptional results, and it will radiate from you. That is the kind of energy your customers will be attracted to and want to work with. You will thus work with happy customers, who will introduce you to more customers, and more income will flow. Everyone will be happy.
Keep in mind though that every business owner will encounter problems specific to their field. However, I do hope that this advice will resonate with you and save you some drama on your journey as an entrepreneur.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati writer who manages her branding and marketing consultancy in Abu Dhabi.