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I started my business 35 years ago. I didn’t have this list back then, I wish I had. I gradually learned each of these 10 things, but it took time. – Bruce McIntyre

entrepreneurs-bruceIt’s true that each business has at least a few unique qualities, yet if your business will be larger than just yourself and will interact with Clients, Customers, and Co-Workers, you will need some guideposts along the way. Here are mine.

First – Don’t chair a committee.

You are an entrepreneur, not a committee chair. There is a difference. As an entrepreneur, get all the advice available, but remember, in the end it’s you making the decision. It is your name on the door and on the bank loan. If the business fails, it’s your fault. You can have advisors but trust your gut. Get comfortable with this idea or work for someone else.

Second – The Rule of Three is always with you.

It’s simple, everything takes three times longer than planned, costs three times as much, and when finished, has one-third the value of what you hoped. Sorry, but you need to plan accordingly.

Third – Celebrate everything, especially mistakes.

Think about everything you say and do as you establish your company’s culture. Decide what you care about. Your team will respect what you inspect. If you don’t notice, they won’t either.

Celebrate your culture at every opportunity. If a co-worker goes out of their way to please a Customer – celebrate that event. And if you, the boss, make a mistake that is not in line with the culture of your company, celebrate that as well. Or better yet, hold a ‘wake’ and remove that action from the culture.

Culture is what your team does when you are not there.

Fourth – Don’t fix the problem. Fix the process.

When something goes wrong, and it will, fix the process. That way there is less chance of the problem happening again. If you are only fixing problems, your work will never be done. It’s the process that builds the business.

Fifth – Don’t grow too fast.

At first you should have some growth spurts, that’s good, but try not to grow too fast. Rapid growth puts strains on any team. Everything gets more difficult. Staffing, funding, facilities are all easier to manage with steady growth. It is better to grow at a controlled rate and develop the process as you mature than to grow rapidly and not be able to support your expanding business. For me, 15% growth each year was a good number – that let me double in size every five years.

Sixth – Everyone picks their own title.

People own what they create. Our “Director of First Impressions” was the best receptionist any company ever enjoyed. She knew every voice on the phone and always had time to visit when someone stopped by the office. Other titles were equally creative.

Seventh – Help will come from strangers.

There is one piece of advice I received at the start of my journey 35 years ago.

“Write down the names of the people you think will help you, then put the list away. Now go to work! In five years, look back at the list – you will be surprised – your help will have come from people you met along the way, not the names on the list.”
– Curt Rogers

I found it was not the people on the list who helped, but all the people I met – while out doing the work. They were the ones interested in helping me shape my vision. I shared this story with Choices Do Matter readers last December.

Eighth – B the change.

Certified B Corporation

Consider organizing as a B-Corp. These are Benefit Corporations or triple bottom line businesses. The three benefits keep the company focused on profits along with people and the planet.

This model is the best at attracting top talent. The more you care about others, and the environment, the more everyone will care about you.

If B-Corp status is not for you, at least understand the model and consider functioning like one.

Ninth – Not now.

Delaying gratification is important. You will make progress and want a reward. Okay, I get that, maybe a nice meal out at a fancy restaurant, but not a new boat or house at the beach. Continue to invest in the business and build your reserves. Cash is king and you will need it when you least expect. It does rain on even the most successful new venture.

Tenth – Get out and stay out.

Get out of the office and stay out. Most business is done with Clients and Customers. Go to them, don’t make them come to you. Maybe you don’t even need an office. Every time I wanted to improve anything, whether it was sales, my mood, or my enthusiasm, I headed out the door. It worked every time. Offices are inward looking, your business is outward looking.

Your company may be different than mine. Your Clients may need to visit you. Fine, but if you don’t have an appointment scheduled, consider who and how to reach out to people who could use your services. Visit them. Use your time finding your people instead of waiting for someone to walk in the door.

Eleventh – A Bonus – Begin with the end in mind. Have an exit plan.

I know I said ten things but this is a bonus. Always deliver more than expected! Start with a vision of where it all ends. Have an exit plan. What happens to the business? Do you sell it, give it to family or co-workers? Think about your plan from the beginning. The day will come sooner than you think.

There you have my list of ten, + one, things for your start-up. What do you think?

Have you started a business and found any of these to be true? What is on your list?

If you were to start a business today, what things would you consider most important?

As always, the conversation starts here.

“In the ordinary choices of every day we begin to change the direction of our lives.” – Eknath Easwaran

Epilogue

In this video Elon Musk, the Tesla Motors founder, speaks of the terror after the euphoria wears off, and about the need to be significantly better than your competition to make your mark. He also talks about, “Feedback being the Breakfast of Champions.”

I am not comparing myself to Mr. Musk, but I share his feelings on all three.