Thursday, June 23, 2011

Jump Start Your Business

From , reprinted by permission

Starting a business is one of the most exciting–and terrifying–moments in a person’s life. It is that time when the stars align just so and you get to venture off in a new direction, doing something you love, maybe something you have always dreamed of, and being your own boss.

What makes the moment even more intense is that you typically have a lot on the line. Risks have been taken. Money may have been borrowed. Reputations are at stake. It’s no wonder then that, aside from the exciting adrenaline rush of the moment, intense stress is the other over-arching emotion at play.

Is there some way then to make sure the risk pays off? Indeed there is. More on that in a moment.

The final reason that makes being part of a startup so unique is that it is all so new. Unless you are a serial entrepreneur, this starting a business stuff is not something most people do more than once or maybe twice in a life, and it’s that very first time that is the most frightening of all:

§ How do you wear all of those hats?

§ Where do you find customers?

§ How will you pay the bills?

So yes, while being part of a startup is fun, interesting and exciting, it is also fraught with danger. Being part of a startup is a high-wire act, and usually one without much of a net below. One false move, one big mistake, and down you plunge.

Want some more startup advice? Check these out:

§ Mentor Whiplash: What It Is And Why Your Startup Needs It

§ How To Find And Select Investors For Your Startup

§ Bootstrapping Your Business: An OPEN Forum Guide

So what is that thing that you can do to ease the stress and help ensure that you get to pass Go and collect $200? It is as simple as it is ingenious. “Have a great location” you say? Come on. No, that’s not it. “Get sufficient funding?” Close.

No, the secret is this:  Have a customer before you start, as James Altucher explained in this great post on Business Insider.

Think about it. One of the hardest parts of any new venture is getting that first customer, that first deal, the first dollar in the door. I have an uncle who likes to say that business is, with all due respect to Forrest Gump, like a jar of pickles. When you get a new jar, the pickles are all jammed in there, right? Getting the first one out is hard. But then what? All of the other pickles come out easily.

You have to get the first pickle out of the jar.

That’s why it’s so smart to do everything you can to start your new business with at least one customer in place. It may be a client from your old firm, or the business that you used to work for, or a friend. Whatever the case, by starting with at least one customer in place, you accomplish several important goals all at once:

§ You can tell potential customers and clients about your existing client. You won’t look quite so green.

§ You will entice more business; most people would rather not be your first customer.

§ You will have a source of income, albeit probably a small one.

§ You will get a chance to learn how to run your business.

§ You will gain confidence.

The upshot of all of this is that while there is a lot to think about and do–when you start a business, there are few things more important than landing that first customer as soon as you can, before you open the doors even.

Doing so will erase a lot of the panicky feelings mentioned above and, even more importantly, pave the way for a lot more pickles to come out of the jar.