Coming up with a good idea is a start, but executing the idea is what counts -- which we’ve learned from Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg. Anyone can have a great business idea and talk about it. But until that idea is an executed reality, well, it is just that -- nothing but a good idea.
I spoke with a few small business owners about what they learned while propelling their ideas from mere thoughts into real live businesses.
Your business should be something you're passionate about.
“If you’re going to make this happen, count on your business being the most all-consuming thing you have ever done,” says Paul Gollash, the founder of Voxy.com, a New York-based service that teaches language via web/mobile/SMS lessons based on breaking news, business, sports and pop culture. “Make sure you want to be thinking about your idea, [your] business all day, every day for thousands of days in row.”
Research your industry for its competitors and its previous failures.
There’s nothing in business you should do without researching. “Read and learn as much as you can before you launch the business, but after you've read what you can, take the leap, incorporate and implement your plan,” says Jason Heldenbrand who started Woodchuck Development LLC, a residential rehabilitation company in Saint Ann, Missouri. “You're going to make mistakes. The sooner you start, the faster you start learning what works.”
Move quickly but thoughtfully.
Hire and fire fast are tenets Gollash sticks by. “[You want to] stay focused on very clear goals and always keep momentum going towards your vision,” says Gollash. “There will be a lot of mistakes and missteps along the way, so accept those in stride, learn from them, and keep moving forward.”
Understand that nothing is built in a day. “If your product is unique in the marketplace, give it time to develop,” says Baruch Herzfeld, the founder of Zenofon a telecom service company that uses social networking to grow to 30,000 customers without advertising and by using a marketing formula based on the ancient Greek mathematician Zeno of Elea. “That is especially true if your product is unique and needs time for people to learn how to use it.”
Fill in the gaps you can’t do on your own.
Learn and recognize your own strengths and weaknesses and hire talented people to fill in those missing links.
“Entrepreneurs tend to want to do everything themselves, but be self-aware and find people that are better than you are at things that are outside your sweet spot,” says Gollash.
Seek out your very own specialized professional team. Find the people and companies who offer a similar product or service to your business. “If your product is similar to something out there, [for example] find out a lawyer who specializes in that product otherwise you will pay thousands extra for the lawyer to research the issue,” says Herzfeld who Googled the FCC filing of a company that he was offering a similar product to. “[I found] out who they used as a lawyer, then I contacted [and used] that lawyer. It saved me thousands.”
Employ strategic ways of using social media.
Herzfeld gives his customers credit if they post about Zenofon on Facebook. He gives them even more credit if they offer him any constructive criticism via webcam that he then posts on his company’s blog page.
“I built my product without traditional advertising,” says Herzfeld. “By getting referrals from friends, [one friend’s network of friends and contacts ultimately] brought me over 20,000 customers.”
Review after the first year. Businesses will always have their share of setbacks and frustrations. “Refine your key processes,” says Heldenbrand. “Keep what works and don’t hesitate to try new tactics and methods. There is a great deal of self-doubt that can cause you to lose focus and avoid risk. Self-confidence and perseverance are critical to the business's success.”
Launch your business in Beta.
Let go and allow something less than perfect to reach the public vs. wait forever to get it right with the risk of never opening shop.
“Everyone nowadays is going out before the product is perfect,” says Herzfeld. “Facebook, Google, their product is always Beta. There is the danger of damaging your reputation by putting out an unfinished product, but there is an even greater damage by missing the boat. I err on the side of rushing to production, as opposed to getting the product perfect.”