Millennials are starting their own businesses for many reasons, according to Guidant Financial. They want to be their own boss, pursue their own passions, and no longer want to be part of corporate America. While becoming an entrepreneur is easier than ever in today’s hyper-connected, digital world, rushing into business could spell disaster.
From financing to lead flow, there’s a lot to know if you want to be a successful business owner. While there’s plenty to learn as you go, advice from those who have been there can be invaluable as you learn what it takes to be your own boss.
I asked eight entrepreneurs for their best advice—keep their tips in mind as you begin the journey of starting a business.
1. Focus on Customer Service
Rodney Yo, owner of Best Online Traffic School in California, emphasizes the importance of staying customer-centric. Yo says, “For millennials starting out on their own, I would recommend focusing on the customer. Think carefully about the problems that the customer is facing and how your product or service will solve that problem.”
The best way to do that is to think of it from this perspective: “What kind of customer experience do you want your customers to be raving about?” When you’re always focused on what the customer needs, excellent customer service and a rave-worthy experience will naturally fall into place.
2. Persistence Pays Off
“The most valuable tip I can share, speaking from experience, is to be persistent,” says Marco Baatjes, founder of Bottom Line Cents. When starting a new venture, there are going to be roadblocks, challenges and moments when you question what you’re doing and why. Sticking with it, despite the doubt or uncertainty, is key.
Baatjes explains: “When I began my ecommerce journey I knew nothing, but I was willing to learn everything and anything to succeed. Sometimes that looked grim, and it appeared failure was on the horizon, but my determination and motivation kept me going.”
3. Know What You’re Selling
This seems obvious, but it’s easy to jump into business without a clear idea of what your product and service can do for customers. Sam Meenasian, co-founder of USA Business Insurance, says:
“I can’t raise this issue enough and, from my own personal experience, state how important it is to know the product or service one is offering. People like to know what they are paying for. As a business owner it is crucial to first understand the details, benefits, pros and cons of what your offering and be straight forward in explaining what you have to offer.”
This is especially important in growing industries, where new competition comes onto the market nearly every day. Meenasian says, “There is always going to be a lot of competition no matter what you do. Stand out from the rest by offering resourceful information, a clear picture of what your customer is getting and a piece of mind that you will be there when they need your services.”
4. Prioritize Communication When Partnering With Your Significant Other
Going into business with your partner can be both rewarding and challenging. That’s why Tony Wallace, who runs Diverse Automation with wife, Heather Wallace, says communication is key. He explains:
“Communication and buy-in from both parties about the business goals are the pillars for a solid partnership. We have a weekly meeting to review the major issues, production and financials of the company.”
No matter what, there will be disagreements—but they don’t have to spell disaster for the business. When that happens for the Wallace’s, Tony says, “We step back and look at the facts; dissect the emotion from the facts—always a good piece of advice which leads us to a smoother operating system."
5. Separate Business Expenses from Personal Finances
This technical tip is critical, yet easy to overlook when you’re just starting a business. “While it may seem easy to use your personal account for starting up or paying initial expenses, it is always better to create a business checking account, transfer the funds into them and then use it,” says Chhavi Agarwal, a lawyer turned blogger, and co-founder of Mrs. Daaku Studio.
What’s more, with certain business licenses, this is mandatory. Get it out of the way now and you’ll make things easier later.
6. Provide Value With Free Tools
Social media has changed the way businesses reach their audience and you can—and should—do a lot more than promote your business to followers. Shawn Breyer, owner of Atlanta House Buyers suggests:
“Focus on free mediums of marketing like Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram Lives. Do daily live videos on topics that help people in your niche. Your goal is to put out a lot of helpful and actionable content that builds goodwill with your audience.”
Provide value before asking for anything to build a following that knows, likes, and trusts you, which means they’re more likely to spend their money with your business.
7. Cut Your Living Expenses
Preparing for a shift in your income is an important part of planning your business. Kurt Uhlir, Chief Marketing Officer with Showcase IDX explains: “Reduce your living expenses as much as possible before you start your business. Starting a business always takes at least twice as long as you can imagine and costs three times as much.”
While this can be challenging, you’ll reap the benefits in the long term, says Uhlir: “This new cost of living will give you much more runway to make your business idea successful and will give you a better chance at success.”
8. Know Your Competition
Setting yourself apart from others is the key to success in any business—and that’s why it’s important to know your competitors. “Competitor research becomes critical to understand what your direct competition is offering and at what price. Find gaps in their offerings… these shortcomings will define your business,” says Ketan Kapoor, Co-Founder at Mercer | Mettl.
When you know how you stand out, you can better sell your product and service, allowing you to grow a thriving business for years to come.
Start Your Business With Confidence
Use these tips to get started on the right foot. Starting a business isn’t easy, and you’ll learn plenty along the way, but the experience of others who have been in your shoes before can be a guiding light while you figure it all out.