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10 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting a Business

Looking back over my entrepreneurial path, here are the 10 things I wish I’d known before I started my first full-time business.

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I come from an entrepreneurial family, so starting a business was always a given.

No lie, almost everyone in my family has a side business going – it’s just something we do, back home in Africa. What wasn’t a given was immersing myself full-time in my business and using it as my primary source of income. This, was new territory.

I’ve launched several businesses … some succeeded, but most failed. While I made (and lost) a lot of money, each success or failure always led me to learn something new and build on my experiences.

Looking back over my entrepreneurial path, here are the 10 things I wish I’d known before I started my first full-time business.

1. Get clear on your end game.

It takes just as much energy to create a small lifestyle business as it does to create a large company. There’s no right or wrong answer here, but you do need to get clear on what the end game is for you.

If had focused all of my energy, in my first business, on really pushing the envelope rather than playing small I think I would have had a lot more than I do now. The lifestyle I was aiming for would have been an added benefit.

2. Keep your offers simple.

[pullquote]Find the things in your business that make you the most money and focus on them. Eliminate everything else![/pullquote]The need to be all things to all people is something that hinders us all when we’re starting out. You want to have everything with bells and whistles, and you keep delaying your product launch because “it’s not quite ready yet”. You could easily spend up to 6 months creating something that nobody ends up buying.

When I started a lingerie business, I wanted to carry every option going – so I ended up with so much inventory — it was ridiculous. But business picked up when I started defining who I was in the market and streamlining my offers to match that positioning.

Make it easy for people to know who you are, what you’re about and what you offer. Keep it simple. My golden rule in business is this: “Find the things in your business that make you the most money and focus on them. Eliminate everything else!”

3. Solve a problem.

And make sure it’s a problem that people want solved.

Confusing? I know. But here’s the thing…

If you want a successful business, you need to solve a problem. Not only do you need to solve a problem, it has to be a problem that people find pressing. If people feel they can live with a problem or do it themselves, you will struggle.

When you’re offering a product or service that solves a pressing problem, selling it comes down to how good you are at marketing and closing the sale. Focus on the problem first, then build your service or product around it.

4. Know how much people are willing to pay.

You need to test your pricing. Don’t just fix your prices based on what competitors are doing. Test your market. Change things that aren’t working. Don’t be afraid to be the only one doing something different.

You need to be in a business where your target customer can afford what you sell. It’s tempting to think that if you sell a high-end product that customers will come and pay whatever you demand, but that’s not always true. You have to know your market, how they want to spend money with you and their price sensitivity.

5. Make it easy for customers to pay you.

[pullquote align=”right”]If customers have to jump through hoops to give you money, you’re going to lose money.[/pullquote]If customers have to jump through hoops to give you money, you’re going to lose money.

With so many options now, like Paypal, Fastspring, 2Checkout and affordable offline options such as Square there’s no excuse for your customers to have difficulties paying you.

Make the process as smooth as possible. Figure out how you are going to accept money. Make sure you don’t have any roadblocks in the way (i.e. requiring too many form fields on your website checkout process). The more information people have to give, the more likely it is, that you will not convert the sale.

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