Over the years, I have found several takeaways that dramatically accelerate a new entrepreneur’s learning curve and success. Below are six suggestions that took me years to figure out the hard way. I hope this advice will act as a shortcut for new, budding entrepreneurs.
Hire a bookkeeper and CPA fast
When my business partner and I first got started our focus was to get things off the ground. A couple of years passed by and the next thing we knew…we were buried in taxes. I thought owning a business had tax advantages! There are advantages, but unless you’re a CPA yourself, your ability to leverage them all are slim to none. You have to learn where to focus your energy and where to hire experts.
Even if you have a bootstrapped budget, you’re not doing yourself any favors if you don’t hire a professional bookkeeper and CPA. Their fees are well worth it and will save you time, money and energy in the long run.
Find a business mentor
You don’t know what you don’t know. Find someone who has already started and scaled a successful business. A good mentor can share valuable wisdom learned from years in the trenches. Mentors provide insight into some of the most important and impactful business strategies. They’re also there to listen to your challenges and provide guidance and solutions.
Network with other entrepreneurs
It doesn’t matter what type of business you run–the challenges business owners face are nearly identical. Find a group of business owners at various stages who you can connect with on a regular basis. Think of it as an informal entrepreneur mastermind group. Discussion topics include leadership, systems, vendors, marketing strategies and more. You’ll find personal growth by helping others and sharing knowledge.
Build systems and processes early
The first two years flew by for me. I was doing everything. I knew what needed to be done and how to do it. The problem came when I needed to hire other people to step in and take over some of my responsibilities. Without documented systems and processes, training a new hire and setting them up for success can be difficult.
As you complete specific business tasks, document the steps and process. This is how business systems are created. A successful business is heavily reliant on systems. Create them early and perfect them over time.
How do you know if you’re succeeding? Define a small handful of metrics to track and measure. These will be your businesses’ main KPIs (key performance indicators). KPIs will vary by business vertical, but some ideas include leads, margins, sales pipeline and conversion rates.
To determine which KPIs are right for your business, think about what items move the needle the most in your business. Which of these can be tracked, measured, analyzed and optimized to increase business efficiency and growth?
Read a ton of books
I saved this for last because it’s probably one of the most important tips in my opinion. Walk inside any millionaires’ home and I guarantee you’ll find bookshelves full of books. How do you think they acquired the knowledge to become so successful?
Reading business books on an ongoing basis will speed up your learning curve and provide powerful ideas needed to take your business and personal development to the next level.
Find popular books on leadership, business, managing stress, marketing, finance and industry-specific trends and topics. Start reading early and never stop. By doing this you’ll get the equivalent of a master’s or doctorate degree. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll grow. Make learning a lifelong habit.
Entrepreneurship is a journey like no other. You’ll be challenged, beat down and rewarded beyond your wildest dreams. It’s hard work, but it’s extremely fulfilling. Take this advice as a shortcut and accelerate your success as an entrepreneur.
Looking back, I wish I would have tackled these items earlier. I hope these tips provide value and ease your journey.
This article has been edited.
Zack Hanebrink is the co-founder of HookLead, a digital marketing and design agency located in beautiful Charleston, SC.