Why do some start-ups succeed while some don’t? The statistics range a touch, but most agree that half make it and half don’t. With the payoff being so great–flexibility of schedule and unlimited income potential just to name a few–one would think there would be a more surefire formula for success. It is expensive to go to medical school but you know at the end you are in fact going to be a doctor with all the benefits of that hard work. Of course, entrepreneurship does not offer such a guarantee even with it now becoming so popular in many business schools.
I am a serial entrepreneur with businesses ranging from retail, direct mail marketing, property development and management to a local home service empire. Though I’ve done a lot of research on the topic—I read every book and article I could get my hands on over a 2-year period—what I know about why some succeed and some fail at entrepreneurship didn’t come from a book or article. It came from personal success, observation, and my test group of poker buddies, who all have successful small businesses ranging from a restaurant to retail to home services.
Let me share with you my discovery, which I have debated and which was confirmed to be pretty darn good by two of University of Virginia Darden Business School Professors, the esteemed Ed Hess and Saras D. Sarasvathy. These axioms have also been endorsed by multiple New York Times bestselling authors and countless entrepreneurs. My conclusion is stated in what are the 8 UNBREAKABLE RULES FOR BUSINESS START-UP SUCCESS.
Rule 1 – YOU MUST BE QUALIFIED
The simple fact is I would rather have a person with the personal characteristics of successful people: self-motivated, disciplined time managers, goal oriented, competitive with some good people skills and an average business idea than a person lacking these with the next Google, Fed Ex or Southwest Airlines idea written out in the most professional business plan. Simply put, prior to starting your business assess personal assets and see what is lacking and what needs to be developed. Also closely examine your personal situation and stage in life to determine if entrepreneurship is right for you at this time.
Rule 2 – YOUR BUSINESS IDEA MUST BE QUALIFIED
Have you tested your idea? Is there a demand for your product/service where you intend to sell it and will these customers pay what is needed to reach your profit goals? This may sound simple but if any of the above is missing you will fail.
Rule 3 – PLAN FOR SUCCESS
I do believe the business plan has been over blown in that it has turned into a feared dissertation that is rarely completed by most entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs have a plan but it is based more on the key questions I asked in Rule 2. What needs to be established in your plan is how much capital do you need (and why), how are you going to get it, and once you have it, what is going to be your pre-start-up to 2-year plan of action once operating.
Rule 4 – PROTECT YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS
You must consider all ways to protect yourself and your business prior to getting started including incorporating, trade-marking, insurance, no competes, employee agreements, partnership agreements, etc.
Rule 5 – BUILD A SUCCESSFUL TEAM
Building a successful team is one of the most important things that will lead to your business’s success. Think about who you’ll want as your partners, staff, professional advisors, and mentors.
Rule 6 – MARKETING IS NOT OPTIONAL
You may believe you have a great business idea, and that you’re the right person to start this business. You may have even done all your planning, and assembled the best possible team. But if you don’t find customers for your product or service, you unfortunately will not stay in business for long. Marketing is all about knowing who your ideal customers are and then deciding what means of promotion will best reach that group.
Rule 7 – KNOW YOUR NUMBERS
Starting a business requires a lot of attention to numbers. You may be using your own money to invest in starting your business. You may rely on loans and credit from others. Regardless, to be profitable, you need to think critically about your operating costs, pricing structure, and how much you need to make to meet your own personal expenses.
Rules 8 – LEARN FROM OTHERS
Failure is best learned through a second hand story so learn from other people’s mistakes. And with that said, make a habit out of studying the success patterns of others.
About the Author
Sean C. Castrina is the author of 8 Unbreakable Rules for Business Start-Up Success (Champion Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-0-989-10456-2, $14.87,www.newbizcoach.org) and the soon-to-be-released 8 Unbreakable Rules for Small Business Dominance. He is also founder of newbizcoach.org. A successful business coach and a true entrepreneur, he has started over 15 successful companies over the last 18 years. His companies have ranged from retail, direct mail marketing, and advertising to real estate development and home services. Sean is a sought-after speaker and can speak with authority on what it takes to start, sustain, and grow a business.