Six Common Sense Guidelines for Starting & Building Businesses

Over the past several decades I have helped many people start and build their businesses. Many successful businesses would not even exist today but for my encouragement, guidance, support and advice. I was asked this morning for a few common-sense guidelines for starting and building your own successful business.

On reflection, I offered these:

1. Stay Within Your Core Competency, or Do What You Know

I strongly recommend that anyone planning to launch a business be sure that the business capitalizes on or leverages what the entrepreneur/founder already knows. Everyone has a core competency developed over time and an entrepreneur is smart to leverage and build upon that strength when starting and building a business.

2. Do What You Love, or Follow Your Bliss

There is an old saw about entrepreneurs working 80 hours a week or more for themselves so they don't have to work 40 for another person. That old saw is often repeated and likely true!

I am a big believer in doing what you love to do.  Being an entrepreneur requires a major commitment and a genuine passion for the business.

Starting and building a business requires a tremendous amount of hard work and sacrifice, and it really and truly helps if the entrepreneur loves what he or she is doing!

Therefore, be sure your new business is based on something you love, something that you feel passionate about.

3. Start Developing a Realistic, Comprehensive, and Thorough Business Plan

I am all in favor of starting out with a short and sweet business plan. Think through what you plan to do, and how you plan to do it.   Consider how you will invest time, money, and other resources and how the business will ultimately generate revenues and make a profit to make a for you and any other investors.

Write it down your plan.

An initial business plan does not need to be lengthy or complicated. It is probably better if it is sort, sweet, and to the point.

Consider your initial business plan an initial road map to get you started on your entrepreneurial journey.  It should walk you through how you are going to start and maintain a successful business.  You should continue to add to it, making it more comprehensive and thorough as you gain more knowledge regarding your business and industry.

4. Learn Continuously, Embrace Change, and Continuously Apply What You are Learning

Few businesses launch and grow as planned. For that matter, few things in life go exactly as planned.

So be prepared for things not to go as anticipated.  Also prepared to learn from every step in the process, including every adventure and misadventure. The faster you can learn each day's lessons, implement this new knowledge, and incorporate all that you are learning into your evolving business plan, the more likely your business is to ultimately succeed and prosper.

Starting a business and then building it is largely a matter of learning by doing.

5. Be Wary of Entanglements -  with Partners, Investors, or Lenders.

Over the years I have worked with many people who have started and built successful businesses. I also have seen many relationships formed in the process go awry. Sometimes, that breakdown in relationships can end up becoming a road block for the business.  In the worst case, it can be the death of the nascent business.

I typically therefore recommend that the entrepreneur go it alone at the start and in the early stages. If you need help from an accountant, attorney, or other professional, pay for it instead of making the professional an owner. If you need a website, pay for it instead of making the web developer an owner.

Avoid unnecessary complexity, eschew complex relationships and entanglements, and, as the entrepreneur, drive your own vision.

Avoid borrowing a lot of money as it will need to be paid back. The lender will likely want a security interest and a say in business operations. Avoid this by building your business on the proverbial shoestring at the start.

If possible, keep your day job while ramping up the business in the evenings and on weekends in the early going.

6. Have Fun!

Starting and building a business can be among the most fulfilling, satisfying and rewarding activities in life. Work hard. Play hard too!

Have fun and be sure to keep the enjoyment in your new business.

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Benjamin Calkins

Benjamin Calkins

Ben Calkins is a well-educated, top-rated, and highly experienced business law attorney.

Ben Calkins is an honors graduate of Harvard College and the University of Michigan Law School. After law school, he clerked for a Federal Judge before joining one of the World’s largest law firms, Squire, Sanders & Dempsey. Mr. Calkins has also worked at, and been a partner in, several of the most prominent “old style law firms” in the World.