There’s no law stating that in order to succeed in business, you’ve got to knock it out of the park on your first try. But it doesn’t hurt either. Much is made of the successful entrepreneur’s ability to rebound from failure. That speech gets made a lot, and general allusions are made to Steve Jobs and Henry Ford.
I don’t disagree. By all means, get up after you’ve fallen down. Dust off the debris of your first bankruptcy and try, try again. But let’s not pretend that this isn’t tremendously difficult, psychologically. The fact is, you are much more likely to succeed in the long run if you don’t muck it up too terribly the first time around. If your first startup can be around 10 years from now, and longer, you’ll be a success with a minimum of heartache, personal turmoil, and misery.
It’s not to say that you won’t make mistakes along the way. Just try to make those mistakes small and survivable. Here’s how:
There are a bunch of ways to do this. You could pay for an expensive business education (or a cheap one). And you should. But in addition to this, you should make sure that you are educating yourself, through reading, mentorship, and experience. Intern with relevant companies who can offer you a lot of knowledge. Update yourself on the industry you are involved with. Learn business principles. Soak up wisdom like a sponge from anyone you can convince to talk to you. In general, be obsessed with the thing you are setting out to do.
Make Nuanced Preparations.
If you’ve got a year to plan your business, before making this thing active, take the time to make a very specific business plan. Business plans are kind of weird. They often don’t contain numbers that end up representing the future very well at all. But if you can hone yours down to something resembling reality, you’ll do a lot better than those who don’t. Sometimes the best kind of planning is just to know what you’ll do when the wheels fall off. How will you manage payment gaps on outstanding invoices? What will you do when you have a new client that overwhelms your time commitment to your smaller, but awesome clients?
Run a bunch of financial calculators to make sure that the way you are budgeting your finances will work in your pocket of the industry.
This is difficult for many young upstarts, especially if you have prepared well. But it’s also nearly impossible to tell the difference between careful planning and foolishness, especially if both are coming out of your own brain. So send some of your ideas up the ladder, even if its a ladder of your own creation.
When you’ve done all three steps, it’s time to actualize your plans. You’ll learn more about business in the first month of your new startup than you did in the a whole year of preparation, but you can’t skip the preparation. It’s what makes sure that you’re still in business when that first month has run its course. Hopefully your planning will ensure that you exist a lot longer than a month or two. If you manage to stay in business for years, you’ll have a platform to build even better businesses upon.
So make this first business count. It may seem small, but it’s your foundation for all future growth, at least for now.