So you’ve decided that it’s time to take the gamble and starts your small business. You’ve been dreaming about it forever, it seems. You’ve set some money aside, have the determination and drive, and your family is 100% behind you.
Congrats! That alone is hard to do.
But every parade must be rained upon. And in this case, it’s facing the challenges and harsh truths to becoming a small business owner. After the initial excitement and lifetime milestones are over, there are some realities that all potential small business owners need to face.
And because we’re not exactly one for softening the blows of the business world, here are some of the harsh truths of the small business world, presented in all of their ugly glory. The time for tickle fights and kitten fuzz are over. It’s time to face these things head on to save some disappointment and frustration in the long run.
You May Not Be as Unique as You Think
There’s a good chance that the big unique idea you have isn’t as fresh and inventive as you think. Take the time to research similar companies and make sure that the idea you plan to claim is groundbreaking and “one-of-a-kind” hasn’t already been offered by other companies. The last thing you want to do as a small business owner is seem like a copy-cat. So do your research and make sure there isn’t someone out there that has beat you to the punch.
You’re Going to Have Competition…and a Lot of It
This is sort of attached to the above example of being unique. Another area you need to do your research in is the abilities and claims of businesses that will likely be your most direct competition. One thing you can research on is the weaknesses of your competitors. Find some element that they aren’t offering and see what you can do to meet that need. This is a great way to swoop in on your competitors and get the attention of a whole new audience.
Another thing about competition…it doesn’t always come in the form of a competing business. Think about the many things that “compete” with you for the attention of your target audience. This can come in the form of TV, Facebook, and other entertainment outlets. This is where crafty advertising comes into play. If you have researched your audience, you can possibly find out where the best places for advertising need to go. In this way, you can actually use your competition as a platform to help spread your message.
You’re Going to Need a Strong Web Presence…
While we’re not saying you need to invest half of your income on a website, you need to at least be prepared to have a website ready. A harsh truth that many traditional business owners are finding out the hard way is that if you don’t have an online presence, you’re just not going to survive. This is even true of small businesses confined to your local area.
Yellow pages and traditional print media ads are basically dead. When people look for specific services or goods, they now run a Google search. If you don’t have a website or, at the very least, a strong Facebook presence, you’re going to lose potential customers left and right.
…Especially When It Comes to Social Media
If you can’t afford a decent website to start off with, you need to at least have a strong Facebook presence. (However, we recommend waiting to launch your business until you can afford a website). Social media is becoming such a vital force in small businesses (and large ones, as well) that some companies are going so far as to hire people that are solely responsible for managing their social media accounts.
Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and even Pinterest…these are all becoming essential tools for any small business that hopes to grow. Also, keep in mind that part of maintaining a strong social media presence is in knowing what sort of content to post, having a great logo and a consistent voice—but those are a totally separate set of harsh truths that require all new attention. The key is to make sure your social media accounts are consistently churning out content, links, and information that your target audience is going to find valuable.
If you have a website, social media is basically making sure that your audience has additional avenues to reach you. It shows more character and gives you more chances to engage with those that may one day nee your products or services.
You Have to Get Familiar with Employment Law
It’s time to get familiar with employment law. You don’t need be an expert by any means, but you should know the basics. This is true of even those businesses that are a one man show; even if you don’t plan to have any employees, you need to know the bare minimum when it comes to employment law. You may not understand this right now as you’re reading this, but trust us—when you find yourself in hot water for not knowing the difference between a contractor and an employee, you’ll think back to this bit of information and wish you’d taken our word for it.
You’ll Need to Get Better With Networking
Becoming a small business owner means that you need to get used to the fact that you’ll have to also become a “people person.” Networking with other business owners is a key part to successfully growing a business. Think about it…who better to offer advice and warnings about the small business world than those that have encountered it all themselves? What this boils down to is that you need to find the proper balance between being attentive and becoming too friendly with your competition. (Trust us on this…it’s easier to do this than you think).
The whole point of networking with others in your industry is to learn about new contacts and connections that could possibly help you find new customers. Networking can be done faster with a proper social media presence. Starting to see how all of this is connected?
Not Every Decision You Make Is Going to be Brilliant
Right now…get over your delusions of grandeur. You’re going to make some great decision, sure—hopefully the decision to start your business was the first in a long line of great decisions. But you’re also going to make some bone-headed stupid decisions, too. It’s just human nature. Because we tend to often make decisions based on emotion, we’re going to make some bad decisions. It’s just a fact of life and of business.
Are you ready to handle all of this? Hopefully you can accept these harsh truths and still be excited about opening your new doors. If that’s the case, you should be fine.