Thursday Jul 31, 2014 by Larry Kim - Founder & CTO, WordStream
To say that getting a business off the ground is hard work would be an understatement. Whether you’re still drafting your first business plan or recently opened your store, starting and running a business can be an exhilarating – and terrifying – experience.
Six years ago, I launched my Internet marketing startup WordStream. Today, WordStream is a +$10 million company that just raised a $12M Series C Venture Capital financing round- but back then, this major milestone felt a long way off.
I’m going to share five tips that can help you grow your business – advice that I wish someone had told me back then.
Part of the allure of starting your own business is embarking on the exciting adventure of becoming your own boss. As a small-business owner, you’re going to have to be comfortable wearing a lot of hats – salesperson, accountant, marketing manager – but that doesn’t mean that you can (or should) do everything yourself.
Sure, you might be able to manage by yourself for a while, or maybe even thrive, but it can’t last if you want your business to grow. Knowing when to seek out talented people who share your vision is a crucial litmus test for any business owner. There’s only so much you can do on your own, so if you’ve got your sights set on ambitious growth, come to terms with the fact that you’ll need help before long.
You don’t need to relinquish any of your freedom or control to make this happen – but you do need to realize that you’re only one person.
To launch and run a successful business, you need to have passion, drive and confidence. However, even the best of us have doubts, and experiencing apprehension about your new venture is completely normal.
On the other hand, you need to know when – and to whom – voicing these doubts is a good idea. Outside influencers, whether venture capitalists or the manager of your local credit union, want to invest in people with confidence. This means you need to work on your game face when things get tough or you need to approach investors for money.
Similarly, your employees need to know they can put their faith in you – so don’t wear your heart on your sleeve if the going gets tough.
Yes, everyone has doubts and fears, and to say otherwise would be a lie. However, you need to inspire confidence in those looking to you, so be mindful of how you behave in front of others, especially when things don’t go your way.
Ever hear the expression, “Fake it ‘til you make it?” Well, this principle is something you should (and may need to) adopt, especially in the early days of your business.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying you should intentionally mislead your clients about the scope of your business or what you can do for them. I am saying, however, that until you begin to establish a reputation, you need to instill confidence in new clients. One way to accomplish this is to “run the business you want,” even if you’re not quite there yet.
This concept applies to every aspect of your business, from the language you use on your marketing materials and website to the way you greet prospective clients. If you project an air of confidence and authority when dealing with new customers, you can make a great first impression that offsets your relative lack of experience or smaller size.
You don’t have to approach every interaction like the CEO of a multinational organization, but you should think big when growing your business and make sure your client-facing materials (and employees) exemplify everything you want your business to be.
Making the decision to start your own business is a choice that only you can make. It’s an adventure that only you can decide to embark upon. Unfortunately, when it comes to many other aspects of making your dream a reality, other people are often involved – other people who have a say in whether certain things happen or not.
As a new business owner, people are going to tell you “no” – a lot. Prospective clients and customers will tell you they’re not interested, investors will pass on your idea, and banks will turn you down for loans. However, don’t despair. Rejection is actually awesome.
Why? Because every time someone says “no,” you can choose to see it as an opportunity. The bank turned down your loan application? Maybe it’s a problem with your business plan, not your idea. Client not interested in your services? Perhaps you can develop your pitch, or make your service offering more compelling?
However you look at it, rejection is inevitable as a business owner – but you get to choose how to react.
Once you’re up and running, it’s tempting to see your business as an extension of your checking account, but you must resist the temptation to “borrow” funds from your business or splash out on lavish expenses, at least in the early days.
Growth costs money, even for the most successful ventures. Every time you dip into your business’ funds, you’re hurting your chances for growth. Make sure you’re adequately compensated for your work, but keep your salary modest and make reinvesting in your business a top priority.
Everything your business needs to grow – space, talent, equipment – costs money, and the less you put back into your business, the slower you’ll grow. The more money you put back into the business, the faster you’ll be able to expand your operation, and the more profitable your company could become in the future.
Larry Kim is the Founder & CTO of WordStream in Boston, MA. This post originally appeared on LinkedIn. You can also follow Larry on Twitter (@larrykim) by clicking here.
* Learn more about WordStream on their VentureFizz BIZZpage