So you have the next great idea and you’re thinking it’s time to boldly step into that ever-risky yet rewarding role of first-time entrepreneur. I say, go for it. You’ll never know until you try. However, many entrepreneurs have gone before you. Some have triumphed and some have failed, but all have learned valuable lessons they can share to help you avoid common mistakes.
I’m one of those entrepreneurs. I’ve had my successes and my flops. As ATDC’s new Augusta startup catalyst, my role is to work with area entrepreneurs who have ideas they want to commercialize into viable, disruptive, Georgia-based companies. And I’m here to give you five pieces of advice for you to take to heart before you launch your great new business idea.
1. put yourself out there
Both in person and online, embrace networking, cold introductions, and industry friends. Attend events with business cards in hand. Meet people. Make connections, even with people not in your industry. You never know when someone will know someone else who could be a valuable resource to you. Actively use LinkedIn by joining groups and participating in discussions. Brand yourself not just your business. Always network. And always be in learning mode: Ask dumb questions. As you grow in knowledge and reputation, provide smart answers.
2. ask for help
Be open to advice. In addition to the connections you make through networking, learn through programs like those put on by ATDC. But also learn how to trust your gut. Look for patterns in advice — then filter, prioritize, and take action.
3. commit to fitness
As a budding entrepreneur, you will have anxiety. There’s no way around it. So commit to staying fit. Regular exercise will keep you healthy and sane, because it’s good for your physical health and your mental health, too. You’ll also be more productive because you’ll have more energy. Staying fit includes finding time for yourself, too, because you will need some downtime amidst all the chaos. If you’re like me and don’t like the gym, you can walk (very fast) every day and kill two birds with one stone.
4. monitor money
Money is a critical and necessary part of any new business venture. You don’t want to become an entrepreneur only for the money (since you likely won’t see much of it for a while), but money is needed and money must be wisely spent. You will need to stay on top of it all and do it without seeing your reality through rose-colored glasses. Like it or not money, is your company’s lifeblood. Also, be frugal, not cheap. There is a difference. And it matters.
5. have fun
Celebrate the small wins. After all, entrepreneurship is a lifestyle, not a 9-to-5 gig. You’ll be moving three steps forward on some days and two steps back on others. Enjoy all the steps forward and remember them when the forward motion stalls. You will get going again, so enjoy those moments and let them sustain you when it’s hard. Anything worth having is hard. Keep going, enjoy the journey, and stay in the fight.
And if you should see me at an ATDC event, introduce yourself and tell me about your new business!