Four Musts When Starting a Business
After operating my own business for 10-plus years I often get asked by new entreprenuers starting out what things I think are most important to someone starting up a new business.
1. Focus on your craft, but become an expert at sales. When I started I thought that I needed to be the best I could be at what we do (information security, privacy, risk management) and how we do it (project management, professional services management). I have found over the years though that if you don’t understand the sales process and excel as a participant in it you can lose sales to firms that don’t know the craft as well as you and you can miss customer expectations. Truly every project begins with sales.
2. Find a good lawyer. Find a good accountant. I have had a good accountant almost from day one, John Davidson (no relation, really) from Kyles Hill. John’s taught me a lot about the financial side of business, sat beside me in negotiations as our CFO and given me a different perpsective that has helped me and Jacadis grow. We have had good legal work done but no attorney has given us th depth of the effort that John brought us on the accounting side. That, I believe, was a weakness in our formative years.
3. Take the time to write a simple business plan. Spend your time searching for a good simple business plan outline. Take the time to work through it. Focus on the directional issues. Why does your business exist? What does it do? Why do people need it? Who are your customers? Where do you find them? What do you need to do your work successfully? Can your idea scale? What do you need to scale? A solid business plan can be written in a weekend. Don’t put it on the shelf. I pull ours out every quarter to check our direction. Sometimes I adjust the plan with input from senior staff. Sometimes I adjust the work effort or activities. Regardless we make course corrections every quarter because the plan is a living guide for who we are, what we do and who we serve.
4. Design the business with security and privacy in mind. Really. We run our businesses off the fuel of information. Too often we have seen small businesses fail or struggle because they have lost the confidentiality of key information, lost access to key information or found that it became contaiminated and unusable. Larger businesses can absorb more damage. Many of them by virture of their size have these covered. Small businesses can’t absorb much damage. In the rush to focus on sales and craft many entrepreneurs forget the basics and leave their networks open to the outside, key customer data exposed or simply opt to save a few bucks and not back up their information. There are stories in the news regularly about business failures that were planning failures because business starters didn’t think about security and privacy at startup.