About 20 years ago, my wife, Jamie, and I started Wedgewood Consulting Group. We built the business from scratch, led it for over a decade, and then sold it. We learned mountains of lessons, many of which I’ve discussed on LinkedIn over the years, including some of the stories which form the basis of the 5 Week Leadership Challenge.
Here are three tips I give to aspiring entrepreneurs on starting a business.
1. Make it a side hustle.
Jumping all in may sound exciting, but sometimes if you go all in right from the start you pay a price. If you have a job already, start your idea on the side and build from there. It may be a perfect idea right from the start and it’ll take off. Or you may find that what you thought was a brilliant idea is already out there, or nobody is interested, or the market is full. If it doesn’t work out, then you still have a paycheck coming in on the 1st and 15th and can try your next big idea. If you’re struggling for money, you may end up making decisions which are financially rewarding in the short-term, but which hurt the business in the long-term. Maintaining your 9-5 allows you the freedom to build the business the way you want. When Jamie and I started our business above our garage, I was working at KPMG and she was teaching at the University of Dayton (not to mention two small children aged 3 and 8). As the business grew, we burned the midnight oil to keep up until we were both able to quit our jobs.
2. Build it as if you’re going to sell it.
Many entrepreneurs dream of building a business and then selling it to retire early, but the reality is that when you first start out that’s beyond your wildest dreams. You make a ton of decisions in the early days that can be very consequential when the business is mature. If we had known we would sell our business 11 years after we started it, I would have changed a lot of decisions I made along the way. Think through the structure, the finances, the accounting, and everything else that will be inspected with a fine-tooth comb by an investor or buyer with a long-term mindset.
3. Don’t be afraid to ask people for their help or for their business.
You’ll be surprised how willing people will be to help you in your journey. Imagine if a friend called you to pick your brain about your area of expertise to help with their business, you would be delighted to help! Think about all of the people around you and what information they could have that could be useful to you. In fact, I just got off the phone a few hours ago with someone who is thinking about starting a business and called to ask for advice on setting it up. If you’re looking to do something, find someone who has done something similar and ask for help. Heck, they may even ask you to do some work for them; and, just like that, you have your first project.
Make it a great day! -Patrick
(photo courtesy of Unsplash.com)
Patrick Leddin, PhD is a speaker, global leadership consultant, and The Wall Street Journal bestselling author of The Five-Week Leadership Challenge. Patrick is an Associate Professor at Vanderbilt University with a thriving leadership blog and podcast, and 25-years of leadership experience. He offers an unparalleled mix of academic rigor and real-world experience.