Striking out on your own to start a business can be intimidating. It feels like it’s all up to you to figure out what works and what doesn’t, and you feel the pressure to succeed.
But guess what? It’s not all on your shoulders alone, because you can draw on the collective wisdom of those who have done it before. Like Nicole Swartz, attorney and founder of The Sprout Society, where she helps women start and grow successful businesses. She is also featured as an expert in publications like the Washington Post (you could say she’s a pretty solid person to learn from).
In today’s episode, Nicole shares her advice on how to start your own business. Listen below!
1. The idea for a business isn’t as important as the execution
Chances are good that if you like your idea, there are other people out there who also will. That means it’s all down to how you go about selling it.
“I really think that any idea can be successful,” Nicole says. “I mean, someone became a millionaire selling pet rocks. So for me, the idea isn't as important as execution.”
2. Combine your three main interests into a company that never existed before
“My sort-of theory is that when you combine your three main interests into a company that never existed before—because no one thought to combine these three very specific things—I think that's when the magic happens,” Nicole explains.
With this strategy, you not only create an interesting new business idea; you also get to work with your passions.
What might this look like in practice? “In my business, my interests were law and business and working with women. And that's what I created with my company,” Nicole says. “One of my favorite clients, their interests are traveling and connecting people and luxurious vacations. And so they put together a travel company that connects women, specifically mothers and daughters, on these luxurious vacations. And that didn't exist before, because no one had that exact same combination of interest.”
3. The three key parts of a business plan are the company, the marketing, and the finances
When you’re building a business plan, start by answering these three key questions:
a. What is your company and where do you see it in 1, 5 or 10 years?
b. Who are you marketing towards? “A big mistake that people make with their business plan with their marketing is thinking that your dream client is everybody. And that's just not true at all.”
c. How much money is my target? “It feels very uncomfortable to even write down a number. But you just have to do it anyways. My first number was actually pretty small. But you're not going to get there unless you know where you're going.”
4. Know your legal registration options
Educate yourself on what company structures you can choose from for your business and what they mean, including:
- Sole proprietorship
- LLC (Limited Liability Company)
- C Corporation
- S Corporation
When it comes to registering your company: “Generally, it just means completing the government paperwork. Not everyone has to do that from day one. But there is a critical point where you need to register because your business is growing.”
5. Have a plan but be flexible
It’s good to have a plan but leave in some wiggle room for adjustments and pivots. “I just don't think that that's sustainable to just never change,” Nicole says. “One of the reasons why my law firm I think has been successful is because I’m adapting to the legal market.”
However, don’t go to the other extreme and be so flexible that you make any change someone suggests. “When you start your own business, everyone that you know comes out of the woodwork and they have advice for you. The biggest mistake that I made was listening to all of these people who meant really well, but they just had no business experience. Being more cautious about whose advice you take really does make a difference. I know I would have saved myself a lot of time and money and mistakes that I found someone whose business I really wanted to emulate, and listen to their advice above everyone else.”
In the end, remember that when you’re figuring out how to start your own business, you probably won’t do it perfectly right off the bat. Take the chance anyway. “In the beginning, I was really scared of making mistakes. It took me a long time to even start my business because I was just too worried about messing it up. Putting yourself out there and being uncomfortable and constantly learning is such a big part of it.”
Links and mentions from the episode:
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