General Business Do’s and Don’ts

While thinking through some potential blog post ideas a bunch of random thoughts came to me, so I thought I’d share some of those with you, as general do’s and don’ts which might apply to a new or existing business.

Please share your business do’s and don’ts in the comments section.

The Do’s

  • Have a plan, Stan (one of the fundamental keys to success for any business is having a solid written business plan – it’ll help when trying to secure financing also).
  • Learn the business by working for someone else in the same industry first.
  • Seek family support.
  • Select a business you have a passion for.
  • Consider starting a business on the side then growing it into a full-time ongoing concern.
  • Choose carefully your bookkeeping software (it’s a bitch to switch).
  • Know your expenses and learn to control them.
  • Assess your skills and training against the competition.
  • Get to know your competition so well that his wife asks you to pickup milk on the way home tonight (I jest).
  • Build an effective web site.
  • Copy your competitors (take what they do well and improve upon it).
  • Limit your liability (options may include franchising, partnership, incorporation, insurance).
  • Tap into family members or friends that own or run a successful business.  Take them for coffee.  Ask lots of questions and listen.
  • Make friends and build a support group by joining a local chamber of commerce, a trade organization, a business networking group.
  • Get to know your customers (they key is to listen to what they say).  They will probably be happy to tell you what they think of your business and what needs aren’t being met.
  • Take time out – to spend time with family and reset occasionally.
  • Have a succession plan (whether you’re planning on retiring eventually or mitigating the risk of an unplanned departure from the business, you’ll want to protect the family interest in the business).

The Don’ts

  • Start a business you don’t understand or enjoy.
  • Quit your job until the business plan is completed and the start-up activities are ready to go.
  • Let negative Nelly discourage you from taking a chance.
  • Try to do everything yourself.  Delegate or hire it out.
  • Risk all of the family assets.  Limit your losses to a pre-determined amount.
  • Repeat the mistakes others have made.  Talk to relatives or friends who have blown up a business and learn what not to do.
  • Compete with your employer while you’re still working for them (or until your non-compete agreement expires).
  • Rush into starting a business.  Take your time; make sure you are happy and committed to the business you’re starting.
  • Start a business that’s too expensive or too risky (you want a reasonable expectation of success, don’t you?).
  • Choose a business where you must have the lowest price to succeed.
  • Ignore the negative attributes of the proposed business (who wants to clean toilets every day?).
  • Let setbacks ruin your plans for success.
  • Get behind on receivables.
  • Use the shoe-box filing method.
  • Spread yourself too thin – focus on the things your business does well or generates the most revenue.

3 Comments on “General Business Do’s and Don’ts”

  1. mytooq says:

    As to the business plan, I would say not to get caught up too much on a formal business plan, unless you expect to go to the bank for financing.

    A “solid” plan takes a lot of time to put together and if you plan on self funding, an executive summary and a budget spreadsheet can go a long way and let you get down to business so you can make revenue much sooner. I’m not saying not to plan, but rather plan in a way that works for you.

    I also think that for a first time entrepreneur, you should build ‘pivot-ability’ into your plan, especially if you are working in tech. Things will change immensely during the time it takes you to build something from scratch (they will also take twice as long and cost twice as much).

    Another DO for the list: DO consult with both an accountant and a lawyer. While they have some up front costs, they will save you a fortune down the road and can guide you safely around a lot of pitfalls.

    My only other point of contention is choosing your bookkeeping software. Just use and forget those other guys. : )

    Good post Roy.

  2. Kat says:

    I’m a first timer in this realm. I’ve been told I have the personality to do self business… and so far, so good.

    I’ve been speaking to my insurance adviser on my own health insurance, other options and business insurance in which he will refer me to someone else that does that specifically. It’s nice having someone that knows this sort of stuff and does it as a job to help give you advice.

    For me the big question was finding if it fit with where I was going. As all these points were great… it’s really the person in it, too. Financial risk is one thing… but does it really suit you and your situation right now? If both of the answers are no to that… not even counting the money… don’t do it.

    My biggest thing so far was the “being alone” thing… for work at home situation. I found that having a nice desk by a huge window for sunshine and outdoor light really helps. If it’s business at home I strongly suggest not to shut yourself in a small office unless other things make you do it (like kids running around the house, for example). Also, I found going out to coffee shops and getting outside does wonders.

    Oh, and also getting a kitty.

    It’s more of the are you psychologically ready to do this angle I take… and for general business there are different things that may need to be considered. For self business at home was the “alone” factor. Some people love it, while others like me don’t like it as much, but at least I can say I’ve been more productive the more and more I get into this. So, I’ve been learning. Lots of learning, which is something I do like.

    For other businesses it may be are you comfortable with more financial risk… like launching a product.

    I would like a post if you could talk about these issues, because I would like to see what risks may associate to type of business.

    Sorry for all the chatter. :)

    • Roy Uchman says:

      Hi Kat,

      Thanks for reading this post. It’s interesting you mention that you have the “personality to do self business” – a post I’m working on will talk about the personality traits or characteristics of a successful entrepreneur. Hopefully you can provide some insight into that posting as well.

      You make some really good points in your comment; I’ve experienced these issues/feelings myself. It’s important for those who are thinking about taking the leap to be aware of how their “working conditions” may change and to put some thought into some strategies to deal with these challenges.

      This is a really interesting idea and I’ll give some thought into posting on the topic soon.

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