17 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting A Business
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17 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Starting A Business

1. Know why you are in business, have the right motives

If your motive is to be ‘rich quick’, then you will probably be disappointed. Not only is this an unreal assumption, it is not the right reason for doing something.

This does not mean that it cannot be a goal, but it must not be the underpinning motive for commencing the business.

If it is, then you will spend your time thinking about how you can cut costs and rip people off rather than concentrate on what you can provide and how you can make a difference for your clients. Forming long-term relationships is the only way to be successful in business.

The first step is to write down your reasons for starting the business and your goals for the next twelve months. If you are already in business and are struggling then maybe you should revisit this exercise and see if you are still on track.

2. Have a clear vision and establish core values

To be successful in any venture you will need to have a clear vision of what you are trying to achieve and how you are going to achieve it.

The ‘how’ will be determined by the core values you establish at the outset. These core values will also determine the culture of your business and will be reflected in the marketplace.

It is essential that you take time out to clarify your vision and to establish your core values, as this will affect your strategic plans.

3. Look after yourself

You will definitely experience highs and lows like you have never experienced before. It is OK to have business plans and strategies in place for your new venture, but what about putting strategies into place for yourself?

How will you handle the low times? How will you act when things are good? How will you handle your stress? How will you achieve life balance? These things are just as important for success as growing your business.

4. Get finance but don’t rely on the banks, they are simply not interested

You have heard the saying that money breeds money, well it is true. There are very few businesses that have such a rapid turnaround that they can survive without appropriate funding.

Ensure you have the finances required to establish the business and function for at least six months. This can vary according to the type of business.

Approach your bank, but realise that they only lend money to a new business if the business has a proven track record!!!

5. Speak to people who have done it and find a mentor

Take time to speak to people who have spent the time setting up a business. This can literally save you months or years of hard work and pain. Ask one of these people to be your mentor.

Set up a time once a month to discuss you progress and your dreams. Successful people speak to other people and are not afraid of sharing their ideas.

6. Have professional web sites and flyers etc

It is not expensive these days to set up a professional web site or to have your promotional materials professionally designed and printed.

The extra cost is worth it as it will determine how you are seen in the marketplace. People want to deal with companies that are not only good at what they do, but present themselves in a professional way.

Good promotional materials and a professional web site will also give the perception that your organisation is bigger than it really is. This is important when attracting new clients.

7. Gather testimonials

If you do a good job then people need to know. Ensure that you keep a portfolio of testimonials that can be sent to potential clients and can be used in your advertising materials.

If you don’t have testimonials then after completing a successful job ask your client to give you feedback in writing.

8. Be ethical

Many people make the mistake early on in business to be all things to all people. If you behave in an unethical way, even out of desperation, then it will eventually backfire on you.

Personal and professional ethics will ensure long-term success.

9. Good accountant/systems/admin person

Usually people start a business because they are good at what they do. They fail to realise the administrative nightmare that is waiting for them.

Often this is what shatters the dream. Employ someone, even for a few hours per week, to administer your accounts and legislative requirements and find a good accountant and lawyer who can help you with the more complex issues.

It will not only save you hours of work but will relieve your stress levels dramatically.

10. Specialise then diversify

Too often the need for cash flow will make you offer products and services that are outside of your expertise. Although it will stretch you professionally, usually you provide a second-class service and it inevitably does damage to our business.

Find what you are good at, concentrate on that and allow your business to diversify as you establish yourself in the marketplace.

11. Get good people around you

Don’t become a charity. Although it may cost you more money in the short-term, having professional people working with you will dramatically speed up the growth process of your business.

Even if you cannot employ them, make contacts and network through associations and special interest groups as much as possible.

12. Form alliances

Find ‘like-minded’ people and organisations that you can work with who will complement your business and you theirs. This immediately doubles the services and products that you can offer your clients.

It will be a ‘win-win’ situation for both parties. If you are threatened by other people, or organisations, then you will not be successful in business. However, be wise when forming alliances.

13. Read lots, subscribe to magazines and publications

When you are working alone or in a small team one of the greatest sources of information will be through magazines and books.

Don’t only subscribe to industry magazines, but read about what other industries are doing, as many of the ideas and skills are transferable. Read, read and read some more.

14. Watch your costs. Do they add value to the organisation?

Remember it is during the times when cash flow is good that you need to work harder, not sit back and relax, otherwise you will experience constant peaks and troughs.

Every time you spend money on the business ask yourself the question, ’Do I really need this and will it add to the business?’

15. Don’t sacrifice forever

Although you will definitely have to sacrifice in the first few years of any new venture, ensure that you do not allow yourself to fall into the victim mode.

Set yourself goals and stick to them. A good example is to allocate a commencement salary for yourself and then establish increments on a regular basis and stick to them.

There will always be something else to buy or pay for. Look after yourself as well as your clients.

16. Give time to your family and to those people who are important to you

The people closest to you are always the ones who suffer. Be aware of this so that you can stop yourself from potentially ruining good relationships. Don’t be too proud to apologise.

17. Celebrate your achievements

One of the best ways to remain motivated and to keep your dream alive is to celebrate your achievements. Set yourself rewards after specific assignments or at the end of the year.

Let people know the good things you have done. It will not only help you personally, but will allow others to see the progress you are making.

After saying all this there is nothing more exciting than having a dream and seeing it materialise.

Just speak to people and learn from their mistakes and victories. It could save you a lot of pain.

By Des Penny
CEO and Founder of Proteus Enterprises Pty Ltd


Proteus Leadership is one of Australia’s premier leadership training and development companies. Proteus Leadership provides leadership courses and management training to a range of industries and assists organisations to build positive workplace cultures, implement change and Create Great Leaders. Proteus also facilitates a range of world-class management courses, workshops, conferences and events across Australia and beyond with the sole purpose of bringing leaders together to connect and grow.

“Our core purpose is to Create Great Leaders that will in turn build Great companies and develop Great teams.”

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