15 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Starting My First Company

business knowledge

From a very young age, I loved the idea of starting a business. It helps that I grew up in a family full of entrepreneurs, so there’s no surprise that I launched my first company while I was in high school.

Since then, I’ve launched several businesses. Some succeeded, but most failed. While I made and lost a lot of money, each success or failure always led me to learn something new. So, looking back over my career, I’ve compiled 15 things I wish I’d known before I started my first business. Here they are:

Lesson #1: Swing for the fence

Here’s the deal: it takes as much effort to create a small company as it does to create a large one, so you might as well swing for the fences.

What does that look like? Well, the first question you have to ask is this: are you are a slugger or a base hitter? In other words, what is your tolerance for risk versus reward?

Employees are base hitters. Entrepreneurs, on the other hand, can be sluggers. While CEOs can make big money, most of the millionaires in America are entrepreneurs.

So the question is, where do you want to be? If my business partner and I focused all of our energy on our first business and tried to swing for the fences instead of creating a lifestyle business, we would have made much more money than we both currently have.

Lesson #2: Create a simple product

Some of the best products are simple. Take the iPad, for example. I bought my dad one and was about to tell him how to use it. He grabbed it from me, looked at it (the iPad was on already) and started swiping away. He didn’t need a degree in rocket science. The same is true for products and services like Google and Amazon.

Unfortunately, I entered the business world thinking that great products were complicated. They had every gadget and cool feature imaginable. The thing with complicated products, even if they do solve great problems, is that 94% of people abandon them because they find them difficult to operate.

When I first started out as an entrepreneur, I used to try to create products and websites that had every single feature that you can imagine…boy, do I regret it.

A good example of this is VeriSign, the e-commerce authentication company. It is kind of complicated. People didn’t understand right off the bat what the company did, which is why the company struggled until they figured out a clear and concise slogan: “The driver’s license for the internet.”

Now people instantly understand what VeriSign does, which is to help a business website gain trust with online customers. So, in the end, avoid making your products complicated. Keep them simple.

Lesson #3: Solve a problem

Crazy Egg was my real first success in business because my business partner and I started with a problem instead of a product. Once we figured out what that problem was, we started making the product.

Think about this: when you offer a product that solves a customer’s problem, it’s so much easier to sell. Just get them to admit there is a problem, and then offer your product as the solution.

Now, being simple to use and solving a problem are not the only things that make a product great. Here are two more:

  • Make the technology disappear - Whether it’s a Pixar movie or the iPhone, Apple products are great at using technology to solve problems, but they are also great at making you forget you are using it.
  • Make it personal - A product like Jittergram allows you to stitch together intimate moments into one stop-motion action movie. Facebook allows you to hook up with old friends. If you can make it personal, people will love it.

Lesson #4: Know your market’s price tolerance

The very first real job I had was selling vacuums door-to-door. These vacuums were really expensive, and I was also really young, so even though I was looking forward to the challenge of selling these vacuums, I didn’t really know what to expect.

Part of my presentation was to shampoo and clean the potential customers’ carpets, which I did for free. This got me in the door, and once in the door, I figured I could persuade them to buy the product. However, only one family bought a vacuum, and they eventually returned it because they got buyer’s remorse the following day.

I learned pretty quickly that I needed to be in a business where I sold something that people could afford. It’s a temptation to think that if you sell a high-end product, the customers will come, but that’s not always true. You have to know your market and what the price range is for your product value.

For instance, it took some time to figure out what the market would tolerate with KISSmetrics. After some testing, however, we found the optimal pricing strategy.

Lesson #5: Advertising is a must

At one point, I got fascinated with Monster.com’s business model. They made a ton of cash, and I wanted part of that, which is why I built a similar product I called Advice Monkey.

I poured a ton of energy and over $10,000 into Advice Monkey. I launched it and watched it go nowhere. What was wrong? I needed to market it, or it was going to fall flat.

After hiring and firing three Internet companies and watching my money get wasted, I decided I needed to learn how to do Internet marketing.

The unfortunate thing was I couldn’t do credit card transactions, so despite the buzz in the media over the product, I eventually had to close it.

Nonetheless, if you want to create a successful business, you can’t just rely on word of mouth. You have to understand marketing and learn how to drive eyeballs to your website.

Lesson #6: Payments should be easy

While it might sound obvious, if you don’t make it simple for people to pay you, you will struggle. Here are a few examples to prove my point:

  • Street vendors and food trucks have been at a huge disadvantage because of their inability to take credit cards. That was until Square came around with its product, which allowed the street vendors to accept credit cards on the iPhone or iPad.
  • Fast food companies accept credit cards for a reason: just about everybody has one, and the transaction is pretty seamless. Sure, there is a charge, but that is worth it when it comes to the time it saves.
  • PayPal allows big and small businesses and consultants to get paid immediately, no matter where their clients are in the world.

This is why it’s always best to figure out how you are going to accept money. And make sure you don’t have any roadblocks in the way of you making money such as requiring too many form fields on your checkout process. I used to do this because the more information you collect, the lower your credit card processing fees are, but I realized that reducing the fields increased my conversions, which more than made up for my extra credit card fees.

Lesson #7: Be patient

Since Crazy Egg was popular from the get go, my business partner and I thought our ship had come in and it was just a matter of time before all the money started rolling in.

I mean, we had a simple product that solved a lot of people’s problems, and tons of bloggers were writing positive things about the company. It was just a matter of time before the offers to buy the company would start coming in.

That never happened.

We eventually had to focus on profitably. Now the company does great, and we get inquires all the time to acquire the business. It just took us 5 years to get there.

You have to be patient. Don’t expect miracles to happen overnight.

Lesson #8: Premium prices have advantages

There is a temptation when you are starting out in business to keep your prices low so you can attract more clients. I tried that for a little while but quickly learned that those who liked lower prices also liked to complain a lot, especially in the world of consulting.

It’s not worth it.

On the other hand, charging premium prices has these four benefits:

  1. You appear like an authority - Charging premium prices must mean you are an expert in your field.
  2. You will get fewer complaints - Companies that have the money to afford you won’t make comments about the amount of money they are paying.
  3. You deliver excellent customer service - When you are only focusing on a small number of clients, you are able to deliver way better service.
  4. Your reputation grows - Your clients will start bragging about you because of the excellent service you deliver.

This is exactly what founder Matthew Wensig of StormPulse figured out. His company had a lot of small paying customers but changed its focus to big organizations like the White House. This narrowed the company’s customer base but raised its revenue.

Lesson #9: Free work can lead to lucrative work

Do you freak out when you hear about doing free work? Do you believe me when I say that doing free work can actually lead to more money?

Let me explain.

Every client you have could be an introduction to a bigger client. For instance, let’s say you are doing SEO for a small business that has a contract with a large company or organization. In fact, by your calculations, you could make ten times the amount if you worked with the large company.

So, ask the small company if it can introduce you to the right people in the big company, and tell your client that if you land a contract with that larger company, you’ll do all of the small company’s SEO work for free.

Think about it: if a small company is paying you $5,000 a month and a large company can pay you $50,000, you can afford to lose $5,000 because in the long run, you’ll be gaining $45,000 a month.

That’s huge, so swing for the fence!

Lesson #10: Never Stop Closing

While networking comes naturally to me and I was doing a lot of it while building my first few businesses, I could’ve done more. Another thing I could’ve done more of was closing.

Just meeting people, growing your contact list and building relationships will not grow your business. You need to actually look for clients and customers who will pay you.

Once you gain momentum and start to make good money, don’t stop. Once you get lazy and stop closing, you’ll stop making money. This is one of the main reasons my old consulting company never had a steady revenue growth…the finances looked more like a roller coaster.

Lesson #11: Eliminate everything else but the essentials

I can’t tell you how busy I was early in my career. I was trying to do everything and be everything. That definitely hurt me because I was spreading myself too thin.

Just look at Apple and its product line. You might think that it has a ton of products. The truth is it only has a handful. You can buy each product in a variety of ways, but the core product remains.

That, my friends, is focus. And it allowed the company to do several things very well:

  1. They could listen closely to what their customers were saying.
  2. They could create the products to meet the needs and desires of those customers.
  3. They could make those products the best in their category.

You can’t do a good job of building a business if you don’t focus. The golden rule in business is this: “Find the things in your business that make you the most money and focus on them. Eliminate everything else!”

Lesson #12: Always lock into your passion

I was making a lot of money back in the early days when I had the Internet marketing company, but the only problem was I didn’t really enjoy it.

Don’t get me wrong. I was very grateful for the money and the people who helped me build the business. But it felt too much like a real job, and that just wasn’t going to work.

If I was going to be successful long-term, I needed to find what I really enjoyed doing. If I was going to work 80 hours a week, I needed to love what I did.

But it’s also important to realize that passion alone won’t fuel a start up. In fact, excitement can actually cloud your thinking. You need to be realistic about your new business and prepare.

John Bradberry lists the secrets to startup success:

  • Prepare for your journey as an entrepreneur.
  • Develop a strong attachment to your customers and market and not your idea.
  • Create a plan to break even, secure funds and get profitability.
  • Execute on your plan, but be flexible.
  • Ask for and listen to advice constantly. This will help you keep the blinders off.
  • Give your business time to grow.

Passion is great, but it must be tempered by planning and preparation.

Lesson #13: Hire carefully

In the beginning, there is a temptation to hire anyone: friends, family or personal recommendations. When I first started out, I made this mistake.

This definitely is the wrong way to hire. Over time, I’ve developed a process to evaluate those who I hire:

  • Test the waters yourself - You can’t hire effectively unless you understand what that person is going to do. Spend two weeks in that position even if you hate it or are not that great at it. This will help you get a sense of the job and the pay.
  • Develop a process - Each new hire should be able to be dropped into a job with all of the things they need to succeed. This includes training manuals, orientation, FAQs and proper supervision. The success of that hire will depend on the quality of this process.
  • Forget about pay - Some people will work their tails off whether you pay them $20,000 or $250,000. Other people will goof off and watch the clock. Find out what people are passionate about, and pay will become secondary.
  • Consider more than talent - A talented professional may not fit into your culture or he/she may not get what you do or sell. A great way to evaluate these two aspects is to get other employees to interview your potential candidates.

Hiring isn’t an easy thing to do, so my advice to new entrepreneurs is always to hire slowly and fire fast.

Lesson #14: Smart people learn from other people’s mistakes

Early in my career I learned from my own mistakes instead of researching why others in the space or in business in general failed. Had I avoided those mistakes, I would have increased my odds of succeeding.

This is true in business and in life.

See, life is too short to expect that you can learn all the necessary lessons from your own mistakes. That’s why it’s essential you watch others and learn how not to repeat their mistakes. Average people learn from their mistakes. Smart people learn from other people’s mistakes.

So, how do you do that? Here are some tips:

  • Get a mentor: Find someone who is older than you and more experienced than you. They don’t necessarily have to be in the same industry as you, but if they are, that’s a bonus. Ask them what their biggest failures were and what lessons they learned.
  • Read about business failures: People and companies are pretty open about sharing their failures online or in books, so scoop these stories up. Think of Research in Motion or Turntable.fm.

In the end, try to pay attention to other people’s mistakes to keep yourself out of trouble.

Lesson #15: Cash is king

Even though I’m young, I’ve started and run several businesses. I probably have as much experience as guys twice my age. So, what’s the number one lesson I learned?

Cash is king.

You will not survive if you don’t have it coming in. And if you do have it coming in, you need to conserve it; otherwise, you won’t survive for long.

You can’t trust the economy. Some years you’ll make a lot of money, and some years you won’t make very much. Here’s what you should do to save cash:

  • Use volunteers and interns - Instead of hiring people, ask people if they volunteer a few hours of their time. Or look for students who are looking for experience.
  • Work like a slave - You and your founders should be putting in 60+ hours a week even if you aren’t getting paid. It’s expensive to hire people, especially when you first start off, which means you will have to work your tail off.
  • Resist a fat salary - Go lean until you are certain your business can survive a huge salary.
  • Don’t buy expensive office furniture - Can you rent furniture? Pick it up at the Goodwill or Salvation Army? Surf freecycle to see what people are giving away.
  • Keep the office space at a minimum - The overhead is what kills so many businesses, so don’t lease big and think you’ll grow into it. Lease small and deal with the discomfort until the money is there.

Conclusion

Even though I made a lot of mistakes in my career, I don’t regret making them. They have lead to some awesome insights, and I’ve gained tons experience in the meantime.

Besides, each lesson was a stepping stone to my next business. That means both KISSmetrics and Crazy Egg are stepping stones too, and I’ll be able to write a post about the lessons I will have learned over the coming ten years.

What lessons do you wish you would’ve learned early on in your career?

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Comments

  1. Neil thankfully I ran across your blog at the right time. Very good information all around!

  2. Neil…. you are a genius…FACT! Keep the good work coming ;)

  3. Andrew Warner :

    Good point about charging more. I can see how it would have helped me.

  4. Really helpful as I am considering “relaunching” my company with more focus.

  5. Hi Neil,

    I’ve learned, starting a business is not easy, if it were everyone would be doing the easy business.

    Today’s world calls for thinking out of the box and being unique. You just can’t be like everybody else. Your uniqueness is what will turn heads.

    Thanks for sharing this valuable post.

    Terry Conti

  6. This is a great list! I think number 1 is very important as well. I actually remember the interview with you and Andrew Warner which was part of your course (I think it was from there) when he said he was doing good making 6 figures but he didn’t put in 80 hours and deal with an entire business to just do “OK” and he grew his company and his cut after everything was somewhere in the teens of millions. Something along those lines I believe. I think that’s true because if you want to start a business, it’s important to think big.

    One thing that I have to add that wasn’t i your list was that setting realistic expectations is important. Some companies do grow super fast with a great product but for the most part, you won’t become a millionaire so fast. I expected to have loads of clients in the beginning but when you start a new company with a small business network, it takes a lot of time and networking to grow and get the ball rolling.

    -Amir

    • I agree Amir, for the majority it takes time and patience to build a company. So it is important to have realistic expectations like you said. Thanks for the additional thoughts.

  7. You nailed it. Wish I had read this two startups ago. ;-)

  8. Currently launching another company – MovingWorlds – and finding all 15 super relevant. Thanks for the great write-up!

  9. Mark Tishenko :

    Neil, great article. The points that you make are right on par with every business that I started. Every entrepreneur needs to know this. Thanks.

    MT

  10. Excellent post, Neil.

    I particularly like Lesson #8, “Premium prices have advantages,” and I have the same opinion. With my particular business, we get a lot inquiries from people who are just price shoppers, and fail to consider the quality of product they would be getting if they just paid a little more. I agree that by keeping our prices higher, we’re able to be seen as an authority. Sure, we do lose out on some potential clients who are just looking for a good deal, but we don’t view it as a loss. Being selective with our clients ultimately helps us provide a better service for them, and we enjoy providing it much more because of the profitable return.

    • I agree as well, too many people are in it for the bargain these days with so much competition available now with online shopping. The cheapest people are usually the most hassle with later anyways, I think being selective and not just giving away your services or products is definitely worthwhile in the end.

    • Thanks Erika,

      I am happy to hear what you specifically liked in this post. I appreciate you sharing your thoughts.

  11. Good to see you writing on business mistakes after a long time -:)

  12. Neil, I think this is one of the best posts I’ve read on your blog in a long time. It’s very inspiring as I’m thinking of starting a side freelance photography, web and graphic design business.

  13. Great post! Would love to hear more about how you have leveraged interns and college students in place of full time ‘experienced’ employees!

  14. Thanks Neil for sharing this. It’s wonderful. It’s the bible for entrepreneurs, now put the head down and start to work ;)

  15. Cool post. Never underestimate the power of keeping things simple, it’s the golden rule!

  16. I wish I’d found QuickSprout early in my IM career. People are charging for the kind of marketing strategies Neil gives away for free. Thanks very much.

  17. Great writeup Neil. You mentioned office space and as we are capped out in our current space (with lease due up in 4 months), we are looking at getting a space about 4 times the size of ours now. We have 7 internal employees with a handful more remote. The office space we are considering would seemingly be our home forever as we are building out the software as a service side as well. Given that this will be our third office space in three years and that we are now having more and more clients with $3,000 to $6,000 monthly retainers – do you think a bigger space would be suitable or do you feel we should just find a slightly bigger space on another 1 year lease and re-assess where things are at then? Just curious on how you would handle it. Thanks, Justin

    • I am a big believer of get what you need now and do short leases. Things can always change for the better or worse. There is no point in stretching yourself to thin.

  18. Awesome insight, thanks Neil!

  19. I really love this post. It is to the point and very precise. I have started a business or two and I agree with your points 100%. I’m currently working on new projects and it’s difficult to stay on task because there are some many things to do. Thanks

    • It is extremely difficult to run a business let alone two. Especially if you take on additional projects. I would suggest for you to focus on one and at most two until you have them running more or less smoothly. Pick the one that means the most to you and go for it.

  20. Kiran Puthran :

    Enterprising post. But the number one point in the list should be “Stop procrastinating”. Lot of entrepreneurs out there do not do the basic thing of documenting, channelizing and strategicing great idea which leads to disaster.

  21. Great post Neil.

    As an accountant in a previous life, I definitely have to agree that cash is king. Far to many people I know just focus on revenue, thinking the more revenue, the bigger the company, the better things are. I always have to remind them that they have to control their costs. And then I explain that while even an unprofitable company can stay in business for a while, an insolvent business is an ex business.

  22. Great post Neil! I especially liked your advice on hiring. I’ve also noticed that it can be tempting to hire family and friends that want to work with you, especially in this economy when so many are struggling. However, it makes so much more sense to have a thorough hiring process and making sure that you are bringing in the best people that are going to fit in well with the culture of your company.

  23. The part I love most is to always learn from others’ mistakes and not wait to learn from yours! Your points are great Neil, thanks.

  24. Hey Neil thanks for converting your learning into a transcript so other entrepreneurs will learn from your mistakes and information you configured is important for every beginner.

    Hope this guide will work for me !

  25. Neil,

    You should be teaching at TOP business schools! :)

    Wish you’d offer some training! Also, it’d be great to get some video posts. You are fascinating!

  26. I really enjoy reading your articles Neil, for me the first 3 years of business in Seo here in Montreal whas a real nighmare but not everythig is going smooth just like you said Work like a slave.

    Keep Up the good work

    SEO EXPERTS

  27. Thanks for your honesty Neil. This whole seo thing really is about connection and this blog makes me feel more connected to you. Good work

  28. Thanks for sharing these tips Neil. It helps beginners like me.

  29. Work like a slave..haha so true!

  30. Great tips Neil! Especially “Cash is King” and “Hire Slow, Fire Quick”. Not following the fire quick rule myself in one of my early businesses, nearly cost it its livelyhood.

  31. Thanks neil..very useful for my start-up

  32. Needless to say that this post is an excellent one, but that image above just made it more awesome! Great job, Neil!

  33. As always, great post Neil.

    This quote interests me: “If my business partner and I focused all of our energy on our first business and tried to swing for the fences instead of creating a lifestyle business, we would have made much more money than we both currently have.”

    Was it a conscious choice to build a ‘lifestyle business’ or something else, such as a lack of desire to get funding, that slowed you down?

  34. ravi khandelwal :

    hi, neal i guess u had solved some of my issues , i am learning a garment business frm my cousin brother, he is king of this business, i joined him as stipend and now i wanna start a partneship with my him , he had handed over his old propritership firm to me , had given me signing authority and told me tht wat ever the profit would be, we will going to share 50 -50 , what should i do , shld i do like this or i shld talk to him and do a legal partnership bt dnt knw he’s going to do it or not . i m confused , one this is sure without his support its imposible to grow in this business , bcz he as already finished most of his competitor and he has a solid hold on market and buyers.

  35. Hi Neil!

    Certainly every business men wants to know almost all the thing you mention above and I believe all these things a man can learn once he dig into the business and spent lots of time in it and stay focus on his goal and stick to his passion and eventually that’ll lead him to succeed.

  36. Neil, I noticed that you mention “partners” more than once. Do you always have partners when you start a new business?

  37. Hi Neil

    I can only but agree with all 15
    your advice is great.

    Thanks

  38. Rightly, Neil these are the must know things. I really enjoyed the post and honestly the first that ever seen till date. All the points really give a unique sense and seem smarter to effectively start business or company.This will definitely help to build a good initial base for the company. Thanks Neil for useful advice.

  39. Wow excellent post, full of serious tips that can and should help new start ups to focus from the get go and know exactly what to do, where to go and what to focus on.

    Tips like patience and doing things for free are very important. We live in a world that seems to idolize high paid sports players, film stars and musicians who appear to come out of nowhere giving the idea they became very wealthy very quickly.

    People do not see the years of graft they put in or the failures they had whilst creating the success they now have. This has warped the way most of the world sees success and business, many people seem to think it will happen easily and over night.

    There are some seriously valuable points in here that I believe will set many people straight about creating a business. I shall be sharing this post. Thanks again Neil (The one who never sleeps) Patel :-)

    Cheers
    Andi

  40. Again.. An awesome post. Neil..!!
    Thanks for sharing..

  41. What I really enjoy enjoy about your posts Neil is the commonsense you bring to everything! You’ve been there and done it -and it shows.

    So many new business owners seem to think they can take a huge salary early on and work less hours. It is refreshing to find someone who tells it how it is and doesn’t sound smug. It can be a lonely business starting and running a company so thank you for being honest and sharing your ups and downs.

    I am a regular follower of your blog and it’s a great read so long may you continue – thank you!

  42. Neil, thanks so much for this list, I am struggling to get my startup to profitability (I am patient) and your list is revealing that I am right about some of my ideas and thoughts. Great points taken, I will share this with other people who have similar problems.

  43. The one thing I wish I learned was how to avoid burning out when working like a slave. It was easy to work 80 hours a week at first but I could never keep that pace and still enjoy what I was doing. Great post Neil. Thank You.

  44. I think the biggest lesson is experience of how to handle business, people and processes. There is no short cut to it!

  45. On topic, I’d like to add something to #3. You can also “solve the problem better than everyone else.” For instance, every mechanic can fix cars; but a good mechanic is someone you won’t have to meet twice (unless you break your own car). Off-topic, your vacuum-selling history reminded me of Electrolux for some weird reason.

  46. I loved the article! I would be remiss not to point this out, though:

    “Use volunteers and interns – Instead of hiring people ask people if they will volunteer a few hours of their time. Or look for students who are looking for experience.”

    Be sure if you are looking for “free” labor that you are either a) a non-profit charity, or b) you truly are mentoring that intern. You will run afoul of the Fair Labor Standards Act (minimum wage/overtime) if you do not pay true employees. Calling someone a “volunteer” in you for-profit business isn’t going to fly. Interns are great, as long as they are not doing the work of someone that you would have hired to do the work. For example, if you get an intern to do “clerical work” and don’t pay the intern, and the clerical work is REAL work that you have to have done, then you are required to pay the person. An internship benefits the intern; not necessarily the business. People starting a company and hiring OR people with a long-standing business who are hiring for the first time would benefit themselves by being in contact with a professional to help them properly classify all workers so that they don’t encounter fines, penalties and what-not down the road.

  47. Being patient pays..
    It’s one of the most crucial factor when you start your own enterprise.
    True patience pays..
    Nice points highlighted Neil.

  48. I started my first business even before high school! I actually started offering web and graphics design services at the age of 13. My work was god-awful, but i actually got 3 clients! Not for web work, but for some brochure designs that actually came out pretty damn good for a 13 year old…and ever since then I never stopped being an entrepreneur. And like you Neil, I grew up in a family of entrepreneurs. Its just in our blood! :)))

  49. oha nd regarding #3; you could also use the ol’ mafia extortion trick…CREATE a problem for the customer, and then offer them a solution. ahahahah, i’m kidding of course

  50. this is definitely a very informative post.
    the point on making it easy to pay you is something i need to improve too.
    something i could share with my ebiz workshop students, since many of them are new to entrepreneurial world.
    thanks for the tips.

  51. How can I be an entrepreneur as a person who doesn’t like networking and talking with people?

  52. phikisani vuma :

    Great! cash is king.i got that.i once tried to start businesses but issues of cash flows brought me down.

  53. Neil,
    Great advice. The transition from the planning stage to actually generating income is where I stand now.
    Can you offer services like internet marketing while you are still learning all the ins and outs of the process?

  54. Great info again Neil, I’ve recently launched a company and think I just about can agree with all of your points

  55. Neil, you killed it here but i guess if you know all these things, maybe you might not be as successful as this.

    You’ll probably be watching your back instead of failing forward which you did.

    Sheyi

  56. Betty Victoria :

    Great tips u wrote Neil..
    We need more people like you here in Mexico.
    Your words will help me a lot….
    Thanks Neil!
    Keep that spirit!

  57. Lesson #12 is the key .. Always look for passion :-) this will build interest to take the company and business grow …

  58. Very informative article. Thanks Neil. I think no one should start a business before reading this.

  59. I’ve been in business for 11 years on my own and I have to say that I’ve had many more struggles and lessons than successes. What you’ve written above really hits the nail on the head, especially when talking about cash and making sure you budget it because when those tough times come, like 2009 and 2010, if you haven’t learned that lesson you’ll crash and burn. Great stuff here.

  60. I am so glad I read this article.. it really helped me a lot! very inspirational, especially now that I’m starting my blog, i can definitely take a bunch of your tips and apply it there. Btw, like you mentioned making the payment process easier, if you also want people to comment more maybe you should consider putting the box above all the previous comments? but hey, please don’t take it the wrong way, just my humble opinion.. Love your site!

  61. Hi Neil. You articles inspired me alot. But I have a doubt which is not clarified till now anywhere in the internet world. One of my sites is hit by Google Panda recently (since 3months) and not yet recovered. I have seen many articles in many blogs with big titles “how to recover your site from panda” but not even one article helped my site to get recover. I did all I can do in SEO. I didn’t even hear a single instance of any website that is actually recovered from Panda. So my question is “Is it really possible to recover from Panda?” or Leave that website and start a new one?

    • Hey Priya,

      If you read through my post and comments I am sure you can find what you are looking for.

      What You Ought to Do If You’ve Been Punished by Google’s Penguin Update
      goo.gl/GEzpt

  62. Starting with a problem – excellent advice. I have heard so many successful business people say that you have to provide a solution for people to want your product / service so I could not agree more. Thanks again for the quality advice Neil!

  63. nandish patel :

    This is an amazing post neil Thank you..

  64. Great post Neil, I’ve been down the wrong road with one or two of these over the years.

    Whilst it’s a great learning experience it’s a lot better to be warned about them and look out for possible mistakes before you make them! :-)

  65. Hey Neil,
    Point 8 on premium charges is something I have heard before and I think people do get scared at first because they are not sure of delivering. I am at that point at the moment but I will be sure to try it for my business.
    As for point 15, cash is king, very good lesson that needs to keep being repeated.
    Thanks alot for sharing this.

  66. Kerry O'Brien :

    Neil – I always say the School of Life has the most expensive tuition of them all. Thanks for helping us lower that tuition a little bit. I am going to go through each one of your experience tips and use those to think ahead and plan in my business.

  67. I would say Patience is my biggest problem. I want my site to become an overnight success and that just isn’t going to happen 90% of the time.

  68. Totally agree about your point regarding a Lifestyle Business. My business, if i’m truthful, was more about a lifestyle than making a fortune. However I soon realised that to get work I had to be professional, which ends up impacting on the Lifestyle advantage of running your own business. Lifestyle and being successful don’t go hand in hand. I am now successful but work far more hours to do so.

  69. Well done, Neil. Solid advice. Solid examples. It’s quite amazing how a tremendous idea usually doesn’t lead to a successful business.

    I’m currently researching a new business idea and my focus is to 150% completely understand the problems of my market reach. I’m done with trying to start a business based on a really cool idea.

    Thanks for your transparency and wisdom. I really enjoy learning from you.

  70. Thanks for this Neil.
    For me point number #5 & #7 were the most useful once.

    I refrain from advertising my brand/product. I think I gota change..

  71. Great advices and good examples, i love this article. I Just think you missed a part about market research, which is very important for success in any bussiness.

  72. Awesome tips, Neil. Especially love Lesson #1 – Swing for the fence. Some businesses are limited by the size of the market / product, and it really doesn’t take that much more effort to build something big.

    I’ve built at least one business that has grown about as big as it will ever be due to the size of the market. It’s a great niche business, but likely won’t ever be one I’ll sell for millions. Keeping your long-term options open is really important – you don’t want to limit your upside.

  73. I love using this article as a checklist to make sure my business is on the right path and we continue to stay the course. Thank you for your help; great article!

  74. Great information and I could really relate with some points. I find #8 to be very true. After launching my business back in 2004, with very competitive prices, potential customers kept asking me “why is it so cheap”. My low prices were actually making my customers think twice about using my services. After bumping the prices up, I found that my sales went up too!

  75. Many companies fail because they try to save money for not spending on advertising. I enjoyed your post a lot. Thanks. I’m a fan.

  76. I’m a big fan of your email newsletters and your blog. I couldn’t agree more with this post. Your writing is a real life example of the power of producing helpful content that goes viral because it’s genuine and relevant to the audience. Coming up with good stuff like this is tough… yes, I know I sound like a brown-noser, but I seriously aspire to write content like you one day!

  77. My name is Rafiul Alom and I’m working as a freelancer on oDesk for few years. I am a front-end web developer and I specially works with HTML, HTML5, CSS, CSS3, WordPress, jQuery, PHP, MySQL etc. I’m looking forward to build a team which will turn a company if everything goes well. Thank you very much for your nice suggestions though.

    Keep it up.

    My Skype ID is: rafiul.alom

  78. Great post!

    Seems like a lot of your problems stem from one thing: LACK OF FOCUS.

    If you had gotten control of the ADD, all of your other problems would have solved themselves ;-)

  79. Awesome read.. like the money is the king factor in the post,.. which is something true…

  80. Thanks for the tips Neil sure it will be more useful for my future company

  81. Awesome article Neil. Now these points will help me for a better planning for launching a new company in future.

  82. Hi Neil

    Thank’s for the good advice. I am starting my own little company and you are right about what you said in your post. This would be my List to do…and checklist….I am really glad that I stumbled in your Blog….

  83. Hi Neil
    What a fantastic simple article that is soooo helpful! Having launched my business less than one year ago and met with some success, i wish i had read you 6 months ago. Keeping an eye on expenditures you say is key..and i seem to have taken my eyes off of that one! So back to it! Your other points are also terrific – some i have heard but you present them in a simple straightforward way that made me print out your checklist and put it in front of my computer as a daily reminder.
    Thanks for your blog! Very helpful.

  84. This is amazing, my spirit was aroused again in starting a business, this is very helpful. thank you neil

  85. “Payments should be easy”! -> How i wish more startups or even businesses in general would listen to this.

  86. Hello Neil,
    I have all these business guides printed and sorted (just for my personal use)…You are genius and amazing guy, would love to meet you personally sometimes, but as I’m located in Southern Europe….maybe at some future networking event!

    One pile of articles are in Business/Advice category and others SEO/Blogging/Social Media/Design, I’m reading them all and taking notes in different colors.

    I’ll take a photo when they are all printed and read..! So much useful info to consume and actually use instantly! Maybe I’ll have a chance to actually make it up to you for this useful content for SUCCESS IN ONLINE MARKETING!

  87. Thanks for sharing your tips Neil. Starting a business takes lots of effort and enthusiasm, it also needs help from others, a firm belief in your vision and in my point of view, the most important thing is LUCK.

  88. One of my early jobs was selling Kirby Vacuum cleaners…hated but sold 3 before I quit so I beat you by two!

  89. Very nice and good tips! I will ad one to the list. :-) Never …ever forget what your customers need and want you to deliver. If you lose your focus on them… you lose the focus of your business. Nice article Neil!!! As usual… :-)

  90. I like to keep reading your article Neil, becuase I found some aspect of my life.
    I’m not succesfull as you , but some mistakes and some right decision are similar to yours

  91. Wow….neil you disclosed each and everything one should know before starting a company ….hatts off man…. u are such a nice person who thinks about everyone and not just yourself…. :) thanks brother
    Shubham

  92. Thanks for sharing your secrets with us neil :) i really appreciate your efforts

  93. Thanks for sharing. As a business owner who (along with my husband) built our company from scratch without prior business experience, I certainly understand what you are talking about here. I especially like your advice about patience, advertising, and hiring with caution.

    I recently shared my 5 things I wish I’d known before I started my business on my blog. I could have shared dozens more, because there was so much I learned along the way, but these were the top of the list: http://enterprisemom.com/5-things-i-wish-id-know-about-business-when-i-started/

  94. Hey,

    Excellent post.I think we should not spend all the budget in the start of campaign. We should go for low CPC keywords and then see how is the ROI coming.
    Thank you

  95. hey neil,
    you are right that smart people learn from others mistakes. in fact a person who learn from others mistakes is a genius i must say. this is an interesting post.

    Thanks.

    Matt

  96. Thanks for these awesome advices!

    “Lesson #12 – Always lock into your passion”
    Maybe, this is very important. You’d better try to start a business about something you enjoy.

  97. Hi!

    Hello!,,,,,Thanks Neil for sharing this. It’s wonderful. It’s the bible for entrepreneurs, now put the head down and start to work .Thank you so much!,,,,,,,,,,,,,,

  98. Great post!! I particularly like the first tip talking about “swinging for the fence”. If you are going to start your business, you should be going for it, all the way!

  99. This is the first real article I’ve read about being an entrepreneur. EVERYTHING rang true, keep expenses low, give it time, get a mentor, find a way to get traffic, solve a real problem and keep the product simple. Yes, yes, yes. Darn, I wish I read this article before I started my business. lol.

  100. Gr8 points Neil. Thinking of launching my own I.T firm in India. Will keep these points in mind while doing business. Thanks for this.

  101. Hello Neil,

    I really like this information and would love to pick your brain a little more in the financing aspect of your blog. What is the best way to go about this? I am also thinking of doing something out of the ordinary for my customer base. I am not sure it has been done, but i feel it is a great way to build loyalty and ownership for my future fitness business.

  102. It is your outlook in our life frequently changes how we see things. Sometimes this change is good and sometimes bad but it is our paradigm that controls how we act.

  103. Really helpful!!! This will help me w/ my start up.

    Cheers.

  104. If yyou wish for to obtaon a grdat deal from this piece of
    writing then you have to apply such techniques to your woon blog.

  105. Great post Neil. We’re far from starting but there are some great ideas here which will help us with some new developments.
    Thank you!

  106. Karen Morison :

    Valuable insights, Neil. Thanks for being open and honest. I want to add two cents from my few decades: Pay is important, as it keeps good people there longer, and it helps them be more able to focus on work rather than all the necessary distractions of life (mortgage payments, being able to buy the decent car they want, being able to pay for kids’ schools, etc.). Pay valuable people what they’re worth!

    Regarding hiring: you’re looking for talented people who will show initiative as well as fit within your culture, and understand what your business is about. Having employees interview someone is a great idea, but have several of them do it in a group. Most people don’t know how to conduct a decent interview. They talk too much or ask goofy questions. I interviewed at the Gates Foundation 13 TIMES with different staff members (one guy had only been there a few weeks) for one position — it was TORTURE and pretty useless, plus no single person knew what the others had learned in their interviews, and the impression your potential employee will get of your organization can be harmed. Also, consider that you might find the right person but at the wrong time, and find ways to either create a new position for them or stay in touch till you’re ready.

    I cannot emphasize enough the value of cash flow and keeping unnecessary expenses down. My husband always kept reminding me in my businesses: that dollar you don’t spend could go into your pocket or into the bank for when you need it. It really made a difference in our profitability.

    Finally, know your field. Knowledge helped me keep the clients coming in without missing a beat. I knew who was doing what and who could use my consulting services, often before they knew it. There are a lot of smart people, but not everyone has knowledge.

    Thanks for always being generous with your knowledge, Neil!

    • Karen, you should write a blog to expand on these topics. Great points :)
      I think hiring is a tough and dicey issue and these tips you provided are definitely helpful :)

  107. I am not one of your clients, but as I was reading I appreciated how you kept it 100. I feel like there is something more I should be doing. I have some failed attempts at some businesses. I will keep going. There has to be a light at the end of this tunnel. Thanks.

  108. Neil

    Brilliant! Just the informative, positive thought provoking read I needed on a Monday…

    Thank you

  109. This blog is a Masterpiece Neil.
    You can/should write a book based on this article. Even while reading I was wishing if this was a book, I’d buy it on the spot.

    I’ll bookmark this post until the book is out, I’m confident that it will come :)

  110. Hi Neil,
    Loved your post.
    I can truly resonate with Lesson #11: Eliminate everything else but the essentials.

    In our case, we are an IT solutions company operating in a highly competitive and price conscious market.

    We have been offering too many products and services (given how vast the IT field is) to customers since we want to be positioned as a ‘single point of contact’ for all their IT needs.

    However, its really hurting our focus in terms of marketing and has also had negative impacts in service delivery.
    We have unwillingly become the ‘jack of all trades’ within the IT field and are often positioning products to customers that we dont have any expertise in ourselves.

    I would truly like to only focus on a small set of highly profitable products / services, however, i’m confused on where to start and which current products to stop selling.

    Also, we are afraid that by reducing our product / service portfolio, we might risk losing potential customers.

    We have been attracting ‘bargain hunter’ customers who shop around and then pressure us to reduce our profit margins to unsustainable levels.

    Sorry, for the long comment – i guess what im trying to ask is :
    How do you know what products & services to choose that will give us a niche differentiation and high margins?

    • It’s based on what you know about the market and research. By analyzing who is also out there, knowing your space, and talking with your customers, you can eventually figure that out.

  111. Karein Langdell :

    Thank you Neil for posting this blog up! It gave me some great insight and helped me see what and what not to do. I’m actually looking into owning my own business some day. I actually already have a few ideas. But I’m just really stuck on how to start them exactly. I’m thinking of starting an online business and then maybe start expanding my business from online to the real world and setting up a store. But I just have no idea on how to get there, how and where to order the products I want to sell, and just how much money/time I would have to put into this. Any ideas on what I have to do first in order to start my own online business and where to go from there?

  112. It’s actually a nice and helpful piece of info.
    I’m glad that you simply shared this helpful info with us.
    Please keep us up to date like this. Thanks for sharing.

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