The Leadership Insider network is an online community where the most thoughtful and influential people in business contribute answers to timely questions about careers and leadership. Today’s answer to the question “What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?” is by Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy.
The dream of starting your own business, of being your own boss, and becoming financially independent is more within reach today than any other time in history. Businesses can get started with little to no capital thanks to the Internet and thrive without outside investment. Yet, even with risks lower than ever and rewards closer in sight, the idea of starting a business of your own is a daunting one. After years of working in big tech and consulting for businesses of all sizes, I’ve found that there are five basic principles that all successful entrepreneurs should know. Of course, there is no ready-paved road to success, but anyone hoping to start their own venture will be off to a good start with these values in mind:
Know your customer
There is nothing more important in business than understanding your customer and knowing how you can serve them better than anyone else. This is far more critical than having the most persuasive business plan, choosing the best location in town, or acquiring an overabundance of funding. This may seem obvious, but it’s often overlooked. When I hear a business pitch that says “our target customer is every adult in America,” or the like, I know trouble is ahead. Your customer will never be everyone. Recognizing exactly who you want to target is hard work, so go beyond just knowing your customer; understand what makes them tic and how your service can best serve that need. The ups and downs of running your own business are taxing. Loving what you do—and who you do it for—can make all the difference in the world when it comes to getting through challenging times.
Know when to take risks
Everyone starting a business should have a business plan—that’s a given. But knowing how much to plan and when to just dive in can be tough. You will never have a 100% clear view of your market, total confidence in economic trends, or complete certainty on your returns. Don’t let that be an excuse for your failure to launch. There may never be better time than now to make your dream happen.
Know when to take advice
Starting your own business is your dream–not the banks or the venture fund. It’s up to you to make it a success and ultimately, your responsibility if it fails. If you’re hitting brick walls with every pitch you make, there’s a possibility that your idea may need major changes. While I wouldn’t recommend that you blindly follow every piece of advice you’re given, you should take into consideration any input you receive and review it closely. Naysayers, on the other hand, are in their own category. The number of naysayers that you’ll come across when starting your business will be surprising and who they are can often be disheartening. Your parents, siblings, close friends and trusted coworkers will all chime in on your plans. If they’re only radiating fear or negativity, you have no option but to ignore them and move ahead.
Know when to ask for help
Just because you can start a business with no capital doesn’t mean you should start your business with no capital. The power of the Internet to lower barriers to entry is incredible, but it also enables you to half-commit. Don’t mistake timidity for thrift. If your business plan calls for investment, do the work to find that investment. That exercise will also help you hone your strategy, test out your assumptions, and give the confidence you need to move forward.
Are you self-motivated? Are you resilient to long stretches of seemingly unrewarding work? Can you afford to work for no pay for the foreseeable future? These are just a few of the questions you need to ask yourself and honestly answer before you strike out on your own. If you are looking for a fast way to get rich or a way to look impressive to your peers, it’s unlikely you’ll find success at the end of your journey. The businesses I’ve seen succeed are ones fueled by creative ingenuity, passionate about their ideas, and focused on delivering exceptional service in their community.