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6 things every new entrepreneur should know

Erin (Mack) McKelvey, CEO of SalientMGErin (Mack) McKelvey, CEO of SalientMG
Erin (Mack) McKelvey, CEO of SalientMGCourtesy of SalientMG

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 Erin (Mack) McKelvey, CEO of SalientMG.

Starting a business is similar to raising a child; sans a manual for what to expect. As a marketing executive and entrepreneur myself, here are a few pieces of advice for those looking to start their own company–many of which I wish I had heeded early on:

Focus on your product
To build a strong company foundation, focus your team on creating the best possible product from day one. Listen to customer feedback to help continuously evolve your product. You will spend less on marketing and will have stronger customer relationships if you have a go-to-market strategy from the beginning.

Wait to hire
Delay hiring as long as possible; but invest in contracted experts in finance, human resources, and legal. If you don’t fully understand the laws in all states where you operate and sell, there could be far greater costs down the line if you don’t invest in these essential experts. Hire when you have a staffing plan and the revenue to attract, retain, and engage employees. This is one of the hardest areas for all companies; as unforeseen circumstances can override even the best of plans.

Keep up with the market
Smaller organizations can (and should) move more nimbly than their larger competitors. This will help attract customers, investments or even an acquisition. Apply agility in every facet of your business. The first iPhone was released in June 2007; since then, Apple has released several iterations plus the iPod Touch, iPad, iWatch, etc. If a large product-obsessed company can move this fast, so can you.

Have a long-term strategy
Keep your eyes on the horizon, not in the rearview mirror. You cannot afford distractions; stay focused on executing your strategy and product roadmap. Evolve or seize opportunity only when it is highly-researched and ensured that it will bring strategic returns and long-term growth.

Choose your advisors wisely
The line of people ready to offer advice will be long. And it may be tempting to listen to them all–don’t. Many will be time-thieves, as they do not have a vested interest in your success. You don’t necessarily need formal advisors from day one; focus on building your company first. When it comes time, choose your advisors with great care. I have a board of advisors with diverse backgrounds from various industries with multiple levels of expertise.

Nurture your brand
Your initial customers will likely be from your personal network, so constantly nurture your brand. Utilize social media and thought leadership opportunities; speak at conferences that will further your business. Be selective with your time, but be visible. Be consistent and authentic. Think of your personal brand as a key driver of the company’s success, as investors invest in people; clients buy from people; and people work for people.

Read all answers to the Leadership Insider question: What advice would you give someone looking to start their own business?

Why this CEO believes an MBA is worthless by Tien Tzuo, CEO of Zuora.

How much would you sacrifice to start your own business? by Clara Shih, founder and CEO of Hearsay Social.

4 secrets behind a successful startup by Veenu Aishwarya, CEO of AUM LifeTech.

How this startup failed (twice) and still found success by Kevin Chou, co-founder and CEO of Kabam.

Are you resilient enough to start your own business? by Ryan Harwood, CEO of PureWow.

The most important lesson I learned as a tech CEO by Kyle Wong, CEO of Pixlee.

How to avoid a startup failure by Jim Yu, CEO and co-founder of BrightEdge.

3 things to consider before starting your own business by Sunil Rajaraman, co-founder of Scripted.com.

4 ways to persuade people to join your startup by Nir Polak, CEO and co-founder of Exabeam.

GoDaddy CEO’s 5 tips for aspiring entrepreneurs by Blake Irving, CEO of GoDaddy.