10 tips: Avoiding the startup graveyard
Building your own business is a big gamble. Here are steps on how to play without losing your shirt.
NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Starting a business from scratch is the ultimate gamble, so before you throw in all of your chips, take some advice from a former airline executive who built a small business out of helping others build theirs.
Some 464,000 people on average start new businesses each month, according to the Kauffman Index of Entrepreneurial Activity.
But according to the Small Business Administration, only two-thirds of new businesses last at least two years, and 44 percent survive for at least four years.
So for those who have already gone down the entrepreneurial road or are just thinking about it, Neil Anderson, president of The Courage Group, a services firm for entrepreneurs, offers these tips for avoiding the startup graveyard.
1. Market and Sell
"Some of the best advice I got early on was this: You have to market and sell everyday, otherwise you will fail," said Anderson, author of Entrepreneurship, Emotional Roller Coaster. This will help you minimize the "entrepreneur ups and downs," which, he said, will be many.
The more potential customers or clients you can find and sign up, the more money you will bring in, and more importantly, the more bills you can pay.
2. Have a Sense of Urgency
Anderson insists that it will take twice as long as you think to get your business off the ground. Therefore, be careful not to coast on your initial capital. Treat every day and every dime like it was your last, right at day one when you open your new professional doors.
"This is one of my biggest, hardest lessons learned early on," said Anderson, who worked for American Airlines before starting his own business five years ago.
"After I got fired from the corporate world, I had a nice severance package, insurance to fall back on. I kind of cruised along during the first two years of The Courage Group. I did not have a sense of urgency until the bills were starting to go unpaid, creditors were calling, the electricity and phone were being turned off."
3. Hunker Down
During the down times you really have only one choice: Don't allow panic to set in; that will only lead to inaction and inaction can lead to business failure.
Anderson says his secret is Beethoven. "Listening to his music helped clear my head, helped me come up with solutions to a problem."
Whether your inspiration comes from Beethoven or The Beatles, the point is to have something that works for you.
4. Take Nothing for Granted
Never take a potential sale for granted. When a potential customer or client says, "Let's do the deal," don't get too excited, at least not right away. Don't go out on a spending spree, start immediately paying bills, thinking that the check will soon be forthcoming. Get excited only after you receive the check.
Along with Beethoven, Anderson swears by jogging. "Some of my best solutions to problems came during short jogs around the neighborhood."
In addition, a lot of small business owners may not have the money to buy health insurance right away, making it that much more imperative to stay in shape. (Read: Why small businesses shouldn't skimp on healthcare.)
6. Down with Negativity
Avoid people who are negative and try to bring you down. You need to stay positive and optimistic. People can be negative simply because, deep down, they are jealous that you had the courage to follow your own dream, not just talk about it.
"This is one of the biggest reasons people don't pursue their dream of business ownership," according to entrepreneur Jim Evanger, President of Designs Of The Interior, an interior design studio in Illinois.
"They get talked out of it," Evanger said. "You have to understand that many people are afraid to take the leap, and will talk others out of taking that leap as well in order to make themselves feel better about their fears."
7. Have a Daily Business Plan
Anderson says a business plan should be a work in motion. Having and executing such a plan can be a roadmap to success. It will force you to understand what you are doing that day and why you are doing it. Plus, it will help you be better prepared for meetings with investors and lenders.
8. Visualize Success
By visualizing success, you'll become more confident, and increased confidence breeds success. Remember, customers or clients prefer to do business with people who are successful, since they'll feel that buying services and products from successful business people will indeed help them.
9. Remember the Alternative
You need to keep telling yourself, especially during the down times, why you're doing this in the first place. Remember, you are trying to create a better future for you and your family.
Just visualizing yourself at the mercy of others controlling your life, playing corporate politics, reporting to incompetent bosses, and so on, should be sufficient motivation to keep your mind right, Anderson says.
10. See No. 1 Again!
When in doubt, go back to the basics of sales and marketing. Not only is it "imperative," Anderson says. It will ultimately determine your success or failure.