The Top 5 Things NOT TO DO Your First Year in Business

Top 5 things not to do your first year in business When I started Clue Consulting, LLC on December 12, 2012 I did not have a clue (pun intended) what I was getting myself into. This post is about a month late (I was dealing with bloggy issues and all), but the lessons learned are still very relevant. So, let’s get to it.

The Top 5 Things NOT TO DO Your First Year in Business

1) Don’t start a business based solely on being an expert at something. I’m a business management expert. And hell, I oughtta be considering I’ve worked in my field for over 16 years and have two graduate degrees to back up my extensive experience. As an analyst, executive assistant, and project manager I’ve worked alongside the most senior leadership in the organizations I’ve supported – and I became a master along the way. So, when I decided to start a business, an administrative consulting firm seemed like a natural fit. Except it turns out it wasn’t. After working with my first-ever business coach I realized that my true passion lied in supporting moms. Thus, The Mommyhood Mentorยฎ was born. I still have my consultancy though, thanks to a few awesome team members who take on the work while I do all the managing. It’s a win-win.

2) Don’t be afraid to change. Speaking of number one, it took me months of agonizing and fretting over what people would think or how much it would cost to build a new site or how much I had already invested in Clue to finally decide to stop splitting my focus. You have to find what sparks your core and then light that fire. Your first year in business is all about discovery. Figuring out what you like, what works best, and dropping what doesn’t fit.

3) Never go to a networking meeting or event without having practiced your elevator speech. My first networking meeting, in January of last year, had me tongue tied when asked “so, what do you do?” I knew what my business was about – I think – but explaining it in 30 seconds or less, now that was a challenge. I hadn’t written anything down, I hadn’t practiced in the mirror, I didn’t run anything by my sister first. Big. Mistake.

4) Don’t order marketing materials until you are super clear on your message. I went sorta – okay, really. like totally nuts insane – wild with Vistaprint. Everything was so neat. I was ordering business cards left and right and then left again. I ordered labels, rack cards, post cards, well you can see where this is going. A couple of weeks after ordering my materials, I changed my message. And not just a word or two. The whole frikin’ thing. So, best to wait until you are totally sure and absolutely positive about what your marketing message will be before you start buying up the store.

5) Never waste your time on tasks that should be outsourced. This one is funny coming from someone whose business is to alleviate the burden from other entrepreneurs. But, we are always famous for not taking our own advice, aren’t we? It took me months to realize how much of my own time I was wasting doing everything myself. Just because you are good at it doesn’t mean you should be doing it. Anything that takes you away from the tasks that make you money should be farmed out.

I want to hear from you!

Tell me your top lessons learned your first year in business. Please leave me a comment below and let’s have a discussion.

Comments 73

  1. These are some awesome tips. I really enjoy reading all your wisdom and what you have learned through trial and error. Thank you for all you do. God Bless

  2. These are great suggestions. I am working on starting my own small business. This information has really helped. Thank you. God Bless

  3. Pingback: The Six-Figure Blog Myth {and what to focus on instead}

  4. My online clothing store has already failed so I see everything in hindsight. Wish I’d taken heed of #5 and #3 especially. My store had differing styles and price points so my elevator speech was going to suffer anyway. (Being honest.) The outsourcing plan should ALWAYS include an outsourcing budget.

  5. I needed to read this today. Especially the tip about outsourcing. I get so bogged down in trying to just get the stuff done that I forget there are resources for all that “stuff” that I shouldn’t be focusing on.

  6. I can’t agree more with point number five.

    I’ve been in business for myself for some time now and realized really quickly doing everything myself just won’t work. Once I hired people and outsourced certain parts of my daily business operations things started to grow much faster.

  7. This is a great list and I have totally made some of these mistakes. I am always sort of hung up on my message. I think I just have trouble sticking to one thing. It’s the main reason I have never gotten a tattoo. I know I will change my mind just a few days later. It’s really tough sometimes when you have sort of broad interests and talents. Thanks for the tips. I am going to work on getting myself more focused!

  8. Hi Carin
    Stumbled upon your blog and your advice was archived straight away under “REMEMBER THIS” ๐Ÿ™‚ I do not yet have a business and am not sure whether I want one as such, but I am trying to discover what my passions and talents are (I might very well have committed mistake no. 1 ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I look forward to following your blog!
    Regards,
    Stine

  9. Great article! I think many of us do fall under the idea that we can do everything ourselves and save money that way. However, if you want to maintain some sanity, it’s best to outsource what needs to be outsourced. You can have someone take care of your social media campaigns and you can spend that time doing other important tasks. Thanks for sharing!

  10. Great tips although I am confused by number 1. I think you should know everything or closee to everything about your business. I guess perhaps it could be the business youre in though? We have had a carpentry bbusiness for over 30 years and although we have learned along the way even starting out we knew alot. Our problem was more of he outsourcing and trusting others to do a good job.

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      Hi Ellen! I’m not saying you shouldn’t be an expert at what you start a business doing, I’m saying that being an expert isn’t the only factor. You also need passion for what you do in order to push through the doubts, fear, and hard times to create your labor of love. I lucked out in that I’m just as much of an expert in being a mom as I am in business management. So, it works for me to have both my businesses which are in two different areas. Thanks so much for stopping by and adding your perspective!.:-)

  11. Elevator Speech – the best piece of advice here! Get that elevator speech perfectly rehearsed – you never know when someone will ask about your business! You need it to roll off your tongue without batting an eyelash!

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  12. Great tips! It’s definitely a good idea to have everything figured out before you do much with marketing or reaching out. And it’s ALWAYS nice to have extra help when you need it.

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  13. This was very helpful, thank you. Although I’ve found that my fear of things changing has actually prevented me from perfecting my elevator speech or ordering ANY stationery…

  14. Thanks for the post with some great advice. I’ve always heard, the secret of success is doing what you love and finding a way to make money doing it. Also, the only constant in life IS change. So #2 is good to remember!

  15. This is excellent advice. I totally agree with #2,ddon’t be afraid to change. Sometimes a little change is necessary to get what we want and need.

  16. great tips i think everyone should go by, i know when i was younger i don’t think i did anything for months until i found out exactly what i wanted to do and say, even how it should be said,, I have made huge mistakes but rewarded later for learning ๐Ÿ™‚ thanks for sharing @tisonlyme143

  17. My biggest challendge is Never waste your time on tasks that should be outsourced – I alwasy feel like its got to be me that does everything because I know how I well I will do something how complete etc… but if you do everything you will end up going crazy.

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      Cynthia – that is a challenge that almost every single entrepreneur I’ve ever talked to has. Our businesses are like our babies – and we feel only we can care for them best. But the truth is we need help! And it’s not hard to find great resources. Thanks so much for sharing!:-)

  18. I really like your story . New businesses are confusing at first but you seem to be doing good . Lots of good advice !

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  19. I don’t have a business but I do listen to Dave Ramsey who always says don’t borrow money to start a business. A good way to start a business is to do it while you working your job, that way if your business doesn’t succeed you still have an income. Once your business is making close to what your income is then that’s the time to quit your job.

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  20. #2 and #4 resonated with me very much. When I first decided I wanted to start an online business I jumped around to so many different things. Finally I figured out what I really wanted to do. For me personally it was good to jump around like that though because that’s how I began to develop a clearer picture. I hope that makes sense! lol.

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      Hi Candace! I’m delighted to hear that the post resonated with you! That makes perfect sense – sometimes we have to try multiple things before we can figure out the right fit. I am glad you found your way! Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing with us:)

  21. thanks for sharing your top 5! I def can relate to #4) Donโ€™t order marketing materials until you are super clear on your message.
    For my blog, I only ordered business cards, and I am ok with this. It’s very helpful to have them on hand, vs searching in the purse for a pen/paper! This way, I can just give a card out to a friend.customer. ๐Ÿ™‚

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      Hi Karen! I agree – it is important to have business cards for your blog on-hand. I have passed mine out at every event I attend; and many folks have followed me or emailed me after. If not for them having the card with all of my blog & social media info, this would not have been possible. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing with us:)

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      I am dying laughing over here! Darcy, you are so funny I love it. And I am right there with you. My sister keeps asking me when I am going to throw away all the boxes of stuff I know I will never use in my business. I give her a blank stare. Lololol. Thank you for stopping by and brightening my day:)

  22. i think learning to differentiate between what should be done and what needs to be outsources is important. Another important thing is to learn to say no and ask right questions.

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      Hi Amar! All good additions to the lessons learned – and yes, such an important point about saying no. You really MUST learn to say NO! It took me a while to get there and I still backslide sometimes and take on something that I should not be spending my time on. Thanks so much for stopping by and for sharing with us:)

  23. I especially like your second point. I had what I thought were good, clear ideas to begin but my ideas evolved quite a bit and got more focused over time. As to the 4th, at least keep it simple. You might need a business card and some sort of flyer. Keep it very simple and order just a small print run. This connects to #2. As my focus, message, and logo evolved I too ended up with some unusable print materials.

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      Great point Nancy – you do need a small number of business cards and/or flyers to hand out at events and when networking. That is usually the first thing someone will ask “do you have a card?” or they hand you theirs and you definitely want to be ready to hand them yours. Thanks for stopping by and sharing with us:)

  24. I think I’ve been pretty good so far, I’m still within my first year time frame though. The biggest lesson I’ve learned is to know when things are a good fit for you. If they aren’t a good fit, move on and find something/someplace/group that is, don’t continue to spend money on something that isn’t beneficial to you or your brand/business.

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      Mimi! Such a great point – you have to make sure you are getting an adequate return on your investments – whatever adequate is depends on what you value most. Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing with us:)

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  25. I love this post. Here are some of my lessons:
    1. Stop thinking that it is too early to hire someone to help your business grow. Hire an experienced and accomplished business coach or consultant as a guide. They will save you money and time.
    2. Avoid spending marketing dollars on things (especially print ads) until you are sure where your ideal clients are hanging out and what they are reading.
    3. Avoid the shiny object syndrome (signing up for any and everything). Everything looks exciting when you are first starting out – wait, it still looks exciting. Be very clear on what your goals are and the skill set that you need to achieve them. It will save you lots of money.
    4. Stop taking advice from family and friends that have never run a business before.

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  26. Oh my goodness, I fell into a couple of these. And I want to reinforce, don’t be afraid of change because your business is always changing in the beginning because you learn more and adjust to it. Great article ๐Ÿ™‚

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      Thanks Joanne! So true about the ever-changing business… It definitely takes some getting used to (the continuous cycles of change) and now I embrace it. I know that every time I iterate, I am improving and learning. Thanks so much for stopping by:)

  27. Hello Carin,
    Read your Post with a big smile on my face.We all do the same mistake when we start our home based business.One thing I’ve learned NOT TO DO is the leave my friends and family out of my business.The first year,i was so excited to share the business opportunity with them but many were not interested in running a business.Lesson Learned: You cannot waste your time and energy trying to force people to become entrepreneurs.Now,i use social media to generate leads.Thank you for sharing your experience.

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      Hi Dikcinson โ€“ I have a big smile on my face knowing that I am NOT alone! Oh my gosh, that is a biggie โ€“ not trying to force family and friends to jump on-board. I have also found that I canโ€™t even really discuss all of my ideas or business news in some circles because they just donโ€™t get it (and donโ€™t care to). This is what Mastermind groups have been so beneficial. Like-minded is either there or it isn’t. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing with us:)

  28. There are good ideas here. I remember a client who signed a contract to rent an entire floor of an office building for her business when she did not have a single client. After two months she moved to another business idea. So your Vistaprint purchase was minor by comparison.

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      Hi Janeane! Oh wow, OK I don’t feel so bad now. Lol. It’s nice to know that it’s normal to leap first sometimes. Many people have commented to me in email and on social media that they did the same things – made purchases and commitments only to change the business model, message, or industry completely right after. Thanks so much for visiting and sharing with us:)

      1. There is something for what Janeane has stated…We want to think big and have our dreams to come true when we start our business, blog or even our “dream”; however, small steps are a good thing. Even when these road blocks do come before us, it is often a time to stop and reflect on the things that we have accomplished. I really like each of your top 5 suggestions, and I’ll keep then close to me at all times. Thanks so much for sharing!

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  29. As a business owner, my main issue it taking on too much. I have learned to outsource many of the finer details, because the knowledge base for them is greater than I possess. It was hard accepting that I can’t do it all.

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      Hi Elizabeth – that is a common “issue” for most entrepreneurs. Especially ones who are very hands-on and into the details of their businesses. Even I had trouble with it, and my company serves as a resource for other business owners, so I definitely get the struggle. The most eye-opening exercise is comparing how much it costs for you to do the tasks yourself versus outsourcing. It’s amazing how much we cost ourselves trying to be super-entrepreneur.

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