I asked several Military Veteran Entrepreneurs what they would do were if they were starting their business today. This is what they had to say:
I would definitely ensure the founding team had all the skill sets we needed to run the business early on and that each of them were fully committed to the startup. We did not have our tech person fully onboard and as we began to ramp up, it became harder and harder to get that work done.
Learn the importance of Cashflow and a P&L statement. With a firm understanding and practical application of those documents, you can run a business reasonably, profitably, and with a lot less stress.
Focus on mentors more than investors. The more “people” relationships you build the less “money” investment you will need. Have a goal of becoming the mentor and giving back even more when it’s your turn.
As an online retailer, I would have learned more about how to effectively market online and spent more money doing that. Revenue growth and rapid customer acquisition are paramount to getting as quickly as possible to profitability. We focused on social media and preserving cash rather than trying to grow fast. We’ve been successful but we probably lost a year or two because we didn’t do more online marketing.
1) I would go intern for a startup who was doing something close to what I wanted to do and soak it all in. 2) I would network with all the stakeholders in my channel of partnership opportunities. 3) I would not make any assumptions! I would make data and behavior informed business decisions.
Tough question. I think I would look for a more scalable product or service. Ideally, I want to maximize the return on my effort and by providing a higher margin product that can reach more people or solve a greater need.
Find your customers. Whether you acquire them through networking, advertising, or choosing the right channel, where you can consistently get customers should be your top priority. No flow of customers, no flow of cash, means no business.
Know how to do each job within your company before you outsource it.
I wouldn’t hide. Starting online a few years ago, I was concerned about security and was very concerned with releasing my own identity online. Everything good has happened since just being me.
Find the experts in the field more quickly than I did. It takes a team.
I’d have made the decision to hire more senior level managers sooner rather than trying to develop every last employee in-house.
I would start a business that would make money from day one and avoid the “we’ll figure out how to make money later” trap that many consumer-focused founders fall into.
I would build as little in-house as possible if there are faster ways to validate key assumptions.
Have as much of the biz document templates (op agreement, LLC v C-corps, NDA, CIIA, RUPA, contractor agreement, advisor agreements, employee agreements, cap table, investor due diligence, etc) and internal biz processes created (equity and salary tables, etc).
I wish I had started with better equipment. I wasted a lot of time and money the first few years on machines and trucks that were beat-up. There is a difference between buying nice used stuff to save money, and buying lemons. I learned that the hard way.
I would put together as many plans as possible before I opened my doors, not just the business plan. I would make sure I had the marketing and social media plans fully fleshed out, a weekly plan as to how I was going to find those new customers, goals, etc. All of it fully fleshed out BEFORE I opened.
Raise money before I needed it.
I’d find the shortest road / fastest route to a lucrative problem my customers needed help fixing.
I would find a cofounder to start it with. At a minimum, I’d seek out mentors sooner. Being a solopreneur is tough because everything rides on you. Also, I’d start selling (evangelising) even before my product/service hit the market.
I would probably have fewer investors on my cap table by bundling them into an LLC and having one person manage that LLC. This is a logistical issue so not hugely critical but it became increasingly hard to manage so many investors. I would allow any investors above $50K-$100K to be on the cap table but try to bundle the smaller investors.
I would wait until I found the ‘right’ co-founder and not just the first one to say ‘yes’
Identify a specific monetization strategy and test it for product market fit.
Spent the first month focusing entirely on familiarizing myself with all the tools available for small business management, (Hootsuite, HubSpot, Sales Force, Contactually, MailChimp, etc) rather than trying to learn as I was also trying to run a business.
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