Kathy from Kat’s Kloset is working on an eBook for female entrepreneurs and she asked me what advice I would share about starting a business. I can’t think of any advice I would give to a woman that I wouldn’t also give to a man so I decided to open this up instead to the bigger question of what advice would I give any business person who was just starting out. Some of these are things I feel like I knew before starting out that gave me an edge and others are things I wish I knew before I started.

So, new business person, sit down and let me give you some advice from 13+ years in business. These are in no particular order.

  1. Remember that you are never an expert, there is always something more to learn. It doesn’t matter if the person you are talking to has a business twice the size of yours or half, always stay open to new ideas and learning opportunities. You are never too experienced to learn from other people’s ideas or mistakes and the day that you think you are is the day that you are finished.
  2. Be a nice person (aka don’t be a jerk). This goes for customers, other business people, heck, the random store clerk at Staples. Always err on the side of nice. Any bad customer can turn into a loyal one with a few kind words and business opportunities are often disguised as annoying situations with unpleasant strangers. Treat every person like they are a potential business contact or customer. Not only is it a just plain better way to live life, it can yield great rewards in business. Good things usually happen to nice people and a good reputation can boost your whole business.
  3. Just because something isn’t broke, doesn’t mean you shouldn’t have a plan on how to fix it. Many people subscribe to the old adage “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” In some cases, this applies but not business. If something works now, that is no guarantee that it will work tomorrow and if something worked for 20 years, it could still stop working any minute. Types of businesses become obsolete overnight and can change everything or that platform you rely on can do a 180 on policies that shut you down. Always have a back-up plan in reserve in case your current plan stops working and always be ready to roll with the punches so you can come up swinging. 
  4. Keep your ear to the ground, your finger on the pulse. There is new technology, methods and tools coming out all the time that can help your business. Stay informed about everything going on in your industry and, more importantly, as much as possible from outside your industry. If you are the person that realizes that what another totally different industry is doing can help your business, that will give you an edge over your competitors. Good idea don’t always come from the trades of your own industry. 
  5. Connect and share with your network. You’ve got friend, connections, family and all sorts of people in your personal network. Let them know your needs. You never know when a friend can become a customer or when a contact’s business can help your business out. Develop a network of favors and don’t be afraid to ask for help in the form of trading services or other assistance. As long as you follow Rule #2, most people are willing to help out. And, whenever possible, help out a fellow in need. You’d be amazed the ways it can come back to you. 

We should make this a meme. If you run a business, what peices of advice would you give to someone just starting out? (If you write up a post about this on your own blog, share the link with us below!)