3 (Non-Obvious) Small Business Start-Up Tips

By Jamie Begin, RightBrain Networks CTO

You’re the best salesman your company will ever have.

I too frequently hear introverted technical people say “But I’m horrible at sales.” This is largely a misunderstanding about what “sales” actually is. If you’re selling the correct way, it’s just a conversation to discover if and how you can help someone solve a particular problem. Sales not about converting the skeptical, but rather guiding the willing through the sales cycle. It’s important to keep in mind that selling is much more about processes than an innate talent. It can be learned–needs to be learned–because no one you hire will ever have the same passion for your product or service that you do. And, if you enjoy helping solve problems, selling is actually a lot of fun.

Counterintuitively, the proper time to hire your first salesperson is when you’re bringing in too much business yourself. A smart salesperson is going to want to be able to make a lot of money rather quickly. As an unproven small business, the best way you can do that is to immediately backfill your new hire’s pipeline with existing relationships and deals. This gives them the time and opportunity to learn your business while being able to afford to eat.

Nobody is going to give you a lick of respect until you’re earning real money.

Venturing out on your own requires a lot of fortitude and hard work, but don’t expect many people around you to understand. And the landscape is littered with failed entrepreneurs–you’re not likely to get many kudos from fellow business owners either. It can be nerve-wracking to make such a huge life decision without feeling the support of your friends and family. But let go of the resentment; after all you truly do have to earn that respect through succeeding.

It does get better after you’ve made it over initial hurdle of being able to support yourself on a livable wage. But don’t expect everyone to begin high-fiving you. Unfortunately, in my experience, the skepticism sometimes morphs directly into envy. I’ve learned to simply accept the frequent loneliness of entrepreneurship rather than allowing it to alienate me from those I care about.

Treat every dollar like it’s your last.

When you’re starting a business, don’t go out and buy a new computer or order custom shirts with your embroidered logo. Don’t buy stuff in order to feel officially “in business.” It’s easy, as a new business owner, fall into the trap that you need to “spend money to make money.” That is wrong. The surest way to make money is to sell something.

Consistently trying to turn $1.00 into $1.20 over-and-over again will be one of the hardest things you’ll ever attempt. It’s much, much easier to control your spending. If your profit margins are 20%, that means you’ll need to make $6,500 worth of sales to simply break-even on that new MacBook you rationalized buying. That’s quite a hole to begin digging out of before you’re even in business.