The road to and through entrepreneurship isn’t easy. It’s not supposed to be. We read too much about billion dollar companies that seemingly come out of nowhere and grow to be overnight successes. Our 2019 Veteran Fellows sponsored by Smithfield Foods know this story all too well. Below, they share their best advice for the veteran innovators out there looking to start business of their own.
1. As veterans we’re really good at assessing and mitigating risk…don’t forget to do that to protect yourself as you bump through the entrepreneur journey! Are your partners taking the same risk you are? If not,there better be a good reason why. How lean is your operating? As uncomfortable as it may be, hold off on using your own money for as long as possible and leverage every free resource that you can find. Every few weeks, assess your own ‘available runway’, that is how much time you have to build a sustainable business. When you see the end of the runway appear in the distance, and you don’t forsee sustainability, you must either find additional resources to extend that runway or abort the takeoff, learn why your effort failed and pivot. Don’t be surprised by this, expect this along your journey to building a successful business!
2. Think of what you want to be doing 20 years from now. This is what your job should be. Your passion leads you in the direction of your job.
3. You don’t know everything. Surround yourself with people smarter than you, and give them the opportunity to help you grow your business.
4. Make a business plan. In fact, have a couple of plans. If you want people to ever take you seriously in your business venture, you must articulate your plans for generating revenue, marketing and budgeting. Banks, sponsors and potential clients and partners love to see that you have thought through these details and can share your opportunities and risks.
5. Get your personal finances in order! Make an effort to eliminate and minimize debt so that you can handle the the ups and downs of collecting payments during those first few years. Consider taking a class like Financial Peace University.
6. [BONUS TIP] In the military we knew deployments were going to be hard. No one had any rosy expectations when the ship pulled out of port. The same should be true of starting your own business. The more you expect the road to be tough, the easier it will be to handle the inevitable ups and downs.