There are so many different types of businesses, it’s hard to give blanket advice to everyone starting up. What works best for a single person, home-based biz won’t be completely the same as a tech company developing a new software product.
When I wrote 5 Things You Shouldn’t Spend Money On When Starting a Business it was geared to software and web-related companies because that’s my business. Many people agreed. Others did not, arguing that my advice wasn’t helpful for one type of business or another. The discussions was worth it.
Some things are ubiquitous when it comes to starting a business, no matter the type or structure. Hard work and execution come to mind. Passion for your idea. A willingness to explore opportunities.
But what about things that people don’t need when starting a business?
Dane Carlson expresses some strong opinions in his post 20 Things Not To Do Before Starting A Business. Dane’s getting lots of feedback, much of it polarized (some of it stupid and rude, which is a shame.) I expect Dane wrote the post to stir the pot!
Dane’s advice is well-suited for a single person starting an at-home business. There are plenty of successful entrepreneurs that fall into the “home-based business” category, but go beyond that and his advice breaks down substantially.
- Don’t incorporate. There are a number of clear advantages to incorporating a business, most often related to paying taxes and legal liability. Incorporating isn’t very expensive. It might not be the first thing you do, but I would strongly recommend you look at it closely; especially if there are partners involved.
- Don’t try and find a partner. Dane misses the boat on this one big time. He asks, “Why would you need a partner? For money? Don’t take loans. For sales? If you can’t sell your own product, no one will be able to.” On the latter point, Dane’s hitting on something important. But on the value of partners, he’s wrong.
Someone once told me that the best number of partners for starting a business is three. It makes sense. For starters, in a deadlock of opinions between two of the partners, the third one swings the vote. But it’s also a good number of people who can bring diverse skill sets to the table. No one can do everything. Nor does it make sense for one person to do everything. If you don’t need partners, great, but don’t shy away from finding people who can help.
- Don’t get a bank account. This follows along with Dane’s advice not to incorporate. He’s trying to minimize all of the setup you might spend time on before getting out there. In principal that’s not bad advice, but at the same time there are some basics – like setting up a bank account – that make sense. Even if you do it as a means of helping to organize your money, so personal and professional money, expenses, etc. don’t get overly mingled.
- Don’t hire an attorney or accountant. “Hire” is a big word. My suggestion is that you seek out the advice of an attorney and accountant when starting a new business. This is why it’s so important to network when you don’t actually need the connections. Attorneys and accountants can provide valuable advice and help. As well, you don’t want to be focused on the legal and financial issues of setting up and running your business; you want to be doing your business. That’s a big part of Dane’s advice in the first place – don’t waste time, get out there and make business happen – so his suggestion is counter to his own advice (although he also recommends outsourcing, which I strongly agree with.)
My recommendation is this: Seek out the advice of an attorney and accountant. Hopefully you have the contacts already. Then use the services of an attorney and accountant on an outsourced basis.
- Don’t get a loan. Better advice is this: “If you need money, figure out the least possible amount to succeed and get that.” Lots of businesses need some money to get started. And cash flow is always one of a startup’s biggest challenges, so a small float never hurt. But don’t overdo it. Getting money isn’t easy, and self-financing is always a great way to go if you can pull it off. But don’t be afraid to look for money, and remember there are lots of ways to do it.
- Don’t pick a business name or design a logo. Dane specifically refers to sole proprietorships here, so we know who his audience is. Even still, there are lots of advantages to picking a business name and designing a logo. Developing a corporate brand tied to your personal brand can be more effective than using just your personal brand. A corporate brand can look more professional, bigger, more “real” and give early customers confidence. It also gives you a bigger vision for what your business could become. Instead of being a 1-person company with your name, it’s got an identity onto itself that will grow, mature and evolve. Your business name and logo – they’re extensions of your identity, and they give you the chance to set the tone for your company.
- Don’t write a business plan. Very few early companies need an extensive, polished business plan. Even if you’re seeking financing you might not need one. But you do need something. Even someone starting a business out of their basement as a side project can benefit from putting their ideas on paper and structuring them; tackling key issues such as: mission, target market, money , marketing plan, etc. To ignore any form of planning is a surefire way to make unnecessary mistakes. And the act of planning and putting that plan on paper will give you the chance to refine and improve upon everything you were thinking about doing.
- Don’t get a business phone or mailing address. Not overly concerning one way or the other but it’s not a bad idea to create some separation between you and your business. Setting up a PO Box is easy and inexpensive. Getting a business cellphone is also pretty cheap. Before you start giving away personal information, think about who you’re giving it to, and think about the simple things you can setup to avoid any problems in the future.
Dane wants you out there selling fast to validate your idea.
That’s great advice. But it doesn’t preclude you from doing other things to help yourself, and create a structure around yourself to improve your chances. Your business won’t succeed without sales, but there are plenty of other pitfalls along the way too. One of those is handling and managing operational / setup issues, many of which Dane recommends you ignore.
What do you think?