For New Businesses, Tried Answers Still Ring True
Business Solutions It’s never been easy to start a business. But doing so doesn’t have to mean starting from scratch, especially given certain new tools and attitudes.
In 1978, a California surfer named Brian Smith began selling the sheepskin boots popular in his native Australia under the brand name UGG. He had little entrepreneurial experience, and a lot to learn.
“The lack of information kept me forging ahead,” Smith joked. But he also said that the secret to success hasn’t changed in the decades since he started his company. “If you can find something that you can do better than anybody else and follow it, you’ll be pretty much assured to make a living out of it.”
Brave new world
For young people, starting their own businesses, Silicon Valley looms large. “The image of the Mark Zuckerberg young billionaire entrepreneur is a big pressure on millennials,” says Lindsey Pollak, a millennial workplace expert and the author of “Becoming the Boss: New Rules for the Next Generation of Leaders.”
“'Fundamental keys to business success have stayed the same, but more have been added,” Pollak says. “It’s gotten more complicated.'”
In reality, just like in previous generations, overnight successes are rare. But the push for quick growth is intense. “Life was a lot simpler when you could just send a letter and wait five days for the answer,” Smith laments. “Now people expect it instantaneously.”
Entrepreneurs who’ve grown up interconnected by the internet have an advantage. “I encourage millennial entrepreneurs to place an emphasis on building connections, something many in this generation have an innate knack for,” states Cindy Bates, the vice president, U.S. small and medium business and distribution at Microsoft. “These types of connections—either with mentors, other entrepreneurs or even simply people with expertise in an area different from your own—are invaluable.”
Often, details or technical issues trip up new entrepreneurs. “Fundamental keys to business success have stayed the same, but more have been added,” Pollak says. “It’s gotten more complicated.” She recommends finding a good accountant and lawyer, as well as someone who understands the tax code and insurance coverage.
Meanwhile, Smith suggests finding business plans online and tailoring them to the specific needs of the business, rather than starting from scratch. Reliable information technology support is also critical for a strong infrastructure. Fortunately, other new businesses can offer solutions. “The cloud is scalable,” Bates says, “so it allows small businesses to create a plan for growth without a significant up-front investment.”
“Don’t throw away everything that we know is smart and good from the past,” Pollak warns. “Keep the good, and add to it with what works today.”