What is your biggest disappointment in starting your new business?

Deutsch: Start des Stockholmmarathons 2009
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The answer to the question of “What has been your biggest disappointment since you started on your journey of establishing your business?” from a new start-up owner is surprising:

He said that it was the length of time that it has taken to establish his new business, the detours that he has taken on the way.

This answer comes from an entrepreneur who has established software to help small businesses determine their cash flow, including their outstanding debtors.

It’s not the kind of topic that you see discussed in glossy small business magazines and texts on starting your own small business from scratch. These media are usually upbeat about starting small businesses, cheering them on and encouraging them to get started as soon as possible before it’s too late.

Underlying this buoyant optimism is often the need to sell the magazine itself by drawing in would-be small business owners or to help their advertisers sell associated products such as bank loans, accounting software, company registration services, legal services and office space.

One local glossy business magazine recently featured a website business owner on their front cover with an upbeat article inside about the entrepreneur. Only when you got to the end of article and read between the lines were you able to find out that this business owner is barely able to cover expenses after four years of operation.

Four years may seem a very long time for someone who needs to generate a profit and making income to support even the most modest living standards. A period of four years is hardly the time that most would-be entrepreneurs would consider waiting until they make a decent income from their investment in their business.

It’s okay if the business is an experimental or secondary income business that one of the partners in a householder started with a view towards making income in the longer term while the other partner provide financial support and living expenses.

The reality is that a start-up business can’t be set open up overnight and start to make profits in the first few months. Sometimes it may take 2 to 3 times longer just to do the planning for a new business, including the research that is required into customer needs and what to offer customers. The danger is that if you launch too fast you may introduce your customers to an inferior product or level of service that will give your business a bad name.

Customers who are buying similar products may not want to switch over to what you want for them unless there is a distinct advantage in terms of cost savings, better quality and better performance. It gets even more trickier when you uncover customers latent needs and try to anticipate what they’ll be wanting in the future. Will your customer research and understanding of their present needs eventually translate into sales for your business?

These days when we are accustomed to everything being instant, we also expect “instant” results from our efforts and in particular for those who are starting a new business from scratch.

But it takes time to learn about customers, their needs wants and desires and how you could solve their problems better than competitors.

It’s easy to fall in love with your new business idea and think that customers are magically going to beat a path to your shop door or online site. This belief or attitude will only lead to disappointment.

Getting a business on a growth path often involves many twists and turns, suddenly countering the forces of disruptive innovation and finding the right partners and suppliers.

It’s important to bear in mind that establishing a business is not a 100 m sprint or one 42 km marathon but a series of marathons.

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