Tips for Starting and Succeeding in Your Own Business

In her September 2022 blog post on Zen Business, Business Know-How, Janet Attard provides tips well beyond the standard starting your business checklist.

Janet delves into important and sometimes overlooked questions like, what is the right business for you, what is your motivation, and who will build and manage your website or social media? What about record keeping, and tax payments, will you hire employees?  What about the market you are in, who are your competitors and how will you compete?

If you are planning to start a business Janet raises great questions that are worthy of your consideration to help ensure you are ready and ultimately successful.

Are you starting a company? Here are some important startup tips that will help you make your startup a success.

What do you need to do to start a business? There are dozens of websites that have checklists to remind you of the many tasks you should perform when starting a business. Although such checklists are very useful because they help you remember important startup steps, they’re just To-Do lists. They tell you what to do, but don’t provide any tips about what makes a business successful.

Unfortunately, you don’t succeed in business just by completing a list of tasks. Nor will your business be a success just because you think it’s a good idea.

What will make or break your business? What determines if it will be a success?

Here are some tips for starting a business and making it succeed

Know yourself, your true motivational level, the amount of money you can risk, and what you’re willing to do to be successful. Sure, we all want to make millions of dollars. But what are you willing to give up to reach that goal? How many hours a week will you work on an ongoing basis? How far out of your comfort zone are you willing to stretch? How far will your family stretch with you?

To be successful, keep your business plans in line with your personal and family goals and resources.

Choose the right business for you. The old formula — find a need and fill it — still works. It will always work. The key to success is finding needs that you can fill, that you want to fill, and that will produce enough income to build a profitable business.

Be sure there is a market for what you want to sell. One of the biggest mistakes startups make is to assume a lot of people will want to buy a particular product or service because the business owner likes the idea or knows one or two people who want the product or service.

To minimize your risk for loss, never assume there’s a market. Research the idea. Talk to real potential prospects (who aren’t family and friends) to find out if what you want to sell is something they’d be interested in buying and, if so, what they’d pay for the product or service. 

Research your competitors. No matter what type of business you’re starting or running, you’ll have competitors. Even if there’s no other business offering exactly what you plan to sell, there are very likely to be other products or services your target customers are using to satisfy their needs.

To be successful, you need to research the competition and find out as much as possible about what they sell and how they sell it. Competitive research is something you should plan on doing on an ongoing basis, too. If there aren’t any other competitors, it’s possible there isn’t a market or a real need for what you want to sell.

Plan to succeed. If you’re not seeking investors or putting a huge sum of money into your business, you may not need an elaborate business plan. However, you still do need a plan — one that specifies your goal and your destination — and then lays out at least a skeletal roadmap for how you’ll get to where you want to go.

The plan will change as you progress and learn more about your customers and competition, but it will still help you stay focused and headed in the right direction. Use our business planning worksheet to help develop that basic plan.

Know the operational needs. Most people who are thinking about starting a business focus on what they’ll sell and who they’ll sell it to.  What they often don’t consider is how the business will operate.

For instance, if you’re selling items, how will they be delivered? How much customer support will be needed — either to answer questions about the product or to respond to people whose shipments haven’t arrived? Will you need to accept credit cards? Will you invoice customers? Who will follow up to make sure you’re paid? Who will build and maintain your website and social media presence? Will you be able to use a virtual assistant for such tasks, or will you have to hire employees? Even if you’re starting a small personal service business, these are issues you should consider and plan for.

When it comes to staying on top of invoicing, accepting credit cards, and managing clients, the ZenBusiness Money app can help.

Don’t procrastinate. I’ve heard some people advise would-be business owners to not move ahead with their business until they have investigated every last detail of the business they want to start and are sure it’s all going to work and be profitable.

The problem with that approach is that it leads to procrastination. No one ever really has all the pieces in place — even after they’ve started their business. Yes, you need to research the market, have a rudimentary plan in place, and do things like get a tax ID number if needed, register with local officials if required, etc. But if you try to make everything perfect before you launch, you may never get around to starting your business at all. 

Start on a small scale before going all out. Some people believe that entrepreneurs are risk-takers. But for the most part, successful entrepreneurs don’t like walking blindfolded onto a limb. Instead, they take controlled risks. They test an idea on a small scale, then build on what works well, tweak what shows promise, and discard the disasters. You can also consider starting as a freelancer first.

Please don’t fixate on mistakes or get demoralized by them. The difference between successful people and everyone else is that successful people learn from their mistakes and move on. They don’t dwell on failure, blame the economy, curse their bad luck, or blame other people for their fate. If the path to their goal is blocked, they look for an alternate path or sometimes choose a different, more attainable goal.

Learn from others. Find mentors, join groups with like-minded people, and learn everything you can about your industry and what it takes to get from where you are to where you want to be. Attend industry conferences. Take training courses when they’re available. Buy courses offered by experts. You’ll save a tremendous amount of trial and error by learning from people who have been there before.

Think of what you do AS a business. Keep track of income and expenses, keep business money separate from personal funds, and find out what regulations your business needs to abide by.

Understand the difference between working for yourself and building an ongoing business. If you want to build a business, you need to develop systems and methods that allow you to hire other people to DO the work of the business while you plan it. You limit the potential for growth if you don’t bring in other people to work for you.

Get to know investors. If the business you’re starting will need investors to grow, do what you can to find out what investors are looking for and where to find those who might invest in your kind of business.

Local angel and venture capital groups are a good place to start. Attend meetings they hold or meetings where investors are speaking. Have an elevator pitch practiced so you can use it to interest investors if you get the chance.

Put yourself out there. Ask for what you want (politely). I started my online business by participating online on GE’s GEnie online service. When I was ready to send them a proposal to run a small business area, I could not only talk about my credentials in general but point to places I was already contributing to their service.

I became one of the early content providers of America Online because I picked up the phone and made a cold call. I wound up with a new consulting client after I struck up a conversation with a woman sitting next to me on an airplane.

Remember, people like to do business with people they know. Get the ball rolling, and keep it rolling by continually reaching out and introducing yourself to new people.

Embrace digital marketing. Even if you’re running a local business, you need a comprehensive digital presence. At a minimum, you need a professional-looking website, an email list that lets you communicate with customers and prospects regularly, and a presence on the social media channels that your customers frequent.

While you may get many of your customers by word of mouth, referrals, or networking, you still need a strong digital presence. The reason: prospective customers are likely to look you up on the web before they decide whether to contact you. Coupons, special offers, and practical information sent to your email list can encourage customers and prospects to buy from you or make repeat purchases.

Never stop learning and trying new things. What’s profitable now won’t necessarily be profitable next year or 10 years from now. So, don’t let yourself fall into the “this is the way I’ve always done things” rut.

Keep your eyes and ears open for new things. Are there newer or better ways to market your products and services? Are customers asking for something you’re not offering? Is there a different type of customer you should be targeting? Get answers by reading everything you can about your industry and listening to your customers.

Disclaimer: The content on this page is for informational purposes only, and does not constitute legal, tax, or accounting advice. If you have specific questions about any of these topics, seek the counsel of a licensed professional.




Attard, Janet. “Tips for Starting and Succeeding in Your Own Business,” 30 Sep. 2022, Business Know-How, Zen Business,