Building a new business or growing one that exists takes lots and lots of hours and lots and lots of hard work. Many of the wannabe and newbie webmasters I have met do not seem to understand this. Until they do, there isn’t even a chance of success. Back in the late seventies and early eighties, I got my first close look at small business in action. I was consulting and developing software for mini-computers, which led me into the business world I had previously viewed only from the outside. I had always admired those who built their own business and continued to run it successfully. To me it takes someone special to carve their own path through life. While I still admire such people, I learned many of my idols were flawed.
The small businesses I worked with were typically one-person shows with from 3 to 10 employees. Most had been operating successfully for many years. Yet for the most part they held what to me seemed a very odd view of planning. For most, it amounted to deciding in the morning what they would do in the afternoon. The observation startled me.
It still does. And since lack of planning is prevalent on the Web, I am frequently startled.
Look Beyond This Afternoon
When I first meet a potential client, I try to get a feeling for where things are just now, and where they are expected to be a year out. Often when I ask about such things, the replies demonstrate there has been little or no thinking about it.
In fact there is often no interest in the topic. The mode seems to be: Take care of today and worry about tomorrow when it arrives.
As competition on the Internet continues to heat up at an increasing rate, those who can not plan effectively will lose to those who do. If there are ten sites selling pet supplies now, there will be a hundred within a year.
But a year later, the number of successful sites may be down to three or four. Why? Because many simply are not prepared for such fierce competition. And part of the problem is an insufficient plan, or none at all.
The Business Plan
If you have not got a solid business plan, build one now. And do it with a pencil with a large eraser! For a good plan is never fixed in stone. Quite the contrary. It is flexible in all possible ways, allowing for contraction and expansion. It must anticipate whole changes in direction.
- What will you do if your suppliers go out of business or become too slow fulfilling orders?
- If you depend upon imports, what will be the impact of changes in regulations?
- For that matter, how will any change in the law effect your business?
These are not trivial issues. In the latter case, most new laws and regulations no longer come directly from legislation; they come from government agencies empowered to create them. All you can really be certain about is that there will be changes.
There are hundreds of such questions. And hundreds more that apply specifically to your business.
You Need Answers Now.
To wait until a crisis erupts is to have waited too long. It is always more difficult to find good solutions when under pressure. Obviously one can not anticipate all such questions, any more than one can anticipate all future opportunities. But plan for all outcomes imaginable. Do it now before a full blown crisis so overwhelms as to make it difficult, if not impossible, to find a reasonable solution.
While it remains wise to consider in the morning what must be done this afternoon, to survive we need a good idea of what will be required for the rest of the week, the month, the year, and in subsequent years as well.
If you agree a lot of hard work is involved, and you are willing to do whatever it takes, you have come a very long way. In fact you may be on the verge of leading the wannabe-newbie race. Still, there is one thing that can stop you cold.
This is where a lot of people cave in. Consider learning to play the piano. Almost everybody thinks about doing so at some point in their lives. Most who give it a try, find the bench becomes very hard in a very short time, particularly when practicing scales. Few stick it out to the point of being able to play popular songs. Even fewer achieve the skills that enable them to perform publicly. Great pianists are rare.
The path to a success in business is not unlike the one leading to success in any field. It is blocked in many places by hurdles tougher to deal with than a piano bench. And while many manage to learn enough to build a business that supports them, few become millionaires. And billionaires are scarcer still.
Learning Is Tough!
Think back briefly to your school days. Did most of your classmates learn easily? Or did they struggle in doing so? Or maybe not bother much at all? Having taught school for 32 years, let me update whatever memories you may have.
Learning is not easy for the vast majority. There are a few talented people who manage with little difficulty.
But even of these, those who do not work at it are easily surpassed by less talented people who do.
Everybody Can Learn
My conviction is that talent and native ability wither away to nothingness in those without a work ethic that includes the patience and determination to follow the path wherever it may lead. To put this another way, workaholics tend to achieve their goals regardless of talent and native ability. Here are two critical factors in learning that are often overlooked.
1) In schools, success in learning is measured with a time limit. That is, each student is expected to learn a defined content in say twenty weeks. And he or she is evaluated according to their achievement within this time frame. Having been habituated to this concept of learning from their school days, many adults considerably underestimate their ability to learn. When learning as an adult, time is no longer a factor. Only results matter. Take as long as it takes.
2) As suggested above, talent, while helpful, is grossly overrated. Note there are lots of things to be learned in building a successful business. Few are equally talented in all required areas. Lack of talent in any area can be overcome with more work and time.
Learning Does Take Time
A reader wrote a while back giving high praise for an article I had written. She claimed she had been stuck on a point I made for several years. She said I was the first person to make it clear to her. So clear, she was able to go forth and accomplish her goal.
This reader needs to take some credit for herself. She had been troubled for quite a while. Overwhelmed even. But she persisted. Stuck with it. She finally saw the light while reading my article.
But to give me full credit for bringing forth this insight, is to give me far too much. She had probably struggled with the concept a dozen times in the past. Likely she was close to grasping the idea when my words turned the trick for her.
This happens to us all. Months or even years later, we find ourselves saying, “Hey, that’s what that guy was trying to tell me.”
Be Patient With Yourself
We would all do better if we were a bit more patient with ourselves. Learning is tough. If you’re into horses, you can round one up, toss on a saddle, cinch up, and ride off, while telling a joke to a friend. But this skill did not come of itself.
You’ll Know When You Get It
Just because you have read something, does not mean a whole lot. Even if you feel you understand what you read, it doesn’t mean a whole lot more. The idea
needs to become internalized. It needs to become a full fledged member of your bag of tricks. This happens only when you find yourself saying, “Hey, I want to try this,” you do so, and find that it works. Then you’ve got it. Until this happens, you don’t.
You Can’t Learn It All Now
Part of what makes learning such a tricky business is that you don’t need everything offered at the time it is presented. So lots of great information is overlooked or gets laid aside. This is not only natural; it’s practical. We all have a limit to what we can absorb in a given time.
But as our needs change, we can learn more. It is really as simple as building a “library” of resources. Then returning to the appropriate resource as needed.
To put this another way, you can not master all the content of a significant book on the first read. Upon a second read at a later date, you will find lots of good information you overlooked the first time.
Why? Because you now know more about the subject. Further your needs have changed. You are now looking for a different set of answers than you were when you first opened the book.
It’s Not Rocket Science
The basics of building an online business begin with a plan. Then a website. Which means some HTML. And you need great content, which may mean improving your writing skills. More learning. Possibly the most difficult task you face. But you can do it over time.
You’ve got to manage the site effectively. You need to be well positioned on the search engines. You must know something about advertising. And your site must sell.
While none of this is hard or difficult to do, these skills must be learned. This does take time. And work. And you must stick to it, else all prior effort is a waste.
It Is Doable!
The good news is that for openers, you only need to *begin* down each of these paths. There is no need to become expert in each before proceeding. If you get off to the right start, and have a clear picture of where you are going, then you are on your way to success when you open your site.
If you are willing to work to improve your skills over time, willing to persist and to be patient with yourself, there is no limit to where you can take your business. Or yourself!