Hunting sales whales
"It may be best not to go for the home-run account right away," suggests Michelle Fish of Integra Staffing, "because you might not be ready for the size and scope of their business, and you might not get another chance at them if you blow it. Sometimes it's better to get your feet wet with smaller accounts."
Back-office and sales personnel
Prepare to wear many hats, at least for the short term. Rather than hire a salesperson right off the bat, Fish took on all the sales responsibilities herself. "Hiring for sales is hit or miss," she says. "And anyway, nobody's going to do [sales] better in the beginning than you."
Look to a mentor for strategic guidance and nuts-and-bolts practical advice. Be strategic when enlisting pros with high hourly rates, such as attorneys and accountants. Pay them now for help incorporating the business, reviewing partnership agreements and ensuring you have a viable accounting system in place upon launch, but wait to enlist them for less pressing matters.
A high-end website
Unless it's e-commerce-reliant,start with a no-frills website. You can roll out major improvements, such as regularly refreshed content, multimedia, a mobile-friendly design and other bells and whistles, in version 2.
Outside marketing, advertising and PR
Rely on grassroots and guerrilla tactics to start. "We said no to a lot of marketing opportunities that we thought would be cool but didn't make sense from an ROI standpoint," says Nick Friedman of College Hunks Hauling Junk. "Sure, it would have been nice to have prime-time TV and radio ads right away … but that would have sent us way over our marketing budget."
Focus on your strongest offering first. You can add others once your existing product or service provides a strong, sustainable revenue stream and enough cash reserves to invest in new offerings.
David Port is a freelancer based in Denver who writes on small business, and financial and energy issues.