6 Things I Wish Somebody Had Told Me When I Started My Small Business

Nothing is more overrated than learning things the hard way.

learn more about Leslie Barber

By Leslie Barber Originally published Aug 14, 2014

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

I co-founded my business NutraBella, Inc. in 2005 after hearing my pregnant friends complain about their horse-pill sized pre-natal vitamins. We dreamed of giving women better vitamin options with Bellybar.

Fast forward to today where I spend my days on the QuickBooks team working to make small business management easier and more fun. As I hear from small businesses owners from all walks of life, I am constantly reminded of the things I wish I had known. Owning a small business is a challenge, but here are six tips that will make the road to success easier.

1. Follow your passion and don't let go. Your business probably stems from something you're passionate about, but over time, the day-to-day running of the business makes it hard to keep that passion alive.

Related: 10 Essential Startup Lessons That You May Not Have Learned in College

Fuel it daily by reminding yourself why you started your business. Make sure that you fall in love with a problem, not a solution. If your first solution doesn't work, fall back on your passion for solving that problem to find another answer for your customer.

2. Cash is king. Running a business is an art and a science. The art is your passion. The science is your business model. Make sure you understand your own business model. It's not something to abdicate to someone else. Understanding money-in, money-out, is critical to business success. Ignorance is not bliss. If you know how your business is doing at every moment, you can celebrate your success or plan for how to get more cash.

3. Hire smart. Hiring a team is thrilling but also scary. Take time to hire the right people for the right job. Fire them quickly if it doesn't go well. As a small business owner, you can do anything but you can't do everything! Hire people who love to do what you hate to do so you can focus on your dream and evangelize your passion.

4. Communicate with partners. Partners can be a great way to bring complementary talent to grow your business but, just like a marriage, it's critical to communicate values and expectations. Create a business "pre-nup" to set expectations for the partnership.

Related: Taking on Risk, Embracing Rejection and Other Startup Lessons From the Trenches

Like every good marriage, go on date nights and remind yourself why you went into business together in the first place. You can also use it as an opportunity to brainstorm new ideas or talk through problems in a less stressful space.

5. Protect yourself from the unexpected. Think about roadblocks you might hit along the way. Expect the best but prepare for those unexpected hiccups.

Things will happen that you can't control. Do what you can to protect yourself. Set up systems and processes in your business so that you can take a vacation or care for a sick child. Make sure that things won't fall apart if you step away for a moment. Respect yourself enough to ensure that you can take care of yourself outside of your business.

6. The buck stops with you, but… You don't have to be alone! As a small business owner, it can be lonely making all of the decisions. Ask for help. Not everyone has the courage to start a business but most people want to help and support you.

Find other entrepreneurs to learn from. Someone a few years ahead of you can provide invaluable advice. Someone just starting can bring energy and creative ideas. The best advice I ever received came from other entrepreneurs. It takes a village.

Running your own business is one of the most exciting, and challenging, adventures you will embark upon. Take care of yourself as you set the tone and culture of your growing business. Protect yourself to ensure the business will survive the ups and downs. Running your business can be fun with a little bit of planning and with processes to make things run smoothly. Take time to set it up right so you can get back to doing what you love. I'm cheering for you!

Related: Startup Lessons from David Cohen and the TechStars

Leslie Barber

Small Business Engagement Officer, QuickBooks

Leslie Barber advocates for small business success as a small business engagement officer for Intuit's QuickBooks in Mountain View, Calif. She is a co-owner and co-founder of NutraBella, the maker of Bellybar.

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