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Advice for a Business Owner Starting Out

What advice would you give a rookie business owner?

Fixation on instant success ignores how much consistent work is needed to make something happen. People are idealistic. They like to glorify the immediate success stories, the “25 entrepreneurs under 25,” and the ones who “went to sleep with pennies and woke up a millionaire.”

Perhaps that’s the American dream rooted in all of us. But here’s what I think is so important when giving business advice: Talk about failures. People don’t talk enough about the failures and roadblocks they faced when building their businesses.

When I started my business, I kept comparing myself to established companies. But no one was speaking about the work it took to get there, and I was sure I was doing something wrong. I lost sleep and energy, frustrated at myself for not knowing instantly what I now realize takes people years to learn.

Owning a business takes real work. It may mean staying up until 4 a.m., missing out on important events, or canceling on people, sometimes at the last second, and hoping they understand.

Difficulties will come up, but don’t let them deter you. Put in your best work, ask all the right questions, and know that a business takes one to three years to be secure. So don’t be hard on yourself, and don’t judge yourself by a couple of inevitable failures along the way. The only failure that counts is giving up too early.

—Estee Friedman, Owner of Stellar Light Studios


Accept work that is out of your comfort zone. If a client asks you for an additional service you don’t already offer, consider accepting the challenge. Do some research and expand your area of expertise. The willingness to try new things will drastically improve your team’s skills and enable you to quickly grow as a company that offers many areas of expertise within your specific market.

At the same time, don’t try to do too much, too fast. There’s no need to offer every possible service right from the start. Focus on core things that you do well and then take advantage of opportunities to expand your services as you grow.

—Gershy Roth, Founder at Redsyte


There are so many wonderful people out there who have done this before you and have loads of wisdom that they will happily share. This can make your journey a whole lot easier. Don’t be afraid to ask for help.

I was shocked to see how much I could learn and how many connections I could make just by asking people for advice, introductions, and referrals.

—Chani Wolf, CEO, Pashmina Collection


Ask questions and get advice, but take everything — including this piece of advice — with a grain of salt. Ultimately, you are the best decision maker for your future. Not everything that worked for others will work for you.

—Jack Langer, CEO of Living Lchaim & Lawesome Media


Marketing Your Message

One of the biggest mistakes people make in advertising is thinking it’s only about putting out a good print ad, something catchy, noticeable, different. But actually, your best marketing is through word of mouth.

So, how to harness that? Figure out why people love you. Do a whole lot more of that. Offer more of that. Word will spread organically, and then your marketing efforts will amplify that message exponentially.

Heads up on this: Don’t fall into the all-too-common trap of assuming, guessing, or “going with your gut.” Because even if you’re very astute, you still only have half the picture. I know this firsthand. Here at Ptex, there have been so many times we’ve spoken with clients, and then ran a survey or “schmoozed up” the word on the street, only for invaluable nuances (or oftentimes an entirely new picture) to emerge. And then, by running point with those newly unearthed nuggets of wisdom, we delivered an effective campaign that brought in not just leads, but the right leads.

So take the time to talk to your customers — and to the employees who deal directly with your customers. Ask “You know, you’re one of my most loyal customers. Why?” or “I always see you in the store, and I appreciate it. What do you love about shopping here?” And don’t ask just one or two people. Ask many.

Their answers just might surprise you. You might think people shop at your store for your selection, but actually, they love how quickly your cashier moves. In that case, invest in an even faster process, and advertise “Fastest grocery in town.”

You might think people love to work with you because of how cordial your service is. But actually, it’s because they appreciate your honesty and directness. You can create an even stronger system of communication, and advertise “When you need straight answers, we’re your guy.” (Okay, obviously not in those words, but you get the picture.)

Don’t box yourself in. Talk to people. Get the full picture. And communicate your true value in a way that actually works!

—Mattie Holtzberg, Senior Copywriter, Ptex Group


(Originally featured in Mishpacha, Issue 940)

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