Your First Year in Business: How to Be Successful

So, you just officially started your company — congratulations! You’re in for an exciting (and challenging) ride. Your first year in business is going to be incredibly unique and present challenges that more seasoned companies don’t always deal with.

In this blog, I’m offering some of my best tips, strategies, and gentle warnings — tried and tested, of course — for making your first year in business as smooth and successful as possible. Let’s get to it!

Business owner working on laptop

What You Need to Know About Your First Year in Business

Is it your first or second year? We’re going beyond the typical advice you’ve already heard about coming up with a business plan, defining a marketing strategy, calculating your startup costs, and getting new customers.

All of these things are important, but in the long run, they’re not enough to pay the bills, make a name for yourself in your industry, and be a key player in the market.

With that said, here are some of the biggest learning opportunities I experienced growing multiple successful businesses.

Psst! I also have a YouTube video covering this topic. Check it out below.

1. In Your First Year of Business, There is No Redundancy

A bigger company might have a lot more employees and processes. So, if they lose one person (or even a few employees), they might not even really feel it.

The first year of business, on the other hand, is not typically like this.

A new business usually relies on very few employees. It might just be you and a handful of other people! This means there’s no redundancy.

In other words, if you lose one person, you likely won’t have a backup who can immediately step in and fill their role in your company.

What does this mean for you as a business owner? Well, for starters, it might mean that all of you have to wear many hats. I’ll talk more about this in a minute.

It also means that you might have to handle difficult conversations more carefully since you really need to hang onto the few people you have.

Employee and business owner having a meeting

You’ll have to be willing to be a little more flexible and open-minded. If an employee is underperforming, you probably can’t immediately fire them if it’s your first year of business.

And, in their defense, remember that in their first year, new businesses can sometimes be a complete and total mess! New business owners often feel stressed much of the time, and the same might go for your team, too.

So, be a little more open and accommodating in your first year than you’d perhaps be if your company was more seasoned.

2. Learn Every Position

I mentioned earlier that in your first year, you’ll have to wear many hats. And that’s why it’s going to be important, as a small business owner, to understand what every role entails. You need to do this because:

  • You’re going to have to train your team on how to do their jobs.
  • Unfortunately, you might ultimately decide to let some people go.
  • Someone might decide to leave your company.

In those latter two scenarios, because there’s no redundancy, you might very well have to step in yourself and fulfill that position until you can find a replacement.

Note that this is temporary! This should only be something you have to do your first year (or maybe the first couple of years). Ultimately, you should hire people to whom you can delegate everything so that you can focus on what’s most important: growth, building your revenue stream, and improving profit.

Revenue report

And speaking of hiring…

3. Hire for Ownership

In a previous blog, I talked about building company culture. Part of that is hiring as many owners as possible, as opposed to renters.

Let’s talk about what this means.

An owner is someone who takes radical accountability and treats your company as if it were their own business. They care about the long-term success of the brand and are fully committed to helping you reach your business goals.

A renter, on the other hand, clocks in, does their job (maybe even the bare minimum), and clocks out. Their priority is to collect their paycheck and that’s it. They’re less focused on long-term goals and helping build a profitable business, and more on getting by.

In your first year as a small business owner, you need to be laser-focused on staffing your organization with owners. This is going to be pivotal in taking your new business to greater heights.

Renters Aren’t a Lost Cause

What if you end up hiring a renter? Don’t panic — there’s still hope! Why not offer them leadership mentoring? They’re going to appreciate that you’re investing time in them. You both will learn a lot. And it’s going to help your new business survive and thrive.

New business owner mentoring team members

Remember, if the majority of your people are renters, you will have a company culture of renting. If the majority of owners, your company culture will reflect that too.

In your first year, don’t be in such a hurry to hire that you just hire anyone. It’s good to be a little bit picky.

4. Identify a Strong Second in Command

Your first year is going to be incredibly overwhelming. You’re going to have to learn how to do a lot of different things. Spoiler alert: You can’t do it all alone! New business owners need a sidekick —  a second in command.

Small business owners often fall into a common trap: They’re the only ones who can do what they do.

However, just like you need to learn other roles, you need at least one other person who can step in and help with some of the essential tasks that you are working on as the owner of your business. This person can also be an excellent sounding board so that you’re not making huge decisions all on your own.

“But I don’t want to give away my power!” you might be thinking. This is a common fear. However, having a second (and even third) in command is going to be mandatory if you want to build a successful business.

Think About This Person Early On

“Why would my business need a second in command so early on?” you might be asking. Fair question!

To be transparent, at that first-year mark, you might not yet need a “second you.” However, as your business grows, this will sneak up on you very quickly: You’re going to realize that you’ve trapped yourself in your company and it can’t survive a day without you.

New entrepreneurs often feel stressed and trapped

Hopefully, you don’t need me to tell you that this is a bad thing.

Many entrepreneurs start a business because they don’t want to work. This means that you need to be building a company that can function without. And that’s why you need a second in command.

So, don’t wait until it’s too late. Think about this early. Identify the owners in your company. Think about who’s the most eager to learn and wants to be taught.

5. As a Business Owner, Be Prepared to Work… All the Time

I just talked about building a company that can function without you. However, having your own business means that in the beginning, you’re going to be doing a lot… on your own… all the time.

Work-life balance sounds nice, and you should absolutely strive for that. It’s key to building long-term success.

However, don’t assume that you’re going to have it at the beginning of launching your business.

If you’re starting a new venture (and want it to be a success), it has to be your baby for the time being. New entrepreneurs should not plan to take up any new hobbies, go on lengthy vacations, or make any other big commitments.

Two new entrepreneurs working from home

I’m not telling you to work at the expense of your physical and mental health. That’s not okay. Just plan to be very busy.

Building a Business Will Require a Ton of Hard Work, But That’s Not All

You’ve probably read the statistics talking about how most businesses fail. I hate to say it, but it’s true! Most businesses fail eventually.

But here’s the thing: Hard work is only part of the equation.

Yes, you’re going to need to stay focused and devote a lot of time and energy in order to create a business that stands the test of time.

However, you also need to hire owners, learn every position in your business, and identify a second in command.

If you focus on these key things, your business will reach new heights.

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Jonathan Baktari MD

Jonathan Baktari, MD brings over 20 years of clinical, administrative and entrepreneurial experience to lead the current e7 Health team. He has been a triple board-certified physician with specialties in internal medicine, pulmonary and critical care medicine. He has been the Medical Director of The Valley Health Systems, Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Culinary Health Fund and currently is the CEO of two healthcare companies.
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