If you’re a first-time entrepreneur, chasing perfection can be a difficult obstacle to overcome. Trying to create the perfect business plan, perfect product, and perfect brand name will only slow you down. It could even put you in an endless loop, preventing you from launching your product or service. So, instead of focusing on perfection, try focusing on these five things—which are the most important initial actions a first-time entrepreneur can take.
1. Start with a minimum viable product (MVP)
If you launch with what you believe is the “perfect” product without any customer feedback, you might be forced back to the drawing board if the product doesn't meet the specific needs of your target audience. So, instead, try to first develop a minimum viable product (often referred to as an MVP). A minimum viable product is like a prototype of your ideal product. By definition, it’s the bare minimum functioning product or service that meets the core needs of your target customers. This allows you to launch quickly and get feedback from real customers, which is invaluable for understanding customers' needs, preferences, and pain points, and building customer loyalty.
2. Conduct market research
Even before launching your MVP, you’ll want to do some research. Market research is a well-documented “must” for entrepreneurs and new businesses before developing a business idea. Market research helps you understand your target market, your competitors, and your potential customers’ needs. Through market research, you identify the strengths and weaknesses of all the parties involved within a given market. You also identify opportunities and challenges crucial for developing your business strategy. Market research will ultimately help you understand every tidbit associated with the industry you hope to compete in.
3. Build a strong network
Networking is a crucial aspect of entrepreneurship, and even more important if you’re a first-time entrepreneur. It’s essential to surround yourself with like-minded people, industry experts, and mentors who can provide guidance, support, and access to more valuable connections. Networking also allows first-time entrepreneurs to learn from the mistakes of others. The individuals and experts you'll meet can provide valuable knowledge and insight into their missteps and your business. In addition, building a strong network can open doors to new opportunities and help you navigate many of the challenges that come with starting a business.
4. Keep a lean budget
When starting a new business, financing is a subject that will frequently come up. In most cases, you’ll actively look to discover new financing venues and even get potential investors on board. It’s important to avoid unnecessary expenses and keep a tight-knit on their budget. Prioritize spending on critical areas that directly contribute to your business success, such as product development, marketing, and customer acquisition. In addition to money, it’s easy to get carried away and over-commit other resources, such as time and effort. So, be mindful of your limitations and don’t overextend yourself. Avoid spreading yourself too thin, making sure to prioritize tasks that impact your business success the most.
5. Test and learn
Entrepreneurship is a journey of continuous learning. So, if you want to be a successful entrepreneur, you must embrace long-term thinking and a test-and-learn approach where you try different strategies, measuring their effectiveness and adjusting your approach accordingly. Even if your first business fails, you can use the knowledge and experience you’ve gained to try again. You might be surprised to learn how many successful entrepreneurs have had first-time failures. The list includes the likes of Steven Spielberg, Oprah Winfrey, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and even Thomas Edison. They were all deemed failures before they eventually took the world by storm with their genius ideas and concepts.
Erik Bergman co-founded Catena Media and helped grow it to over 300 employees and a $200 million valuation before stepping away to start Great.com, an iGaming organization that donates 100 percent of its profits to environmental charities. In addition to running a successful online business, Erik hosts the Becoming Great podcast, shares entrepreneurship tips with his more than 1 million social media followers, and contributes to sites like Entrepreneuer.com, Business Insider, Foundr, and Forbes.