Boss Lady

Walk before you run: 3 Lessons learned from a repeat business owner


There’s a great saying that you must walk before you can run. As a serial entrepreneur, I’ve seen this piece of wisdom especially come to life when creating a new business completely from scratch. Sure, it’s an exciting process and can be tempting to dive into the pieces of the business that excite you. However, I’ve learned first-hand (and sometimes, not easily), that it’s vital for your company’s long-term success to take some time early on to do things carefully.

What should you prioritize? Here are my three tips to what new entrepreneurs should be thinking about:

  1. Make business systems and processes a priority, from day 1.

One of the most important things you can do is to establish systems and processes early and often. These will help you create order, organize critical information and make basic business functions easier. And as your business scales, these business processes will make onboarding new hires and managing transitions seamless.

A key part of these business processes should be weaving in a strong documentation system. For example, when I’m preparing to launch a new product, I create a written workflow to document the current status, next steps and how things should be done. I found getting tactical is especially crucial if you’re planning to outsource some of these tasks to others. Business processes, like documenting key steps and milestones, are important to ensure that everyone across the organization understands expectations and what needs to be done to achieve success from the beginning.

  1. Know when to outsource.

I don’t have to tell you that the job description for an entrepreneur includes many hats under one title. Sometime as a small business owner I may be managing benefits in the morning and then working on email marketing efforts in the evening. The breadth of these responsibilities can be overwhelming.

Over time, I’ve realized that even though I’m leading the business, I don’t have to do every single thing for the business – and neither does any entrepreneur. To be effective, entrepreneurs should know their strengths and weaknesses. This also includes knowing when it’s more efficient to call in help versus trying to do something themselves.

For example, I know writing isn’t necessarily my strong suit, so when I need to prepare content for marketing materials, I’ll often contract with a writer who can put my ideas and thoughts into words better than I can. This improves the quality of these materials, but also saves me quite a bit of time to focus on other needs for my business.

  1. Become a master of prioritizing to avoid becoming overwhelmed.

When launching a business and looking an at business plan, it may be easy to be overwhelmed by the sheer number of items that you need to do. I’ve found that in order to stay focused and meet deadlines, it’s vital to understand which items on your to-do list are important and not, and which are urgent and non-urgent. But I have found that there is a juggling act – and art – to prioritizing.

To get started, I take a look at everything on my plate and clearly determine what items need to be done and by who and when. From there, I start by taking action on the items that I know will require collaboration from others. I always want to get ahead on these projects so that people are not waiting on me and I don’t slow down the process.

Once I have my pipeline organized and made progress on the more collaborative projects, I move to working on the items assigned solely to me and list these out with their dependencies, including deadlines and required pieces to accomplish the task. From here, it’s important to understand your personal working style to set yourself up for success. Some people like to chip away at bigger projects first, but I feel like starting with the easiest items first helps to motivate me – a quick win is just that, a win! And quick wins build my momentum, as I get a lot of satisfaction checking items off my to-do list.

Keeping your to-do list updated and accurate with deadlines and needs is important in maintain your success for the long run. If you know early what needs your focus and prioritization, and what will be assigned to others and when, it’s much more manageable to have success moving your business forward and better tackle the unforeseen things that will – inevitably – arise.

Getting a new business off of the ground is no easy task, and I know how tricky it can be to be pulled in so many directions. However, I’ve also seen multiple times that when you’re able to invest time into staying organized, asking for help when it’s needed and prioritizing, you’ll be able to lay the framework needed to achieve long term result and scalable in a manageable way.

About Shirley Tan

Shirley Tan has more than 20 years of experience as a business strategist. In her role as the Developer Partnership Manager for Yahoo Small Business, Shirley led strategic partnership and platform development for third party software developers using the Yahoo platform to drive e-commerce utilization and results for mid and enterprise-level customers. Prior to this role, Shirley also served as the Director of Product Support and Brand Ambassador for Yahoo Small Business.

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