Advice from Experts
Most of us have been taught to be self-sufficient. That’s a great attribute to have in most cases. But when you start a business (especially if you have never done it before), it is absolutely critical to have advice from experts, people who have “been there, done that.” You have to be open to listening to their opinions and their advice, because most of them have made mistakes that they can help you avoid.
Experts can come across several different areas:
- Skill sets: it is a rare person who has all of the skill sets needed to start and run a business. The most effective businesses usually have a team of people with complementary skill sets in areas like marketing, accounting, manufacturing, operations, engineering, legal, human relations, retailing, distribution, logistics, etc. Not all of these skill sets are needed for every business, and not all of them are needed at the beginning, but they become more and more important as your business evolves and grows.
- Start-up experience: Starting a business requires a completely different skill set than running a business. If you haven’t started a business before, it is critical to have mentor(s) to help navigate you through developing all of elements necessary to start a business. Do you know someone that has started a business before that might help shepherd you through the process? If not, there are regional organizations that can help, such as SCORE or the TennesseeSBDC.
- Industry experience: Each industry has unique attributes, some of which include barriers to entry that you could spend a lot of time trying to unsuccessfully penetrate. If you don’t have experience in a particular industry that you are trying to service, it is important to have someone either on your management team or in an advisory capacity to help you think through issues that you might encounter. More importantly, they have a trusted network and can provide introductions and contacts that can help you start and grow your business.
- Advisory board/board of directors: A strong board (either of advisors or directors) can accelerate the growth of your business. Don’t pick your friends — pick people who fill gaps in your management team, or who can facilitate connections to industry players or investors. These people should be passionate about what you do.
The key message here: don’t go it alone! Find people who are willing to help you succeed and complement your skill sets and management team.
Anderson Center for Entrepreneurship & Innovation ~ 418 Haslam Business Building
Knoxville, TN ~ 37996-4140 ~ Phone: (865) 974-5126 ~ Email: ACEI@utk.edu