Are you thinking about starting a business? Maybe you have a few different ideas clanking around in your head, a stockpile of domain names waiting patiently for their websites to launch, a brilliant blog idea that you are sure will be a hit. As the owner of Skillcrush, an online job skills learning platform, I am here to tell you that there has never been a better time to start a business.
If you want to succeed, you must stop daydreaming and start taking action — immediately — even if you have little-to-no resources to start with. Sitting on your business ideas, and waiting until you have money to spend or the right connections, could actually cost you thousands of dollars over the course of your career.
Don’t think it’s possible for you to get started right away? Not only can you, but doing so will give you the greatest chance of succeeding in the long term. Here’s why.
1. Entrepreneurs fail their way to success. No matter how brilliant your business idea is when you develop it, your end product will likely be quite different than you first envisioned. So, how do you get from where you are today, with your slightly unformed, little-bit-off-the-mark product idea to the flying-off-the-shelves reality you’re hoping for?
You start with your idea and test a thousand variations — and fail hundreds of times — until you finally get it right. And the key is to start testing now, before you have a lot of money invested or an audience to lose. In fact, the smaller the audience and the less money you risk, the better, because you will be more daring with your experiments.
But don’t worry, these failures are neither painful nor insurmountable. They’re likely simple things, like the name of your product or its positioning or its exact set of features: Stuff that can be easy to fix.
Before Skillcrush was what it is today, it was called Digital Divas and was a deck of flashcards. And before that, a printable cheat sheet called Lovely Ladies. What does Lovely Ladies even mean?! And a cheat sheet? I have no idea what I was thinking.
Here’s the thing, when I started working on this silly Lovely Ladies side project, the fact that the name was totally off the mark and that there is no way to stick a business model on a cheat sheet really didn’t matter. I was in heavy experimentation mode, and all of those failed names and failed executions were crucial to building the online job skills education company I have today.
2. You can’t skip steps or speed up time. But you can start the clock today because there is no such thing as an overnight success. Businesses take time. A lot of time.
There has been a ton of press recently about Twitter’s initial public offering. Now, one version of the story would say that it only took seven years for the company to grow from nothing to being valued at $24 billion on the stock market.
Seven years isn’t the blink of an eye, but it also isn’t a terribly long time. And it doesn’t really tell the full story of how long it took to build Twitter. For an entire year before they launched Twitter, the founders ran a podcasting company called Odeo. And before joining Odeo, one of the founders, Evan Williams, had previously built and sold the blogging platform Blogger.
So by the time that Evan Williams, Biz Stone and Jack Dorsey started working on Twitter, they all had years and years of experience, successes and failures under their belt to pool into building their new company.
Similarly, if you asked me how long Skillcrush has existed, I would tell you that we incorporated in August 2012, but have been operating under the name Skillcrush since March 2012. But that doesn’t account for the two years prior that I ran my own Web design and development agency and worked on Digital Divas on the side. Nor does it account for the nine months I spent working at MTV where I first had the idea.
I don’t know if you will succeed on your first attempt. Or your fifth. Either way, the sooner you start, the sooner you will get there.
3. As your own most valuable business asset, start investing in yourself today. You’ve heard of the importance of compound interest when it comes to savings, right? I believe that the same applies to business — except instead of money, you invest knowledge and experience, and instead of a 401k, you invest in yourself.
The success of your business rests almost entirely on your shoulders. First, determine the biggest obstacle standing in the way of starting your business: Lack of network? No technical skills? No clue how to build a business model?
Pick one obstacle and figure out how to tackle it. There are an amazing number of online resources, as well as offline networking groups to help you out. Some of my favorite business strategists and entrepreneurs to follow are Marie Forleo, Tara Gentile, Amy Hoy, Gabriel Weinberg and Rob Walling. Then learn how to execute your online business with me over at Skillcrush or with digital strategist Nathalie Lussier.
The catch is that learning on its own doesn’t qualify as an investment. You have to use what you’ve learned and act on it. Learning without action wastes your time because the best case studies explain how something works for other people and their businesses. You have to learn what works for your business, your audience, your product and you.
Every action/test/experiment you take is a micro-investment in yourself and your business, and those investments add up over time and that interest compounds.
You owe it to yourself — and to everyone who can benefit from what you have to put out into the world — to get yourself in gear and get started today.
Adda Birnir is the founder and CEO of Skillcrush. Before starting Skillcrush she ran a Web design and development company that built websites for major media companies like WNYC, ProPublica, MTV and The New York Times.