T Nation

Starting Your Own Business

For everyone on here that owns their own business, what advice would you give to someone looking into doing the same?

What are the things you wish you would have known before starting your venture?

Any business books you would recommend to read?

1 Like

Whatever type of business you are planning, customer service is top priority. The customer needs communication, attention, and to feel valued (within reason, of course).

Referrals from happy customers are the best form of advertising.

(this is based on a service based business, where clients use my services for projects that can take anywhere from a few hours to over a year. I don’t know anything about retail oriented businesses)


What stage of planning are you currently at? Sole-proprietor, Partnership or LLC? Start-up capital? Industry? B2B or B2C? Current vocation? Relevant experience?

General advice:

  1. Select trustworthy people with relevant expertise that you don’t have for partners/co-directors. Make your roles and responsibilities clear from the start.

  2. Do your research on the feasibility of the venture. Be objective. Do not jump in without the ability to justify it with actual numbers.

  3. Go through the process of creating a tight company/business mission statement, vision and values. If you have partners/co-directors, you must all be clear, in agreement and abide by these. Everything you do has to remain consistent with these.

  4. Create a strong brand. Know how to market it. Never, ever underestimate the importance of this regardless of how good a product or service you think you have.

  5. Always have in depth knowledge of your consumer base. Always.

  6. Make sure you have a proper budget and know how to allocate it for current and future expenses. Do not get screwed by cashflow issues. If you do not have sufficient funds, do not commence until you do.

  7. Know the MOTHERFUCKING tax laws and required employee contributions.

  8. Do not micromanage. Know when to delegate.

  9. There will be a lot of ups and downs. Develop a mental on/off switch. Stay objective during work. Don’t bring work into your family/social life. This will take time but it can be done.

  10. Act, do not react or you will make terrible decisions. And never take anything said or done in the course of conducting business personally or you won’t be able to sleep at night sometimes.

  11. Accept that human nature, at it’s core, can be very very ugly. Don’t get jaded. Learn to work with it.

At least half the above.


What specifically is the business, I could go into great detail like DT did. However, it’s not worth the extra detail if you are starting a wedding photography business vs. starting a restaurant/bar vs. starting a consulting business.

1 Like

If this is part of that half, sounds like a painful lesson…

It was a hair pulling experience lol.

1 Like


Anyone with experience operating an e-commerce store through Shopify and drop shippers?

My wife has a business using Square Space and plug-ins for purchasing.

Nice, does she like it? Does it interface with Facebook, pintrest, etc… (I assume that’s what you mean by the plug-ins)?

I think squarespace is probably the most intuitive UI for creating a website. It’s very simple to navigate and find templates. My company website is wordpress, but that is an absolute pain, imo. Wix is another; it gives you the most customization for your page, but can be complicated.

Pinterest is fairly easy to interface with. Any website shouldn’t have issues. You just embed your link to the photos you upload to pinterest. Facebook works great with Squarespace. You can actually choose the products form the Facebook page and it redirects you to purchase from the website. The only thing that is slightly clunky is if you have subscriptions. There isn’t a plug-in that keeps you on your website, instead it redircts you to stripe, then back to your website after purchase is complete.

My wife literally had zero recent computer experience when we bought her a computer. It took her a little over a month to get everything up and running flawlessly. Including purchasing the domain, setting it up, content writing, etc.

1 Like

Nice, thanks!

Thanks! No doubt man, customer relations/service is everything. You have to have something they really want bad to have customer service not make a difference lol.

Thank you for the thorough response. I made notes of everything. I actually don’t have a business idea currently.

But the ONE thing I do know is i hate the idea of having a “boss”. It sucks that a company controls my finances in a sense. I think I would be much happier (I know have to work much harder) doing my own thing on my own terms.

I just don’t know what that is yet. Trying to read business books right now to be educated a bit more before an idea clicks and I go after it. First thing I need to do is squat 315 haha. Once I do that, I feel like I’ll have the mindset to approach starting my own business.

1 Like

This was just as a general question. I don’t have a particular business I’m interested in right now. I have lots of interest, but nothing has sparked me yet to the point where I go after it.

What exactly don’t you like about “having a boss.” In many ways, owning a small business still has elements of having a boss. It’s just that your boss is called a customer rather than an employer. A lot depends on your type of business, but it’s likely you still have to work consistent hours, put up with the whims of the person that writes the checks, and fix things that aren’t really your fault.

That’s not to say there aren’t upsides. It’s just that if you want to make money, you generally have to put up with a certain amount of shit. It’s just a question of who’s shit and what type.


What would be the best way to grow locally aside from fliers and/or word of mouth?

I don’t know if I really count, seeing as my business is so small, but I’ve been doing it for a while and here’s my advice:

  1. Don’t procrastinate. This is easy advice to give but harder to take. Remind yourself it’s your own time you’re wasting. When I’m working at home I often check the internet inbetween jobs, but I try not to let it happen for too long. Boring job? The radio is your friend. Over here, radio 4 and 3 and 6music are good. Over in the states, I don’t know- do you have a country station or something?

  2. Don’t let bad experiences get to you. I recently had somebody I occasionally work with tell a client that I’m far too enthusiastic and tend to break tools. I attribute this to the fact that, shall we say, I work at a rather less stately pace than they prefer. I also worked with a guy whom it was a challenge to get to do any actual work. I can’t afford to tell either of them to get knotted and compare them to parts of animals, so I don’t. Cultivate restraint and try and develop the ability to judge character and a political sense. This is something I’ve always struggled with, being fairly autistic and also having an inbuilt distaste for self control, but it’s well worth doing.

  3. Don’t chase big jobs. If you’re right for the job and the client you will naturally develop a good relationship. If you try to handle something you can’t, you’ll end up in the position of promising something you can’t deliver.

  4. As I believe somebody has mentioned, get clued up about taxes.

The main reason I decided to become a small businessman is because I can’t fire me, which I’ve discovered from conversations with other self employed people is a more common reason than I first thought. I also hate being told to do something I know is stupid. I need to know that what I’m doing serves a purpose and serves it well. All in all, I think I’m a very lucky man- I genuinely like my clients and I try to do my best for them.

Oh, and good luck. You will have times when you’re sitting around in your pants feeling depressed when it just isn’t working. Hang in there, though.

I fail to see how those two things are correlated?

Then get ready to push yourself much harder than any boss would. I started a small business many years ago which has grown into a very successful enterprise. The one thing I didn’t expect was to be working 6 days a week and in the beginning about 12 hours per day. If you want it you can get it but you have to pay your dues my friend.

Expect to be harassed by local, state and federal authorities. Contrary to what you may have heard from others the government is NOT your friend. The harassment comes in many forms such as regulations and of course taxes. Whatever you do make sure you follow all of the laws especially the tax laws. If you run a foul of the IRS you can kiss any success that you wanted or may already have goodbye. I have seen horror stories from associates who thought they were smarter than the IRS and they end up paying gigantic penalties on top of excessive interest and of course the original payment that they should have made. Never ever screw with anyone who has more lawyers than you!

Aside from the above study the area you are going into. Make sure there is a real need for your business. You can be sitting around with your friends one day and think that you might have a good idea. One of the reasons you may assume this is because “no one else has done this yet.” That might be a good thing but usually the reason it has not been done is because there is no need for that particular business. So, do your research.

I knew when I first began that I had one chance to succeed. I had saved some money and it took a very long time as I come from a financially humble background. So I rolled the dice but before I did I went through many, many weeks of research to make sure that the one try that I had was going to work.

Also, stay optimistic. Don’t let the daily grind get you down. If you have employees they will show up late, want to leave early and quit without notice. Is that all the time? No. But it happens enough to know that you better be a good judge of people in order to succeed. And you also better be out there leading the way showing them how it’s done- lead by example.

Finally, I sure hope you succeed in a big way. But, remember when you do many of the people who were rooting for you won’t be there to pat you on the back. There is a world full of people who want you to succeed…until you actually succeed and then they become jealous. You have no idea how jealous until success arrives. That doesn’t mean that all of your “friends” will act that way, but look out!


Thank you everyone for all the responses. I’ve been reading some business books to learn what i can.

Any books you guys recommend?