Top 10 things I learned in the first 60 days of starting up a new company

  • Mar 22, 2018

by Amanda Hueneke

 

I've been in the promo business for a long time, and I have a lot of experience in this field. But for the first time in my life, I am in the shoes of many of you who've come before me, in that I've now started a business from scratch. 


Now that I've been in the trenches with y'all, I think it's going to give me a whole new perspective when helping you set up a brand, choose products, and even just share ideas. Here are a few- 10 things that I have learned in the last 60 days it has taken to officially get Hello Imprint LLC up and actually running (aside from that 12 months of prep and brain-storming). 

 

1) Consult with the SBA center in your county. Even though I have extensive background in this industry, and even in day to day operations of this type business.... I'd say I really needed a Starting a Business Guide for Dummies. This is not my forte. But at the SBA or SBDC, some counties offer actual free classes for new and aspiring business owners; and I was able to attend one of these on the Legal Aspects of Starting a Business (Collin County, TX) and I was also able to consult with a dedicated SBA advisor in Denton County (where I actually reside). Tracy offered me resources like checklists, defined a lot of the jargon I didn't understand, and was able to direct me to a lot of the forms, services and things that were necessary to start the business. This does not substitute for the advice of an attorney, or a CPA, but she's been a great resource. YouTube was also a great resource, as I watched hours of videos (see number 6) on different laws and advice. 

 

2) Consult with a real, live physical CPA. I was having difficulty figuring out what the best entity was for me, and how to file for tax purposes. I sat down with my CPA, and for a fee that was well spent, I walked away knowing what to do, and why. I can't tell you what a relief that was. 

 

3) Even if you're really experienced in your industry, even if you have it all in your head- a written down, detailed business plan is helpful and necessary. I spent hours on this, and in the back of my mind, I kept thinking- "this is actually for me. What purpose does it serve to write all this down instead of just swirling it around in my head?" Let me tell you what I learned from doing my business plan. It was more than just about financial numbers- despite the fact that that part made me want to hyperventilate (um, creative, not a math person).

  • I figured out what the deal breakers were for me in my business. Where my boundaries lie- and that's okay and good, because boundaries actually protect your business and your growth.
  • I figured out who I wanted to work with, and who my target market was. And I had to write down those goals, and how to get there. 
  • I found out what things were important to me personally- both in character and in the community. 
  • I had to sit down and put on paper processes that I do daily and take for granted... and while I was doing that, I realized that this could one day be a guide someone actually uses to fill my shoes. 
  • I had to put goals down on paper. So what, you say? Everyone says you should write down your goals. Well, yes. But yesterday, I needed to choose between two expenses in my budget. I was having a hard time. But mentally, I went back to that business plan in my head, and asked myself, "which choice reflects and fulfills what you wrote down in your business plan?" And that made the choice so much easier. 

I don't care if you're in a free-standing business or multi-level marketing- a plan will do wonders. It makes you take you seriously. The bottom line is, the business plan didn't just teach me about my business. It taught me a lot about myself, too.

4) Consider your logo/brand carefully. This is actually a little promo bonus tip section for you. 

  • Does it appeal to both genders? If not, are there modifications/variations you can use to make it appeal to both genders? For instance, the purple in my logo represents creativity and quality (and, fun fact- a nod to my royal fan-nerd self). Not all guys like purple. So I made accommodations in that my brand can vary from white/purple/gray, to black/white. Sometimes it will have the bubble around it, and sometimes not- depending on the target and use. But the "hello" will stay consistent so that brand recognition remains. I made sure to define what the logo boundaries are- as if I were a major brand with brand specifications. 
  • Does it print well in just one color? Mainly- black and white. This is a biggie in promo. Things have come a long way in digital printing- in that we can print a LOT with full color. But sometimes, your logo will need to stand on it's own in plain ol' black and white. 
  • Will the components of your logo print legibly when small? Or do modifications need to be made? 
  • Have your graphic artist prepare the logo in many variations, and in many formats. You'll need a basic logo, yes. But you'll also need a version for print with pertinent information for business cards, labels, letterhead, envelopes. You'll need separate variations for promotional products and apparel. Make sure you get these prepared in vector (.eps), .pdf, .jpeg, .png files so that you're ready for promo, print, and web when you're ready to market. A good graphic artist will know you need this. But you might make sure they know you want these versions. I'm even figuring out that I didn't think of all the variations. 

5) The devil is in the details. Plan and list the steps of the things you need to get done, and plan for them to take longer than you expect. I got hung up for 2 (two!) solid days trying to choose, figure out and set up phone systems. I went through, I think 3 phone numbers before I got this worked out. So, so annoying. Especially if you're a type A like me. I kept telling hubby- "I just want to start my business. I don't want to deal with the stupid tech stuff". Well, the stupid tech stuff is now a part of my life (when hubby isn't available- hah!). 

 

6) Your days and weekends and even some nights will look a lot different. I've spent unlimited weekends now- working on marketing ideas, typing web content, researching. It really does change your day. Prepare your family that things will be a little bit different, and make sure everyone's on board before you do it. 

 

7) Plan for extra and unexpected expenses, and to want more "convenience" and "comfort" services than you can probably afford. I keep finding all these cool, handy, top notch services and apps, and websites; and after the "free trial" is over, I have had to tell myself- okay. Eventually. Wait. Stick to the plan (see number 3). 

 

8) Being well set up, even though it takes time- will be well worth it because you will present a ready, confident demeanor that will allow for a better, faster launch! Trust me. Queen of No Patience over here. It is hard. But faster doesn't always win the race, (I guess).

 

9) Your friends and family and your network want to support your success. So share, share. Promote, promote. But respect their boundaries, and respect their trust, and don't abuse the support that they're giving you. 

 

10) Be prepared to bounce out of bed every morning - because Hey! you get to work, and it's yours! 


Full disclosure, I probably still need that Starting a Business Guide for Dummies- haha! Have you already started a business? What did you learn? I'd love to hear from you because you know more than I do. 

 

Best of luck in your newest ventures; and please, let me know if you need help with a creative hello. 

 

-Amanda