How to Survive the First Five Years of Business
A new business venture is like a new marriage: it’s really exciting and fun; then it’s a lot of work and fun. Then it’s a lot of work and not so fun; and then it’s just a ton of work mired with headache after headache and you are learning way too many hard-earned lessons and wondering how you got here. But if you can survive the first two to three years, you will likely make it for the long haul and reap the rewards, which are bountiful.
Frances Kweller, entrepreneur and founder of Kweller Prep, a learning incubator specializing in advanced test preparation in New York, offers the following tips on how to survive the first five years of business:
Make a Commitment
When you start that startup its very important that you make a commitment to yourself that you are going to stay in business for at least five years. The vast majority of businesses that fail do so within the first two or three years. It’s true that the first two years in business is the hardest, especially for someone who is brand new to owning a business, has no experience managing staff or dealing with accounting or bookkeeping. However, these are the years that you will learn the most and glean the most wisdom and knowledge that will pay you back in spades later on. When you set out to build your businesses commit to five to stay alive.
Have a Long-Term Plan
One of the biggest mistakes a business owner can make is to think in the short-term. Statistically, the majority of people who succeed in business have long term goals in mind when they start a new venture. Don't open a business because you want instant gratification or because you want to make money in your first or second year because it’s likely not going to happen. In fact, you should be prepared to lose money in your first and second year. The first two years are extremely hard. However, as you enter your third and fourth year you’ve ironed out most the bumps and kinks.
Establish Good Credit
The longer you’re in business the better it is for you to establish credit. Leasing corporations usually look for a three-year history ofbusiness in order to offer a leasing plan so something as simple as leasing a printer may not even be possible if you haven’t been in business long enough. Chase can offer a business line of credit but you have to be in business for three years. It’s okay to show a history of loss so long as you show them that you’re in it for the long haul and fighting to keep the business alive.
Plan for Success, Not Failure
Many entrepreneurs set out with failure in mind and not success, which doesn’t even make sense, now does it? When you set your new business goals, set your mind for absolute success and that is where you will end up. There are lots of great ideas that succeed because business owners believe they will, and if a business fails, it doesn't always mean that the idea wasn't a good one. It could just mean that it wasn't baked properly in the first place, or it wasn’t the right time for that particular idea.
Don’t be Afraid to Succeed
Believe it or not, there is such a thing as fear of success, the absolute opposite problem of setting out to fail. Many of us have this fear way down deep and we sabotage our own success subconsciously with a deep seeded fear of success. What will I do if I actually achieve this goal and so much is expected of me? It’s a very real fear. Be honest with yourself if you fall in to this camp and keep your fears in check to make this new businesses venture a success from the start.
Go with the Flow
Understanding when you need to make a change is very important in any business. For example, if you’re business might be more robust online, make it an online business. If your business is better in a certain location, change it. Cater to your audience’s needs and be willing to take honest criticism and accept change. Also, be open to new technology and trying new things like social media. Its’ always scary in the beginning but if you stick it out your business will grow and you will benefit in the long run.
Marketing matters: from IBM to Kyndryl
Prior to joining Kyndryl as Chief Marketing Officer, Maria had a 25-year career at IBM, most recently as the tech giant’s CMO where she oversaw all marketing professionals and activities across North America, Canada and Latin America. She has held senior global marketing positions in a variety of disciplines and business units across IBM, most notably strategic initiatives in Smarter Cities and Watson Customer Engagement, as well as leading teams in services, business analytics, and mobile and industry solutions. She is known for her work with teams to leverage data, analytics and cloud technologies to build deeper engagements with customers and partners.
With a passion for marketing, business and people, and a recognized expert in data-driven marketing and brand engagement, Maria talks to Business Chief about her new role, her leadership style and what success means to her.
You've recently moved from IBM to Kyndryl, joining as CMO. Tell us about this exciting new role?
I’m Chief Marketing Officer for Kyndryl, the independent company that will be created following the separation from IBM of its Managed Infrastructure Services business, expected to occur by the end of 2021. My role is to plan, develop, and execute Kyndryl's marketing and advertising initiatives. This includes building a company culture and brand identity on which we base our marketing and advertising strategy.
We have an amazing opportunity ahead at Kyndryl to create a company brand that will stand apart in the market by leading with our people first. Once we are an independent company, each Kyndryl employee will advance the vital systems that power human progress. Our people are devoted, restless, empathetic, and anticipatory – key qualities needed as we build on existing customer relationships and cultivate new ones. Our people are at the heart of this business and I am deeply hopeful and excited for our future.
What experiences have helped prepare you for this new opportunity?
I’ve had a very rich and diverse career history at IBM that has lasted 25+ years. I started out in sales but landed explored opportunities at IBM in different roles, business units, geographies, and functions. Marketing and business are my passions and I landed on Marketing because it allowed me to utilize both my left and right brain, bringing together art and science. In college, I was no tonly a business major, but an art major. I love marketing because I can leverage my extensive knowledge of business, while also being able to think openly and creatively.
The opportunities I was given during my time at IBM and my natural curiosity have led me to the path I’m on now and there’s no better next career step than a once-in-a-lifetime-opportunity to help launch a company. The core of my role at Kyndryl is to create a culture centered on our people and growing up in my career at IBM has allowed me to see first-hand how to prioritize people and ensure they are at the heart of progress in everything Kyndryl will do.
How would you describe your leadership style?
I believe that people aren't your greatest assets, they are your only assets. My platform and background for leadership has always been grounded in authenticity to who I am and centered on diversity and inclusion. I immigrated to the US from Chile when I was 10 years old and so I know the power and beauty that comes from leaning into what makes you different from other people, and that's what I want every person in my marketing organization to feel – the value in bringing their most authentic self to work every day. The way our employees feel when they show up for themselves authentically is how they will also show up for our customers, and strong relationships drive growth.
I think this is especially true in light of a world forever changed by the pandemic. Living through such an unprecedented time has reinforced that we are all humans. We can't lead or care for one another without empathy and I think leaders everywhere have been reminded of this.
What’s the best leadership advice you’ve received?
When I was growing up as an immigrant in North Carolina, I often wanted to be just like everyone else. But my mother always told me: Be unique, be memorable – you have an authentic view and experience of the world that no one else will ever have, so don't try to be anyone else but you.
What does success look like to you?
I think the concept of success is multi-faceted. From a career perspective, being in a job where you're respected and appreciated, and where you can see how your contributions are providing value by motivating your teams to be better – that's success! From a personal perspective, there is no greater accomplishment than investing in the next generation. I love mentoring younger professionals – they are the future. I want my legacy as a leader to include providing value in work culture, but also in leaving a personal impact on the lives of professionals who will carry the workforce forward. Finding a position in life with a job and company that offers me a chance at all of that is what success looks like to me.
What advice would you give to your younger self just starting out in the industry?
I've always been a naturally curious person and it's easy for me to over-commit to projects that pique my interest. I've learned over years of practice how to manage that, so to my younger self I’d say… prioritize the things that are most important, and then become amazing at those things.