You've hung out the proverbial shingle, launched your website, and filed the paperwork. Now you're probably wondering what to expect as a business owner. The first few months after you launch a business will not only provide you with a lot of information, but it can also serve as a barometer of success.
“Whether starting a business from scratch or purchasing an existing business, the first 90 days are critical," says Terri Sherman, business intermediary with Florida Business Exchange. Business owners "who seize the first three months are usually the ones who fare well in their business."
The habits you create and the lessons you learn in the early days will be among the most important. Make the most of your launch time by focusing on these five important tasks.
1. Learn About Your Customers
Take this time to learn about your customers so you can anticipate their needs and better serve them.
Sherman suggests finding out what they like and don't like, how frequently they will need your products or services, and their average order size. Utilize website analytics to gather customer information. Then use it. Personalized website content, such as product recommendations on homepage promotions, can increase sales an average of 19%, according to research from Instapage.
“The more you learn about your customer, the more effectively you can re-market to them or market to customers like them," Sherman says. “And the better able you are to make sure your products or service offerings are the right fit."
2. Build Your Network
“Lean into mentors, other business owners, and people in your industry to gain meaningful insights on how to take your business to the next level," he says. “Networking can also provide opportunities for collaborations and endorsements, which can help improve your visibility early on."
3. Grow Your Team
Expect to need lots of help, says Elandas Miller, CEO and founder of Kicking It Sports, an Atlanta-based company that hosts team sporting events.
“I tried running my business on my own, and I quickly learned that it was not feasible," he says. "If you can afford it at the beginning, I would suggest hiring and outsourcing things that you are not good at." This can save time and money in the long run that you can invest elsewhere.
4. Preserve Your Cash
It can take a while to realize the fruits of your labor, and cash reserves are your friend, Khanna says.
“If you can, try to stash away some revenue as a buffer for seasonal fluctuations and unanticipated expenses," he says. “You might be inclined to reinvest any extra capital back into the business, or use that money to fuel growth, but building a financial safety net should be at the top of your priority list. Revenue generally fluctuates significantly early on. Cash reserves will allow you to navigate any market swings with considerably less stress."
In addition, invest in things that help you get customers, adds Paige Arnof-Fenn, founder and CEO of Mavens & Moguls, a marketing and consulting firm.
“Until you know your business is launched, put your budget into things that help fill your pipeline with customers," she says. “You need to look professional and have a website to be taken seriously, but embossed paper with watermarks and heavy card stock is not going to accelerate your sales cycle."
5. Establish Good Systems
Work on implementing good systems that are easily replicated and scaled, Sherman suggests. For example, a store will need a robust inventory system while a gym will need a good maintenance system.
“If you remember nothing else, remember that systems win," she says. “This will come in handy over time because you will have uniform procedures for your business that will help maintain the quality and consistency of your products and services, especially as new team members or employees are added."
Knowing what to expect as a business owner can help you spend time on the right things—the things that will impact your long-term success.