It’s no secret that many businesses took a massive hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but while some were struggling, entrepreneurs were thriving. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 4.3 million new businesses were launched in 2020 alone — over 1 million more than the previous year — meaning that more people are launching new businesses than ever before.
While this is great news for the entrepreneurship community at large, that doesn’t mean these newly-launched businesses are in the clear. In fact, some estimate that as many as 50% of these businesses will fail within the first year without additional support.
So what can new founders do to ensure their success? It’s easier than you might think.
- Establish yourself as a thought leader.
As business owners, there are few things more important than your credibility and reputation. As such, establishing yourself as a thought leader in your industry is vital — not only will this ensure that potential customers want to work with you, it can also lead to other business-boosting benefits like media inquiries, partnership offers, and more.
You might be tempted to brush off thought leadership as a secondary priority, especially when you’re focused on getting your business off the ground. However, demonstrating that you’re a leader in your field is a fantastic way to build a safety net that can help your business stay afloat and even thrive. Building your personal brand and platform can help you create a strong foundation from which your business can grow, and it will help bring people to you instead of the opposite.
- Don’t be afraid to pivot.
Change is scary, especially when you’ve already stepped out of your comfort zone by launching a new business. As we’ve learned during the pandemic, however, the ability to adapt is key to many businesses’ survival. While there is definitely strength in persistence despite the odds, it’s also critical for entrepreneurs to understand when and how to pivot.
Don’t view it as giving up on your business or your ideas but rather as exploring new avenues of possibility. Studies show that businesses that are willing to adapt or change during times of crisis are more likely to be successful, which means your ability to think quickly and respond accordingly might be the difference between a business that succeeds and one that fails.
- Focus on financial literacy.
Money is the #1 cause of stress in America, and the same is true for entrepreneurs. While this stress can wreak havoc on our overall health and wellness — including contributing to anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, heart disease, and more — it’s often far worse for entrepreneurs, who are more prone to mental health issues due to immense stress.
While you can certainly introduce stress-relieving tactics into your regular routine to help you cope — whether that’s exercise, mindfulness, meditation, or something different — it’s important to address the sources of that stress as well. And one of the best ways to worry less about money? Learn more about it.
Look for ways to level up your financial literacy as both an individual and an entrepreneur, and make sure to find ways to give yourself the financial education that many business owners aren’t able to receive in traditional schooling. There are plenty of resources available online for entrepreneurs who want to learn more about money, and the more you know the more confident you’ll be in handling your money and taking financial risks.
- Explore alternate methods of funding.
While there’s nothing wrong with bootstrapping your business, lack of funding is one of the biggest reasons why new businesses fail. And while a small business loan from a traditional bank is an option for some, it might not be the best path for you, especially if you’re a first-time entrepreneur.
Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to funding your business. Crowdsourcing is a great option for anyone who is able to provide a physical product or service, and you might be able to raise money through crowdsourcing on Kickstarter or Indiegogo. Not sure if crowdsourcing is right for you? There are plenty of angel investors out there who are looking for new investment opportunities, and there’s no reason not to reach out to them. There are also new alternative forms of investors that are available on platforms like ClearCo that can help businesses scale without sacrificing a large ownership stake in their company. If your product is in the e-commerce or SaaS space, this might be the type of funding you need to get your business off the ground.
- Get a mentor.
Mentorship might not be on your “top priorities” list as an entrepreneur, but it definitely should be. According to one survey, 70% of small businesses that received mentoring survived more than five years, which is double the survival rate of non-mentored businesses. Plus, business leaders who are mentored by a top performer are three times more likely to become top performers in their industry as well, meaning mentorship might very well be the thing that helps your business not only survive but thrive.
Charlotte DeMocker is co-founder and Chief Operating Officer at Penny, an innovative digital media startup that successfully launched during the pandemic. Penny seeks to help ordinary people master their money. Follow Charlotte on Instagram @charlottedemocker and learn more about Penny @penny.app.