I am a serial entrepreneur – meaning I have decided to start a business on multiple occasions. CorpNet is my second company focused on helping entrepreneurs start a business by managing their incorporation business filings. I started my first company with my husband Phil back in 1997 in the early days of running an online business.
One of the things I’ve learned as a serial entrepreneur, especially from starting a similar business in the same industry for the second time, is that the second time you start a business is totally different than the first time. Just because you’ve “done it before,” the second time around can’t be exactly like the first time around.
When we decided to start a business (again) by founding CorpNet in 2009, we quickly learned that we can’t build this business the same way as we did back in 1997. Everything about our industry and our online marketing has changed. The competitive landscape has changed, how we go about running an online business has changed, and how we interact with customers has changed.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from starting an online business during the “old days” of 1997 – and today:
- Don’t be afraid of competition: When we started our first business in 1997, the world was very different – we started our business with just a one-page website. No one else was offering what we were offering. We were the first company of our kind to help people incorporate a business online. Today, there are plenty of other companies offering online incorporation services to help people start a business – including some “800-pound gorilla” companies with massive reach and big budgets for advertising and promotions. But even though we’re in a saturated market, we are still succeeding because there is opportunity for the unique approach that CorpNet brings to our customers. Competition doesn’t have to defeat you – if anything, it makes you raise your game and find out what you do best; and then translate that competitive advantage into a unique selling proposition for your customers.
- It’s all about credibility: When we started a business for the first time in 1997, Facebook and Twitter didn’t exist, and the online market for business incorporation services was relatively young and uncluttered. People found our website and we talked to them on the phone to place the orders and help them incorporate a business. Today, selling online is more about social networking and ongoing interaction and trust-building with your customers. It’s not enough just to have a website; you need to have social proof that shows people that you are legitimate and can be trusted.
- Evolve, adapt, change: In today’s online market, we need to stay at the forefront of what you do technology-wise. CorpNet today has a more elaborate website than I could have imagined back in 1997, and we offer a more sophisticated package of services. People are more picky and choosy about who they work with. There are more options than ever before and people can price-shop and comparison-shop at the click of a button or the flick of a smartphone touchscreen. The same selling techniques and service packages that worked a few years ago are no longer good enough in today’s market – and that’s just fine with me. Learning to evolve, adapt and grow along with your customers is part of what makes starting a business so fun and fulfilling!
Are any serial entrepreneurs reading this? What have you learned from starting a business for the first time, the second time, or beyond? Which aspects of starting a business become easier (or harder) with time?