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Start Your Business Startup Basics

Do-Over: What Small Business Owners Would Do Differently

In the movie “Groundhog Day,” the main character, played by Bill Murray, gets stuck living the same day — Groundhog Day — over and over again. He wakes up in the morning and hears the same songs on the radio, eats the same meals and has the same conversations over and over and over again.

Finally, he discovers that only when he changes his behavior and his life, can he break free from the eternity of repetition. In honor of the real Groundhog Day, we asked small-business owners what they would do differently if they had the chance:

The one key element that I would love to revisit is the issue of hiring family to work for me. I operated a small real estate management company in North Carolina and thought it would be a great idea to hire all of my family members who were out of work at the time. I thought that it would be a great idea to keep this business strictly among family. I was so wrong. Everyone thought they owned a share of my business. Tension, arguments, favoritism and much more became a major factor, so I disbanded the company and started the hiring process with real professionals.
— Carol Sankar, carolsankar.com

I should have started my business alone. I never considered all of my options and instead quickly jumped into a partnership. My advice to others would be to choose business partners carefully, or better yet, go it alone and hire contractors.
— Bibby Gignilliat, partiesthatcook.com

[One of the things I would do differently] would have been working with an accountant from the beginning. New entrepreneurs often start small businesses based on good ideas. In starting the business money is always an issue and it is important to minimize costs. We depended on financial software, but were not aware of all of the tax implications as they related to a business.
— Rashelle LeCaptain, connecting-cultures.com

I would have got involved in marketing and promotion much earlier. We needed to make people aware of our business and our products and we held off way too long on public relations, marketing and viral web marketing.
— Steve Levine, AtmosAir Solutions

[The one thing I would change would be] not getting so emotionally close to my employees. Boundaries need to be set. Giving others that you "trust" too much power really makes it hard and even more difficult when it’s time to differentiate between what’s business and what’s personal.
— Georgette Pascale, pascalecommunications.com

I would hire a business coach who focuses on working with entrepreneurs to start and grow businesses. A good business coach helps you analyze the business from the big picture, serves as a sounding board, works as an accountability buddy and helps you stay focused on where you are and where you are going.
— Myra Mcelhaney, myramcelhaney.com

I would have planned better. I was all over the place in the beginning — adding any product that made sense, approaching all kinds of potential customers, doing every little thing I could think of to get my business going. But if I had slowed down and "worked smarter rather than harder," I could have done a much better job getting things off the ground.
— Jordan Gottlieb, go-green-fundraising.com

The one thing I would do over would be to heed the advice from those who have been there and trained to advise others. I dived into business headfirst with blinders on and it certainly made for some expensive lessons learned.
— Karlene Sinclair-Robinson, kprfundingsolutions.com

Never go into business with someone just for their money. There is always money out there to fund a great business concept and smart people with the ability to implement them. Once you have tied yourself to a partner for the money you'll find out quickly that money is the least of your worries when working in a startup.
— Vicki Donlan, vickidonlan.com

I would have hired administrative help day one instead of waiting eight years. I had the false assumption starting out that I have to understand every little process of my business in order to be able to train and oversee someone else. Not so. I have a fabulous virtual assistant who now teaches me about how to better manage certain parts of my business.
— Leslie Kuban, lesliekuban.com

As a family law attorney, I would have been more niche-oriented when I first started my practice. The general thinking when starting a business is to open it up to as many people as possible. But I’ve found that by concentrating my practice on only representing men in family court, I’m able to provide my clients with a more concise perspective, which they appreciate and seek out.
— David T. Pisarra, mensfamilylaw.com

I would have saved more on overhead/administrative expenditures to prepare for the drought(s). During the first three years of my independence, I made unnecessary purchases to appear more businesslike, including purchasing multiple phones, phone lines, pagers, vehicle magnets, assorted technologies, an SUV, leasing office space and later a training center. After wasting tens of thousands of dollars on the unnecessary, I have learned economical ways to make my small businesses appear just as large as the major corporations.
— Dr. Bisa Batten Lewis, drbisa.com

I hugely underestimated the distribution process and the hurdles that I would have to jump through as a self-published author. I would not have printed 5,000 copies of my book to get a price break! Instead, I would have gone with a print-on-demand service that I just recently discovered.
— Susanne Alexander-Heaton, motivatedbynature.com