Do you ever wonder what really makes a business successful?

Some people think all you need is money, but the reality is that you can start a business with no money. A great start will set you on the right course.

The most crucial time in the life of a business is the first year.

If you can’t survive your first 12-months in business, it’s all over. In the beginning, every day matters.

What you spend your time on during the first year could be the difference between success and failure.

I have interviewed many successful entrepreneurs, and have asked many of them the following question:

“What is the most important thing for an entrepreneur to focus on during the 1st year in business?”

…and here is how they have responded.

andrew-witkin-success-harbor-interviewAndrew Witkin

“You know I think every business is a little different so I don’t know if its universal but I do think that when you are doing a new business a start-up of sorts I mean ultimately the business is going to sink or swim there a lot of variables that can affect you how much capital you have the right people those are all big variables but at the core of everything you do is the value proposition of the product or service it’s what your charging to what you’re producing against what it cost you to produce it, is that differential valuable to people enough to pay you know the price that you think it worth, and I think ultimately you got to constantly be focused on when where and how and in what form does your product or service best meet your customers need and how you continually mold the product and service to what that is and I think staying focused on that and not getting lost and a lot of other distractions is so important and I would say that would be for us or any entrepreneur I think very fundamental to, and I actually believe CEO and the founder it’s probably in a very passionate good position to be monitoring that because they would probably had the initial idea in the first place as to why it would be valuable and hopefully you can then inspire a team to come on board to want to build something that you think is going to be something very valuable to people and they all have a big role in that but somebody is got to ultimately be evaluating is this collectively , universally as an entire brand or a product service is it delivering to people the value that you need long-term to make this thing a successful business cause if it’s not you are going to be kind of going down the wrong path and so you really need to focus on that right from the start and especially in the first year where you are getting a lot of raw data to help to kind of guide you as to whether or not you’ve made good decisions or bad or certainly can you provide time to rectify what you may have previously thought.”


jim-wang-success-harbor-interviewJim Wang

“I firmly believe in the lean startup mentality and so even before you open your doors or whatever you’re doing try to do whatever you can to prove out the model. If you’re selling blinds right, try to go door to door and sell blinds. Do the minimum you could possibly do to figure out whether or not you’re cut out for that business because so many people. What happens is you get this idea in your head like and it sounds fun because you’ve never actually done it and you’ve never faced the challenges that the people who have actually done the work face every day and so you have this romantic view of a business in your head and then you get into it and then you start putting money and that becomes a sudden cost but you don’t, you’re not able to pull yourself away because you see the sun and you keep pushing forward. Perfect example is everyone thinks it’s fun to own a bar or restaurant right because you think of like shows like Cheers or other things where you always have fun in a bar, why not, it’s like you’re constantly throwing a party but in reality starting a restaurant or bar is miserable if you ask anybody who’s ever started a bar or restaurant and so it’s trying to force yourself to get into the mentality of making those decisions and doing the work without having to put in the huge financial investment. Something that most entrepreneurs fail at, they don’t actually make themselves go through the decision-making process.”


Josh Josh-Pigford-Success-Harbor-InterviewPigford

“Shipping something. Most people get caught up in building a product or trying to do this weird validation thing, trying to figure out if anyone will pay for their product before they have a product and I think people spend too much time trying to mitigate risk. And the fact is, being an entrepreneur is just risky. And the sooner you can get something out the door and actually get a feel if someone will pay for it, the sooner you can either say yea, this is a great idea or no, let me move on. And I think in those first few months, people get misled by things like having this landing page that collects e-mail addresses and they get a 1,000 email addresses and they somehow convinced themselves that validates their business idea. But nobody ever gave them an idea. They get misled, they go down the wrong path by some weird bad validation technique and they waste their time. I think it’s extremely important to ship a product that people will pay for and figure out if they will pay for it. If they won’t, you should keep trying something else.”


matt-paulson-success-harbor-interviewMatt Paulson

“I think there are a lot of people who worry about stuff that might be problems down the road but aren’t problems yet. People worry too much about like what kind of software they’re using and just issues that aren’t going to be issues for them for a long time to come. I kind of tell people well you know worry about what web hosting that they have. It doesn’t really matter because you only have fifty people who go to your website a day so I think if you, if you worry about problems, you worry about problems when they become problems. You don’t worry about them ahead of time, I guess is what I’m trying to say.”


nick-kellet-success-harbor-interviewNick Kellet

“I think in the beginning you push, you’re pushing this, not even a boulder, it’s a small pebble right and it grows into a, it grows bigger as you go and you’re pushing this boulder uphill and I think you need to keep looking for signs of life that it’s actually pushing itself right. If you always need to be there pushing forever more, you haven’t really built something that’s, I mean you can build businesses that way but it costs, it takes more money because you’re always having to provide all of the growth momentum by advertising and promoting so it’s it’s managing that mix of paid owned and owned media, the discovery that your product has a natural appeal with people and is going to promote itself virally on its own.”


richard-marriott-success-harbor-interviewRichard Marriott

“Don’t launch that business until you fully research the market and know your way in, that’s the first bit of advice. Before you even think of starting a website or anything, make sure you properly have researched the market and find a special angle you can go in, which is totally different to everyone else. Otherwise you will just get lost amongst all the noise and I’d also recommend heavily networking even in the research stage before you launch a business, so drive up a lot of excitement to the people in that industry. So you haven’t even launched a blog yet but they’re already getting excited. So then when you do launch, you’re not just going to go off like a lead balloon, that’s one of the first I do and then once you do launch continue the networking. Initially I would recommend if we are talking keywords, go after some much less competitive keywords in your first posts and then once you built up a few links to site and you got a more authority, then chase the more competitive keywords cause it would be easier for you to rank once you’ve got some links site, some authority, people are interested. Then you can find out all of the linkages from your other posts that you already launch to those new big posts which you are targeting harder keywords and that will give you much better chance of ranking to those.”


susan-baroncini-moe-success-harbor-interviewSusan Baroncini-Moe

“Yeah that’s a really good question because you’re right most businesses fail early. So with my clients the things that we focus on early are relationship building, connecting with everyone you know. When you’re starting out you want to make sure that everyone that knows you knows what you’re doing, knows that you’re building a business. Now there are times that I think that networking serves a purpose for some businesses but more often than not, networking groups are not particularly beneficial because they’re either structured the wrong way or people approach them the wrong way. What I mean by that is they approach it with the mentality of getting business rather than you know coming to with an air of, what value can I bring to the table for this group? So I spend a lot of my time thinking about the people I know and my vast network that maybe I could connect. So if you’re a connector, people think of you and remember you or if you bring a lot of value to the table for people they want to bring value back to you. It’s not, that’s not why you do it but it’s a good way to show up in the world and it tends to be pretty profitable as my friend Bob Berd likes to say so I think that one of the things that you really want to focus on is relationship building, not necessarily for the purpose of growing your business but that is going to be the result.”


syed-balkhi-success-harbor-interviewSyed Balkhi

“It’s really, really hard to say what you should focus on because every entrepreneur, every different business has different needs but I would say try to nail down exactly what you’re building, what you’re creating. A lot of times people say they want to create something but they kind of have an idea or sort of idea of what they want to create. Nail it down. Nail it down to exactly what you want to build and then build it versus trying to go in and then figure out as you’re going.”


wes-schaeffer-success-harbor-interviewWes Schaeffer

“Well, I’ve always said, there’s no problem a business has that can’t be fixed with a 100 percent increase in revenue. I see too many people who really ignore, abhor, hate, sales and marketing. So what they’ll do is go out and spend all this time and money creating a new widget, they’ll trademark it, they’ll patent it, before they’ll ever know if it will sell. I will put up a landing page and send an email out to my list, buy a little bit of traffic, literally, a little, $50 to $300 of traffic to see if there’s an interest in a book or a webinar or a three-part or ten part sales training series and if there’s an interest – and I did this for my book, I pre-sold my book with a four-month lead time, ok? So I said you can buy it now, it’ll come out in four months. But at pre-ordering you can get it at a discount and here are all these bonuses, so then I knew what the interest was, then I was motivated to complete it because I didn’t want to refund everybody’s money. And this goes back to what I said at the beginning, if you can keep your expenses down, you can stay in business a long time. And sometimes just being alive to fight another day and outlast your competitors is the key to success. But people will go out, they’ll get a new car, they’ll wrap it, they’ll get a ten page full color brochure that nobody ever reads, they’ll overpay for a website, they’ll buy fancy phones for everybody and there’s no revenue.”