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10 do’s and don’ts of starting your own business

Monday, November 30 2015 12:00am

Want to become a successful entrepreneur? Read these top tips from Ohio University alumnus Brian Grady.

By Brianna Wilson

Who better to talk about the realities, pitfalls, and pros of being an entrepreneur than an Ohio University graduate who founded a company just a few years ago? Brian Grady, founder of Sway the Crowd Productions, a video storytelling company, and OHIO grad recently agreed to share his insights on the top do’s and don’ts of starting a business.

Do:

  1. Do your research. This includes the obvious items, like learning rules of your industry, checking out your competitors, and understanding the financial implications of going belly up. It also includes reading books--ones that aren’t for school. “I didn't have a degree in video production and considered myself more of a producer and salesman, so before I started Sway the Crowd, I read books on my own that really helped me understand the core foundation and technical aspects of the industry,” said Grady. “It’s a good thing I did, because clients expect you to know that stuff!”
  2. Focus on building a strong team. Oftentimes, this includes choosing quality over quantity, according to Grady. “Choose a few quality team members over several so-so members, who can drag you down,” he suggested.
  3. Know what your work is worth. Being a legitimate company--and demonstrating that cache to clients--starts with knowing what you’re worth. “In the beginning, we thought low quotes would help win  business--and it initially did--but our inexperience with quoting became apparent the next year when we had to dramatically increase our rates to deliver the same quality work,” said Grady. Sway the Crowd lost not only a client, but also part of their reputation. “Now that we know more about quoting and are in tune with market prices, it’s much easier--for us and for our clients.”
  4. Learn about the financial responsibilities of being an entrepreneur. Understand the risks, and make calculated ones. Take an accounting class, like Grady did. “It taught me the basics of managerial accounting, taxes--essentially everything you need to consider financially before starting a business,” he said.
  5. Shop around for accounting and payroll agencies. Grady and his team went through three different accountants before finding one that worked for them. “If at all possible, hire someone to do the accounting and payroll,” suggested Grady. “It takes a lot off of your plate so you can focus on growing and developing your business.”

Don’t:

  1. Work too hard. Identify boundaries and stick to them. The best way to succeed is to know how to lead a healthy and balanced life. “Balance and hard work are both important in the early stages of a business,” said Grady. “You just have to make sure not to get too stuck in one or the other. Celebrate your successes while also staying focused on the end goal.”
  2. Forget to ask questions. Work to truly understand the project and how it relates to the client’s goals and needs--before you start. “We went from just delivering a video to asking about the goal, audience, distribution, duration, format, etc., and it’s made a huge difference,” explained Grady. “Our work now centers around making sure the product really works for the client.”
  3. Sell yourself short. We’ve all heard that if you want to start a business, you’ll eat nothing but ramen, won’t sleep, and be so dedicated to your cause that you’ll lose sight of everything else--but that doesn’t mean you should live up to the stereotype. “It’s an unhealthy culture because if you promote being cheap then you’ll attract cheap clients,” said Grady. So find an affordable price point and lifestyle that works for both of you.
  4. Lose sight of your mission. Cash flow is critical, so you may end up taking some assignments that don’t align with your creative niche or ultimate goals. Go where the opportunities take you, but make sure those gigs don’t supersede the ones that matter most to you and your team.
  5. Underestimate “the rules”. To be taken seriously in any industry, you have to know what the rules are--and follow them. “In the video industry, for example, you need to know the laws surrounding licensing for music, imagery, and video,” said Grady.