via @growyouridea

1. Talk to your customers.

Understand: talking to and understanding your customers will forever be your #1 Priority throughout the beginning of your new business. Not fourth, not third, not second — YOUR FIRST PRIORITY. The task at hand is to “make something people want”, and it’s impossible to know their needs or their problems unless you get out of the building and talk to your customersface-to-face, on a consistent basis. No ifs, ands, or buts.

2. Build a prototype; Show it & tweak it.

Ask yourself: What is the absolute minimum set of features your customers would pay for? Put all of those together into a prototype and bring it to your customers. Watch their faces as they interact with the product. Ask them questions like: Does it solve your problems? What would you add/subtract/change? What’s missing? The answers to these questions will ultimately lead to a better final product.

3. Make something people want.

This is the motto of Y Combinator, and it’s essentially summed up as: if people don’t want what you’re offering, you don’t have a business. Business and customer growth can wait until you’re positive your product kicks ass.

4. Put first things first.

As you start your business, millions of priorities will be flying around your head — each one begging for your attention. Please: resist these urges. Instead, identify the most important tasks to accomplish, and postpone everything else until those are done. In other words, talk to your customers (#1) and perfect your product (#2) first. Besides that, at least at the start, don’t focus on anything else. Put first things first.

5. Your company is your #1 priority.

Too many fair-weather entrepreneurs fancy the idea of starting their own business, thinking it’ll be a walk in the park. Sooner or later, they give up when they realize they aren’t as motivated or don’t want to put in the necessary time and effort. Much like talking to your customers is the #1 priority for your business, your business must be the #1 priority in your professional life.

6. Build (and use) an email list.

Ryan Holiday, author of Growth Hacker Marketing, comments in said book that, “A list is the easiest and most effective marketing tool, period.” Clearly, an email list provides a direct connection to the people who are the most interested in what you’re doing. You’re able to dish out company updates, exclusive deals and offers, and insider information, all of which are bound to make your customers more excited and more engaged.

7. Become a thought leader.

To establish your presence as the go-to source for business in your chosen industry, you need to become a constant contributor in the field. Whether it be writing down your own thoughts for the world, sharing others’ ideas with a wider audience, or critiquing other influencers, you’ll prove yourself as an industry expert. If performed correctly, customers will come to you with any request they’re in need of.

8. Learn faster than competitors.

Whether this be through constant customer conversations or with deep industry connections, you must keep your finger on the pulse of the market. In 1988, Arie de Gues determined that, “The ability to learn faster than your competitors may be the only sustainable competitive advantage.” Thus, you need to adopt an ongoing learning process to stay ahead of societal trends, product features, and customer demands.

9. Be inquisitive.

Never stop asking questions to improve your current state. Why aren’t we growing as fast as expected? Why do customers stop using our product after 3 months? How come our online marketing efforts aren’t reaching set goals? Growing your new business is not easy, but you cannot be complacent with your initial. Understand: you must identify the underlying causes and make the necessary changes to put yourself back on course.

10. Get comfortable being uncomfortable.

“A person’s success in life can usually be measured by the number of uncomfortable conversations he or she is willing to have,” says Tim Ferriss, author of The 4 Hour Workweek. In other words, when we step outside of our comfort zone, that’s where the real learning begins. It’s not easy or enjoyable, but in doing so, you open yourself and your new business up to a world of opportunities you would have never had encountered otherwise