Lucinda Cross

Lucinda Cross says her first business failed because she had no business plan.

Six years ago, Lucinda Cross was a single mother of two with a dream to start her own business. She decided to jump in. She started a virtual marketing assistance business and planned to make it big.

She rented office space in New York City on Park Avenue, preparing for big clients to knock down her door, even though she wasn’t quite sure how she would attract those clients.

“My business plan was to wing it,” she says with a chuckle. “I really thought I had it all under control.”

For two years, Cross struggled. She watched her bank account dwindle and the business slowly fail.

“Lights were turned off, cars were repossessed, I moved in with my mother,” she says. “It was a huge mistake, a six-figure mistake.”

Rather than lick her wounds, Cross scraped together enough money to hire a business coach to help her understand what went wrong. The problem was that she had no plan, no direction, and no business model. With the help of the coach and a mentor she reached out to, she planned to restructure her business and try again.

In 2009, Cross launched a new endeavor, LC Associates. Her new business has a narrow focus: help small businesses with branding and marketing.

While Cross says her business failure was one of the most difficult periods in her life, she says that that “dark time” is the reason her business today is successful, and hopes her mistakes can educate others.

Cross offers these three tips to help new business owners succeed:

Create a business plan

As Cross realized, you can’t start a business by crossing your fingers and hoping it all works out.

“Every business owner will tell you to have a solid business plan in place before you launch your business,” she says. “We’ve all heard this advice, but so many people, including myself, disregard this golden piece of information.”

Whether you create a business plan yourself, or use tools like LivePlan to help you, Cross says it should be the first step you take to set up a business. The plan should address both the macro and micro level of your new venture.

“Your plan should be broad enough to incorporate your big picture goals, but detailed enough to give you specific, week-by-week instructions on how to accomplish those goals,” she says. “Without direction, there is no way you’ll accomplish your goals. It’s as simple as that.”

Assemble your “Fab Five”

When you’re getting ready to launch a business, don’t assume you have all the answers. Cross says one of the most valuable plays you can make before launching your business it to assemble a team of experts, which she calls the “Fab Five.”

“To be successful you need a business coach, a mentor, a lawyer, an accountant, and a supportive loved one,” she says. “You will face adversity, there’s no question about it. When those challenges hit you need to have an arsenal of people to lean on to trudge through those tough times.”

Invest in professional development

Cross got bogged down in her business, feeling more like an overworked employee than a business owner. To ensure you don’t go down the same road, she suggests spending time on your own personal development.

“Take the time to read new books and find inspiration from others,” she says. “When you get frustrated and lost in the day-to-day routine of the business, take a step back to gain some perspective and remember why you started the business to begin with.”

AvatarLisa Furgison

Lisa Furgison is a journalist with a decade of experience in all facets of media.