Yes, you could just wing it!
Most entrepreneurs will tell you; “It doesn’t matter where you start as long as you start” and I know that’s true but, it is also how you start that matters.
Understanding ‘how’ will prevent you from repeating the same mistakes over and over again .
Yes, you could just go with your gut feeling, but is it worth the risk?
You need to know:
- What to do
- What not to do
- Why you’re doing it
- And when to do it.
“On a wing and a prayer” is not a smart recipe for success.
How you start can make or break that life-long desire to start your own business. It can save you time, unnecessary expense, a lot of pain and even save a relationship or two along the way.
I believe that ‘how’ you start successfully is also closely linked to ‘why’ you want to start.
‘It does not matter where you start, but where you start matters’
The most important question you need to ask yourself before you do anything else is “Why do I want to start my new business”?
This might seem to be a no brainer at first, but too many people never actually ask themselves this question and I believe it is fundamental building block.
Too many people, including myself (in the past), start for the wrong reasons. The most common being:
- Just to make money
- To escape a job you hate.
These may be good results of starting your own business but they are NOT good reasons to start your own business and they alone are nothing more than recipes for failure. There has to be more to it than that.
That’s not to say you can’t be a success if your motivation is purely money or escape, of course you can, but starting a business is hard work, it’s tough and that’s a fact. And, when a task is tough you have to really want to do it to succeed.
So to really know ‘how’ to start you need to first understand ‘why’ you want to start.
If you start with a passion for something, or a mission to improve something, you will be much more motivated and prepared to keep going when the going gets tough and it will get tough.
With over 35 years experience I know that if you don’t understand what you want to do, why you want to do it and what the consequences of success and failure will be for you, then any attempt you make is very likely to fail in the long term.
Over 90% of new businesses fail, so you owe it to yourself to try and get it right the first time. I believe your ‘why’ has to be powerful enough to overcome the many obstacles and setbacks you will encounter along the way, as well as to help you build a loyal following for your business and your products.
Here are a few important things to ask yourself:
Why do I want to start my own business?
The answer should not be just “to make money”. This is just one result of starting your own business, an important one but a result, nothing more.
If you understand why you want to start your own business you will have a much better chance of convincing others why they should buy your product and why they should tell their friends to buy your product.
This is especially true if ‘what’ you sell is not unique, if it is a commodity and if what you sell is the same as your competitors. You might even buy it from the same supplier or manufacturer.
How you sell it is your ‘USP’ or unique selling point. This is what makes your product or service different from your competitors. It may be customer service, distribution, experience etc.
The ‘why’ is: what drives you, your cause, your purpose, your mission and what makes you get out of bed in the morning.
What am I passionate about – what do I love doing?
Trying to start your own business is so much easier and a lot more fun if it is something you are passionate about. Passion alone is not enough but it is possibly the most important foundation block on which to start something new.
‘When you are at the crossroads and your heart loves one path and doesn’t love the other, forget about which path has the money and the work, take the path you love’.
A couple of years ago a good friend asked me to join her in setting up a new start-up. The business was selling ‘sex toys’ and although the name we chose suited our niche perfectly and the branding was just right, we had started it for the wrong reasons. For her it was to make money and for me it was the challenge of creating a new brand in an already crowded market.
The problem was that neither of us were users of the products and were certainly not passionate them, and it quickly became hard work building an online audience and convincing others about products we did not believe in ourselves.
Start with a plan
If you don’t know where you’re going, you might not get there.
Without a plan even the most brilliant business can get lost. You need to have goals, create milestones and have a strategy in place to set yourself up for success.
It’s ok to change your mind along the way and a good plan should not be set in stone; it should grow and change as you move forward and as you improve and refine your idea.
Setting out a clear plan of why, as well as how and when, before you start will save you a lot of pain and expense (and possibly even relationships) further down the road.
Setting out a clear plan will help you spot any weaknesses or vague areas you may not have thought through properly.
Build your audience first
To reach your audience you must have an audience in the first place. In 2016 this means social media: Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Snapchat, to name but a few.
However, building an audience is hard work; we live in an age of information overload and attention span is limited. You will need to put in the hours if you want to succeed.
“I’ve learned from experience that if you work harder at it, and apply more energy and time to it, and more consistency, you get a better result. It comes from the work.” - Louis C.K.
First of all decide what makes you different from your competitors, think about the ‘why’ again – then develop a style, a voice and a story around that difference.
However it has to be, as marketing people love to say, ‘authentic’ to be believable. It has to be real, not fake. The world of business already has enough ‘snake-oil’ salesmen.
In the beginning if you can do a task yourself do it. If you can’t, ask yourself ‘do I need it yet’? Bootstrapping is the process of launching a business using only what you can afford with the skills you have at hand.
- Use ‘free’ first. In other words don’t signup to expensive third party software, analytics and website add-ons on day one. There are plenty of free options out there you can use until you start making money.
Always take the ‘free’ option, if it works
- Resist the urge to pay yourself for as long as possible.
- Don’t try to offer everything to your customers; focus your core product or service. You have plenty of time to expand your range when and if the time is right.
- Do as much as you can before you quit the day job.
- Settle as many debts as you can.
- Build up some savings to give yourself a cushion. You need to get good at managing your money, otherwise you will be back in the day job before you know it.
- Get rid of the things you don’t need. We all have way too much material stuff that we don’t actually need to have a good life.
If you want to begin creating a brand that really does inspire and turns your followers into customers then this is what you should do: