Starting your own business takes a big leap of faith, a touch of crazy and a lot of hard graft. It’s terrifying, intimidating, invigorating and challenging all at the same time. The statistics aren’t in our favour, we are still struggling to get ourselves out of this recession that started 5 years ago… BUT running your own business is AMAZING. There is something really wonderful about being your own boss. Taking control of your own destiny. Being in charge of your own income stream.
Is it easy? No – but ask any business owner who has been at it for some time and is achieving some success and most of them will say that they are now unemployable.
So how can you make sure you start right?
1. Start with what you know and let your experience be your guide
Start with what you know. If you have spent twenty years working as an marketing consultant or you love to go to art galleries as a hobby, consider how you can take that experience and turn it into a successful business. Look around you. Do you see needs that are going unmet or can you think of a better way of doing something?
2. Faster, Smarter, Cheaper, Better
Many first time entrepreneurs assume that they have to come up with a new business idea to be successful. That simply is not true. Most successful businesses are born not from innovation, but from necessity. Instead of trying to come up with an idea that changes the world, take a look at the world around you and see where there might be a void that needs filling or a business concept that needs improvement. Think about yourself as a customer or seller of a service or product and how you might be able to do it faster, smarter, cheaper or better.
In a competitive market you need to find a way to differentiate yourself. If you have an idea think about these four questions and brainstorm 20 ideas for each one to see which way feels right for you.
- How can you deliver a product or service or give value faster than anyone else
- How can you deliver products or services more efficiently than anyone else.
- How can you deliver a higher quality product or service than anyone else
- How can you deliver products or services cheaper than anyone else.
Many successful businesses have been built by taking a traditional business and making it better. Domino’s Pizza was certainly not the first to offer home delivery of pizza, but they were the first to guarantee it would be delivered piping hot to your door in 30 minutes or less. Amazon.com was not the first company to sell books, but they were one of the first that would let you buy books from the comfort of your own home while sitting in your underwear. Everywhere there are people selling the same products, coffee, jewellery, food – it’s all about your ability to get noticed and find your point of difference.
3. Remember YOU when you are planning your business
Often women will have different motivations for starting their own business. Work / life balance, flexibility, independence, personal satisfaction, AND to make money. It is worth identifying what your values are before you get started to help you understand what your success criteria will be. Look forward 6 months, 12 months, 3 years… What do you want to be doing? What does your life look like? How are you spending your time. Build your business around what you want to be doing and make sure that you are enjoying the journey.
4. Make sure you are spending some of your time doing what you love
It is important that you have a passion and connection to what you are doing. You will increase your chances of success enormously if you find a business that excites you so much that you want to be doing it all the time. Working in a business that you have no fire for can be extremely difficult and in worst cases make you ill. A friend of mine was a partner in a business that was really draining her. She had compromised on her family life by not spending much time with her son and is now going through early menopause at the age of 39. She has now stepped away from that business and feels like an enormous weight has been lifted from her shoulders and is pursuing her own dream to create a consultancy that helps businesses in crisis situations. If you don’t enjoy what you do the business will become a chore, not a joy.
5. Find a niche – and own it!
Many businesses have gone broke trying to be all things to all people. The ability to offer a millions of products under one roof is all well and good for Tesco, but not for most new small businesses. Try to identify a niche that you would enjoy working in and think about the type of business that you could create. It can be hard to do this and feel like you are leaving behind customers that might be interested in working with you but the reality is that it will make everything in your business so much easier. Finding your customers, targeting the right people, using the right language in your marketing. Figure out who you want to work with and how you can help them and get smart about marketing to them. Note though – the niche needs to be big enough to support you!
6. Assess the competition and decide if you can find a place for yourself
If the business pool is already filled with other companies doing the same thing you want do, think about how you might be able to differentiate yourself. Henry Ford has a great quote “A market is never saturated with a good product, but it is very quickly saturated with a bad one. ” Take this to heart. Test your proposition to determine whether you can make yourself stand out and always try to be the best in your market.
7. Embrace the art of marketing and selling
If no-one knows about you or is able to find you then you will struggle. All the passion in the world won’t help you build a successful business if no-one knows you exist. Marketing and selling can be great fun. If you find it a chore, odds are it will be a chore so find the way of marketing your business that works for you. Get in touch with your inner sales woman and think about how you like to buy. How do you find the products and services that you are looking for and then choose the ones that resonate most with you. Developing these skills take practice, but once you master a sales technique or a marketing strategy they will be part of your business toolkit for ever. Don’t be too hard on yourself as most new business owners find sales and marketing hard but when you find the ‘right way’ for you and your business, your business will sky rocket.
There is no rush
Whatever business you choose to start, Itake the time required to make an informed, intelligent decision. Think about whether you can start your business in your free time, while you still have your current job (and income) to fall back on. Talk to friends and associates who use the product or service you will provide to see if they would consider become paying customers. Do your market research and put together your business plan as your road map to success. Consider whether it makes sense to start small to test your idea and move into your business full-time when it can support you.
If you can imagine it, you can achieve it. If you can dream it, you can become it.”
William Arthur Ward
Photo credit: Photo by Kai Schreiber