In this receding economy and with unemployment on the rise, starting your own business (being your own boss) may be the thing on your mind. Yes, this can be satisfying and fulfilling, but the major issue is that if starting a business was that easy, everybody would have started one.
Most startups don’t make it past the first two years. Many more others don’t make it past the next six months. This is because these entrepreneurs fail to consider some things before diving into their business of choice. In this post, I have compiled 10 questions you need to ask to help you scale the hurdle.
1. What is my Idea?
Do not jump into business without thinking your idea through. Most startups make the mistake of jumping into a business because they suspect someone is already making money from it. Consider your idea in line with the people you’re going to market to. What need do they have that you can provide solutions for?
Business is all about fulfilling a need in exchange for cash, so you must have an idea first of all. Researching the idea involves knowing who is already trading in that idea and planning on how to make yours unique, to have a competitive edge over others.
2. What experience do I have?
This is an important question to ask as it portends danger to go into any business you know nothing about. You need some level of knowledge and experience to drive your business to success.
Fortunately, with the advantage of the internet, you can research and get the knowledge or skill you need for your business. There are people who are already in that business and there are forums where you can ask questions and get genuine answers.
Besides the online research, having real life experience on what you want to go into is also very important. For me, if you want to start baking, you may consider working in a bakery to know how the system works. If you have in mind to start a school, you may need to take up a job in a school and gain experience on the structure of school system and how it is run.
3. What plan do I have?
Succeeding in business will definitely be difficult if one does not plan. Failing to plan, they say, means planning to fail. First of all, create a business plan. It will guide and help keep you on track in your business.
According to Stephanie Burns, founder and CEO of Chic CEO – a free resource for female entrepreneurs looking to start a business,
“Creating your business plan at the beginning will help guide your vision and direction as you continue along you entrepreneurial journey. Think of your business plan as your blue print…you wouldn’t just start building a house without a plan would you?”
4. Do I need an employee?
Can you run the business alone or do you need an extra hand? Or better still, do you need someone to partner with you? It is important that you ask. Employing someone means making great commitment to that person, so you need to think it through from the beginning. In case you don’t need an employee from day one, note down when you’ll need to hire someone and seriously work towards it.
If you are going to work alone, you need to prepare yourself to wear many hats. The burden of the business will rest solely on your shoulders, where you’ll have to double up to fill all positions – sales, accounting, marketing, production, distribution, stocking, cleaning etc. You need to ready yourself on this regard.
5. Who are my customers?
Saying you’re planning to sell to everyone means you’re planning to sell to no one. Your target market is the specific group of people that your business has created products and services for.
No, everyone can’t be your customer. You need to carve out the group of people you will sell to. Is your target audience nursing mothers and babies, old people, male gender, female gender, students or sports lovers? You need to know.
Above all, make sure you’re targeting the right people. Setting up a gym in a community of elderlies is an example of targeting the wrong audience. Knowing your customers will help you decide on proper marketing and advertisement approach to take.
6. Who are my competitors?
Who else is doing what you’re planning to do? This is another important question to ask. All hope is not lost yet if there are people who have already ventured into the business you have in mind. You will have to plan on making your own products and services more unique and sellable.
Find time to visit other businesses who offer similar products and services as you. Learn both their strong and weak points and plan on how you can do it better. Going into competition with someone better than you is a guarantee that your business would be beaten into the dust.
You have to plan to be different whether in the area of price, quality, quantity, speedy delivery, fast and efficient customer service etc.
7. How much do I have?
How will you fund this business of yours and how will you get paid? Getting money to finance your business is one of most intimidating aspects of running your own business. If your business requires certain amount of cash, be sure you have saved up or know how to get the money.
But fortunately, there are some businesses you can start with little or no capital. Again, the advantage the internet provides has made finding customers very easy for businesses that can’t afford the high cost of advert.
8. What license do I need to operate?
Another thing to consider is knowing the right license, approval, permission or accreditation you will need before starting your business. There are some rules that govern the establishment of certain businesses and this differs from country to country and from state to state. Find out what works in your region and work by it.
Be careful not to violate constituted laws, especially around things like employment, workplace safety, taxation etc. Some businesses also require you to register with their association in order to operate. You may need to do some consultations here to know which path to tow.
9. Do I need a mentor?
Yes, you will definitely need a mentor. Your business mentor is someone you can ask for business advice so as to avoid making mistakes. Your mentor should be someone who has more experience in the business than you. They should be someone who has been there or who is doing what you’re doing and who is successful at it. You can find people in your circle of friends who are business gurus or seek out someone you admire. You can also seek recommendations from people within your industry.
10. When do I start?
When do you plan to quit your pay job so you can start your own business? My advice: do not leave your pay job in a hurry. That salary may come in handy while your business is still struggling through the startup stage. It is advisable to at first start your business as part-time and then go into it full time when the business is strong enough to sustain you.
To wrap it up, having known the questions you need to ask before starting your own business, congratulations; because you will not commit the common mistakes most startup entrepreneurs make. I can’t wait to hear your good news, and we’ll always be here to help you. Drop your comments and questions below.
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