You've got the first two things you need to create a new business — an idea, and the will to make it happen. Shepherding that idea into a full blown reality manages to both seem easy and be incredibly intimidating. It's not as simple as throwing money at the venture, but the process isn't as nebulous as you might think it is. This article will give you the first five steps regarding how to bring your business to life.
1. Don't Wing It - Have a Plan
No matter your experience level with business ownership, you must get all of your thoughts out of your head and into a plan. You need to brainstorm and consider all aspects of your business idea.
Putting your ideas on paper will help you process all of the thoughts and issues you have with your idea. It's especially helpful if you have a partner; it ensures you're on the same page, and that you both know what you want for the business. What's more, it could absolutely keep you from investing in the wrong direction.
It's also important to remember that truly great ideas and companies don't come from just one person. Singular genius might be memorable, but having a team you can trust that can help you come up with lots of ideas will increase the likelihood of finding or even combining solid ideas you can actually act on. At a later stage, they can also provide an extra perspective to view the plan with constructive criticism.
2. Know Your Market
As iconic as the "build it and they will come" mantra is, when it comes to business, it just isn't true. You can be the best at what you do and offer an innovative product or service, but if you don't know who your customers are, how to reach them, or what they're actually looking for, your business can still fail.
First, you need to know and use the tools and data at your disposal. You must research your competitors. A quick Google search about your competition will reveal what their customers think of them, what's working for them (or not), and even areas where they're weak. The US Small Business Association also offers suggestions about how to do market research, not to mention how your small business venture fits into the global marketplace.
It's important to remember how easy it is to lose your objectivity, or even to become discouraged. This is still a stage where you can course correct based on a clear understanding of the market place. If an idea doesn't look like it'd work, you can retool it. Furthermore, this analysis not only helps you understand your competition and your consumer base, it can also help you identify potential collaborators. These collaborators can be another source of mentorship and insight.
Second, you need to be looking at your analysis and begin asking the right questions. If you do this before you start investing time in building the business — not to mention before investing money — then you can be more confident in moving forward in establishing your plan. Here are a few of the questions you should consider:
Is there a market need for my services or products?
Is the way I plan to create and offer my services or products legal according to where I will work and where I will sell?
Which market segment makes up my customers?
Is there competition in this market, and if so, what kind?
How should my business distinguish itself from that competition?
How much are my customers going to be willing to pay for my products or services?
How long will it take me to make a profit at that price point?
What is the shelf life of my product or service, i.e., can it withstand shifting trends?
3. Work Smarter, Not More Costly
Now that you've got a plan and you've taken a good long look at the market, you may think it's time to start spending the money to build your business. Technically that's true — there's a lot about starting a business that costs money, and you're going to need to spend it. The trick is, you need to spend it wisely.
More importantly, what you ought to be spending is time.
After all, time is money. It's time, energy, and non-monetary resources that are going to make the biggest difference when your business is in its infancy. Doing the research, meeting with people, making connections with customers and investors, ensuring your products and services are all going in the right direction, and all the things you can't plan for are what require your focus. Throwing money at your business isn't the answer, and could even end up costing you more than spending extra time will.
Starting a business can mean walking a tightrope. You may need to keep your day job in order to fund your business until your business finds its feet, or at the very least some investors. And, of course, there's your family and personal life to consider. Starting a business venture is going to require some very long hours from your day, so be sure you also plan for some work-life balance.
This is where your network of resources ought to come in. Whether it's business partners or collaborators, advice and a helping hand can make the difference between growing toward success and going crazy from the pressure.
Also, it bears noting that while you will probably have to do almost everything yourself as your business gets started, you need to have a plan for passing off various tasks to people who are qualified to do them. This is going to let you focus on areas that you're best at, like keeping your company on track. Remember, time is money, and your time is going to be worth spending in the right areas.
4. Conduct Market Testing
No matter how great your idea is, it's going to have flaws. You're already investing your time, so before you begin investing money in equipment, you need to make sure that the product or service you've developed is actually going to work. You can't do that unless you actually put your business out into the world, but that doesn't mean you need to dive in head first.
Try dipping your toes in instead. Here's a few of the valuable perspectives market testing can offer you:
Objective and critical feedback from actual consumers
Accurate consumer identification
Insight into actual demand for the product
Identifying consumer willingness to pay
Understanding relevant adjustments that need to be made before full scale launch
Insight into how you should approach marketing and advertising plans
Mitigation of investment risks
Remember that market testing can be on however small or large of a scale befits your business and your budget. It's probably better to start small. Spending your time and money running effective market testing may require some trial and error, but in the end, it's going to make your company more effective and successful without catastrophic losses.
5. Commit to Your Business
No one knows your business like you, and you're going to need to play ambassador for your business for quite some time. As we mentioned, to start with you're going to need to do a lot of the work yourself, and that's going to mean working long hours as often as possible. If you're not committed to your business, that's the first thing that investors, collaborators, partners, and even initial employees are going to notice.
You need to be there to sell your vision. You need to be there to put in time face-to-face, heading up development from building a website and social media presence to packaging products and finding customers. The only way to ensure your business gets off the ground is if you're there to lift it up.
Remember, starting a business is easy. Just about anyone can do it, especially with the tools and accessibility of the internet. But being a successful business is much, much harder. Following these steps for bringing your business idea to life is only the beginning of your journey as a business owner, the framework for where you need to start to actually aim for success, if you will. Put in the time, put in the effort, and you'll build a business you can be proud of.