We’ve all got great ideas. Great, money-making ideas, if we can implement them.
Therein lies the challenge - the implementation.
How do you go from idea to an enjoyable, fulfilling adventure as an entrepreneur?
Here’s some things you should, and shouldn’t do, from my experience.
Head knowledge is great, but heart knowledge is better. This is one area where I’d like you to take my word for it and avoid some of these costly mistakes.
I’ll grant you this, it’s better to try something and fail, than it is to try nothing and succeed. Better still is to accomplish without the headaches. So without further ado, here’s some things to do and don’t do.
DON’T THINK STARTING A BUSINESS IS SOMETHING TO TOY WITH.
Businesses are a lot of investment. Some models require a near endless stream of energy to get started and/or up and running. If you’re going to start a business, be dead sure you can dig in and devote time to making it real.
There are thousands of business owners who will tell you it’s a ton of work. I’ll be the first, so get ready to get your hands dirty.
DO YOUR MARKET RESEARCH.
Yes, you have a great idea for a business. Yes, you have a passion, and yes, you’re probably great at what you love doing. I"‘m not online yelling, but i do want you, my dear reader to be very clear about this: THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT A VIABLE BUSINESS . It may very well be that there’s not already thousands of people doing what you want to do as a business because there’s not a developed market for it.
It’s a painful lesson, but one that needs to be understood before you start this.
Not everybody wants to buy hot sauce online - Count the Cost.
I love to cook. I love making sweet and spicy foods for my friends and family to enjoy. I love fresh, healthy foods. It seemed like a good idea at the time, so I bought hundreds of bottles, hundreds of seals, caps, boxes…the whole nine.
Doc’s Dang Tangy Hand-crafted Hot Sauce was underway. People loved it too. I sold jars at my work and even got some into a local restaurant. I made enough to cover the cost of the fruits and peppers, but didn’t have the demand in place or proper cost structure for the product to make it my sole source of income. As much as I would’ve loved to make batch after batch, I would either have to use cheaper, artificial ingredients, or be doing it for the next hundred years to fill the hypothetical demand needed to make it a viable business.
There are several places available to you. Your local chapter of the Small Business Development Council will be able to provide numerous resources at no charge as well as referrals to paid services. Your local chamber of commerce can also provide valuable market information for you. Google is free, too. All of these can provide clarity with your market demographic.
I’m big on free. Starting a business means you’re going to have to manage expenses as much as possible.
Had I done the research beforehand, I would’ve kept Doc’s Dang Tangy as a hobby, as it is today.
The ability to get in front of a potential customer is absolutely critical, which is why I so highly recommend business-owners-to-be watch Simon Sinek’s now famous TED talk, How Great Leaders Inspire to Action..
Not only does that video provide a great model for business owners, It also provides a tremendous marketing strategy. Go watch that after you finish reading this. It’ll help.
It also leads me to my next “don’t”…
DON’T ASSUME EVERYONE SEES YOUR VISION.
I have to come back to my current coaching venture on this point, because it was something I had to get really, really good at communicating.
I didn’t learn all this neuroscience stuff to sell five star customer service coaching to business owners, I learned it because I wanted to learn how to create attraction. Making it a customer service business class was a by-product of creating good feelings in people who came into my restaurant. Making guests feel great was my job, and I found a foolproof way of doing it.
The problem came in communicating how this would help a business owner. I had to learn to explain my vision in very clear terms. “Hey, I want to teach you this stuff because it will help you create genuine connection with your customers. You can begin to meet their needs on a values-based level, and generate more business through word of mouth advertising because of it.”
I communicated with purpose, and the business owners that had customer service issues grabbed onto that. Answer this question for yourself: Why am I in business… and why should anyone care? Answering this will help you market your business to your audience. It will cause some serious examination (especially the last part) but it will also greatly improve your ability to define your vision. Your product or service offering becomes more than just your business’ bread and butter. ti becomes a part of the conversation with your customer that fulfills their needs and meets their criteria for excellence.
The way you communicate your purpose in business will determine the type of audience you attract. It will resonate with some, but not with others. If you want to connect with those others as well, you have to meet them where they are and express your purpose in a way that speaks to their pain, or greatest need, or goal. You have to learn how to describe your offering in the terms the customer describes as the ideal solution.
Speak to the pain.
DO DEVELOP YOUR OFFERING.
Many years ago I was training with some Marine Corps friends (I’m a former Army guy, so I kinda had to show these guys how we do) and during this fun time, I had made my way into a bunker through an underground tunnel and was returning “fire” to defend my position. My buddy James popped up through the same trap door and handed me his weapons and ammo, “Here bro, take this stuff, I’m dead.”
“I can’t bro, I’m taking fire.” I was in the front corner of the bunker shooting outward, they had rounds coming in from all directions, and taking his stuff required crossing a hail of 6mm plastic BB’s ripping through the air at ridiculously painful speeds..
“Back up, knucklehead”
When I stepped back, my left leg went through the open trap door and crashed down on a log, shattering the second metatarsal bone in my foot.
I couldn’t put any weight on it for about a month and a half, which hurt my delivery job.
It was way back in the days when desktop publishing started to become a thing, so I thought I’d try my hand at that. (Again, good idea, but i didn’t count the cost of doing it). Back then, my idea of advertising was telling people I had a skill. It was like my son saying, “Dad, look what I can do…” before hurtling himself into the air into some funny pose.
The more profitable idea was to tell business owners I can create business cards, letterhead and even websites. That solved more problems and generated more income than saying “look what I can do…”.
Develop your product or service to be a solution to a problem.
DON’T QUIT AT THE FIRST SIGN OF OPPOSITION. Opposition will come. You can count on that. I can pretty much guarantee you, just as sure as your name is what it is, you’re going to run into obstacles, challenges, and naysayers. They’ll discourage you and make you want to quit. They may even send you spiraling down into battles with depression. God knows, I’ve been through that too.
I’ve said it a hundred times before, and I’ll probably say it a hundred times more: There is no such thing as failure. You either win, or you learn. Business ownership (or any other goal) is a long game. Don’t play the short game and think just because you don’t have x, y or z that you can’t make it happen. You can, if you find the right resources, whether it’s hiring a business coach or finding a grant or finding another person who can do what you can’t…the resources are out there.. Make the necessary course corrections and keep going. It’s fine to rest, but don’t quit.
There’s going to be times when running a business might seem overwhelming. You have a big goal, or lofty idea and you might feel some trepidation about getting started.
Chunk it down. Do a little bit each day towards your business, and do a little bit each day towards improving you. You’re worth it. Yes, it might take time, but as the adage says, Time will pass anyway.