First of all – entrepreneur; what does that mean exactly? A person who starts a business where there was none before? Definitely, being a challenger of the status quo is key along with the trait of being a keen observer. After that, it’s about making well spun, well targeted NOISE about what you do. It’s not much good being a change-maker if nobody ever gets to hear about it, or is interested enough to want to buy it. So my definition would be; Entrepreneur = innovative thinking + marketing.
The biggest failure with start-ups is usually in commercialising the concept or more simply, in not finding enough customers to justify the business. There may be a business, but is it really a sustainable, long term business? Is your passion for your business idea clouding your judgement?
One good way to address the subjectivity issue is to set out your plan on paper.
This is not for your grant or bank loan application but it may form the basis for the financials and strategy that feed into them.
It’s mainly for you to decide if your idea is good enough.
Don’t answer these in your head.
Get a piece of paper and write them down.
Try to complete it in one sitting.
If you can’t complete it or are you missing key information, update it when you can.
Or better, realise that you haven’t thought it through properly.
- Do you believe in this project enough? Are you really passionate about it? It’s a lean path at the start and one that requires drive.
- What are you afraid of? And why?
- When was the last time you did something for the first time?
- What is the problem in the market that you are setting out to fix? Or the customer desire you are looking to satisfy? Tip – Make things or sell services that people really want!
- What are the top 3 benefits your product/service offers customers? No industry jargon please – in the words of your customers if you can.
- What is this business to be about? What will you not compromise on? Don’t be safe – pick areas you can really own or be known for. This is about uncovering your distinct competitive advantage.
- Who is your customer? What are the segments groups within your target market? What do you know about them? What do they love/hate? What media do they consume? Is your information recent? Have you actively researched it or are you making assumptions?
- What are the channels to market or the paths to the customers?
- Who are key influencers, gatekeepers, authorities?
- What’s your story? What’s your background? What inspired this business? Your vision, your ethos? What do you really value in terms of the goods/services you supply?
- What does success look like? What’s really great? What’s good enough? Get these measures down now.
- Who are your competition? Where are their strengths? What are they weak on?
- Financials: What are your projected revenues and what are they based on? Costs: Distribution costs, what are the costs of acquiring one customer? Are these one off purchases or likely to repeat? What is the lifetime value of a customer?
- What does failure look like?
- What improvements could you make? (ie after looking more closely at your market would you change your distinct position?)
- What things could you take out or add in that would improve your product/service?
- List the items still to be decided and put some timelines to them
If you don’t know where to start, begin here.
The upfront thinking is crucial when starting a business.
Give this stage the focus it needs and you will find decisions much easier at a later stage.