So you want to be a small business owner?
Quick question: what is the first step to take when starting a new business?
a. Write a business plan?
b. Perform market research?
c. Secure funding?
d. None of the above
e. All of the above
The answer is "d." but if you Google the question you'll be told, nine times out of ten, that the answer is "a." or "b."
But something is missing from this list of options, like how about questioning things like passion, heart, motivation, BALLS!, or entrepreneurial spirit? Aren’t these things fundamental to starting a small business?
I think so.
All too many times people start a business for the wrong reasons. They want the freedom to make their own schedule, they want to get rich, they have a brilliant idea, or they just want to be their own boss. These things might play into it, but are by no means the only considerations.
This post will take you through some fundamental but essential steps to actively consider before spending an ounce of energy on a business plan.
Soon-to-be business owners, this post is for you! Existing business owners, use this post as a litmus test to see if you're where you want to be.
1. What Do You REALLY Want?
Throw all business logic out the window for a moment and answer this question: If you were going to volunteer to do something because you just LOVE doing it, what would it be? If you were already financially free, what would you spend your time doing (and will you marry me?) Write the answer(s) down - they are valuable insights into whether you should even own a business and, if so, what it could be and also, what the vision for your business might start to look like.
Starting a small business as a means to an end (e.g: an attempt to gain something like money, freedom, or more time) is not a strong enough foundation to keep you going through the rough times.
PASSION for doing something you love on a daily basis IS a good foundation from which to start and, arguably, the most important one to start with. If you don't believe in (fill in the blank), how will you convince others (your customers) to buy or use (fill in the blank)?
2. Would you REALLY want to do that as a business?
The next step is to visualize your passion as a business. It's one thing to do something as and when you feel like it (a hobby) but another to keep at it on a daily basis no matter what.
I love gardening and am passionate about nutrition. I thought about starting a business where I'd install raised beds in people's front yards and teach them how to grow their own food. I even flew to Seattle to meet with a company already doing this. I soon realized that if my company (I even had the name "Raised with Love"picked out ) were to make enough money for me to live off, I would have to hire the labor out and just run the business, which meant no gardening or nutrition. I also realized that even if I could do the labor myself, it would get old pretty quickly and would probably kill the joy of gardening for me.
Take the time to sit down and do a bit of creative writing about what your days might look like when working your passion as a business.
3. What does SUCCESS mean to you?
This is an important adjunct to #2 above and will become a part of your business goals. What does "running a successful business" mean to you personally? In other words, what would you call a successful day/week/month on the job?
- Working for three hours, taking the rest of the day off, while still making enough money to support you and your family?
- Positively impacting 5 clients a day with your fantastic services?
- Flying internationally to meet your clients?
- Working with a team of enthusiastic employees that you’ve been able to hire?
Forget about, for now, what you think makes business sense. Just focus on what success would mean personally to you.
Take a while. Write it down. Imagine it in as much detail as possible, and then refine it.
After this step, you will have defined something that you are truly passionate about, can imagine doing for a business, and have a good idea of what success would mean for you. How does it align with the business you are in or about to start?
4. Have you got the personality of a business owner?
Here's a few personality traits that I personally think are the makings of a successful business owner:
● You prefer to lead than be led
● You love to learn
● You consider "failure" as a crucial part of success
● You are not easily swayed by the opinions of others
● You are business savvy
● Following your heart is more important to you than financial security
● You are action-oriented, not a window shopper
● Nobody would ever describe you as riding on the coat-tails of another
● You exude enthusiasm
● If something isn’t working in your life, you take action to change it as opposed to letting off steam by complaining about it (and boring your friends in the process!)
5. Do you BELIEVE?
If your business idea isn't charged with desire and a belief that you can do it, you're not going to have the energy to maintain it, sell it, or weather the storms of it.
Limiting beliefs like, "I don't have enough (money/education/time)," overwhelming fears "what if I can't pay the mortgage," "how will I manage in retirement if it fails," are simply excuses that you put into place and then do your best to prove right, so even though the business failed, you were right in thinking it would. If this is you, either change your beliefs on a very deep, gut level or do not proceed forward lest you want free membership to the large community of failed small businesses.
The fake belief stuff won't work either (e.g: repeating affirmations in the mirror ten times each morning despite the fact that your gut is telling you otherwise).
6. Can you afford it?
There are tons of creative ways that you can market your business while constrained to a very small budget, so don’t let that stop you, but you do need to be able to support yourself (and perhaps a two or four-legged family) until the business generates enough income. The general rule of thumb is to allow 1-2 years before expecting to turn a profit on your business.
Have you got enough money to survive for two years?
If you are thinking about maintaining a regular job while building your business on the side (I won’t tell your employer, I promise), remember to consider what this is going to do to your life/wife/kids. Starting a business takes a great deal of time and effort, so you’ll be working two jobs until you can give up one.
You will always be able to find reasons to NOT start your own business, but if you’ve got the passion, confidence, commitment and dedication, you’re already ahead of the game. Put your heart into it, take the leap, and join the small business owner community!