Owning your own business is a gamble, but there are some critical steps to help increase the chances that your entrepreneurial dreams become a successful reality.
Anyone can be an entrepreneur, but not everybody is going to be successful. Entrepreneurship takes a lot of experience, hard work, and serious determination.
And while there are no hard-and-fast prerequisites to becoming an entrepreneur, the primary criterion is that your business must add or provide value. If your idea, product, or service doesn’t address a common pain point – doesn’t bring value to the lives of your target market – there really won’t be any reason for people to take notice.
If you want to start a business but don’t know where to start, don’t worry – you’re not alone. Many of us have come to the conclusion that we want to create the work we love. Take on the responsibility of a business that’s better aligned with our goals, lifestyle, and aspirations so as to make money for ourselves rather than someone else.
Regardless of the motivation, the goal is to be your own boss. You’ve got the entrepreneurial dream, now you just need to know how to make it a reality. Here are a few important steps to get you started:
Identify the right business for you.
The beauty of entrepreneurship is that you can achieve it in just about any area or discipline. If you can think it, chances are you can create a business around it. If you haven’t already identified the focus of your business, start with your skills, expertise, interests, and passions. Explore how you might translate what you already have, know, or do into a product or service that has the potential to be successful. Entrepreneurship is hard work, so something that matters to you, something you care about, something that you specialize in, is a great place to start.
Determine if you need additional education, skills, or training
While you may not need a formal education to be an entrepreneur, it doesn’t mean you may not have to expand your education or skill set. If you want to start a tech company, experience in business, computer programming, and marketing could all be valuable. Looking to prototype a new product? You may need to explore training in the various facets of 3D print manufacturing. Of course, some sectors will likely require some type of specific education, such as your own bookkeeping, accounting, or law firm.
Market validation or customer discovery
Don’t take for granted that just because you think there’s a need that there actually is. Not every business appeals to everybody. Consider the support and guidance of a Venture Accelerator Program (VAP), with whom you can engage in thorough customer discovery and market validation processes to help you more accurately gauge not just the market for your business, but your potential for success. Identify that others feel the pinch that you do, and that your product or service will, in fact, have an audience that’s interested.
Plan your business
Before you formally start your business, you need to have a business plan. A business plan lays out any objectives you have as well as your strategy for achieving those objectives. This plan is important for getting investors on board, as well as measuring how successful your business is. If you’ve participated in a VAP, it’s a good bet that at least part, if not most, of this step, will be achieved through the process.
While networking is important regardless of profession or sector, it’s critical for entrepreneurs. Networking – attending events and programs in your sector or perhaps spending a day or two each week at your local co-work space – allows you to connect with potential professional support, qualified employees, clients, and maybe even possible investors.
Exploring co-op or student work programs
Once it’s time to hire, look for programs that encourage and support utilizing qualified students in need of professional work experience as they complete their studies. Co-op and student work programs allow employers to take advantage of wage subsidies while providing a beneficial professional experience to students. If a successful fit, these programs can lay the ground-work for reliable and trusted future employment opportunities as well.
Marketing your business starts right from the outset and continues throughout the life of your business. If you’ve fulfilled the requirements of a VAP, your customer discovery work should have effectively started the ball rolling in your early marketing efforts.
Regardless, marketing is challenging, no matter how you slice it! But knowing your target audience is half the battle and is essential for communicating exactly how your business adds value and provides a solution to your prospective customers. You need to know where they live – email, social media, telephone, a combination of them all.
And you need to concisely and consistently provide compelling reasons why you’re the solution they need.