Is your personality such that your friends would call you an inspired or ambitious leader? Do you find yourself, as a consumer, wondering why the marketplace does not address an obvious need, and you have the solution? Are you willing to assume the risk of going to the market and encourage others to follow? These are simple examples of qualities in a person we would call an entrepreneur. If you have a venture in mind, are willing to take responsibility, and can act as an intermediary; you are ready to begin.
This week I sat in a friend’s office where he made the statement, “Serve the people and be a king; serve the king and be the people.” This declaration may seem simple, yet it is profound. The spirits of those who have led out to address a need in our society have changed our world. Your idea does not need to be as big as Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, which has reached over 200 million people. It does not necessitate being as immense as Google, where founders Larry Page and Sergey Brin now see over a billion requests for information daily. Remember Debbie Fields, who made cookies? How about Gary Dahl, who decided to market pet rocks?
Your idea can be big or small, conventional or outrageous. It may be a product, yet perhaps it is a service. You may have ideas never thought of before or simple improvements on consumed goods. Whatever it is, you want to begin now and enjoy the outcome.
What are you doing?
Ask yourself, “Does my idea solve a problem?” Is there a hole in the market that, if filled by your product or service, would significantly change your consumers’ lives? Think big: To be marketable on a large scale, your business must enhance the life of the customer. Test your idea out on family and friends. If you can make your product yourself, do so; if not, then be prepared to describe in detail your idea. After those on whom you’ve tested your idea respond positively, commenting with “Wow,” “This is fantastic,” “This is better than anything I have ever tried,” or “Where can I get more,” you have something. If the response is mundane with no real sense of fascination, ask them to give you ideas on how to improve. You must have a “wow” to succeed. Do not proceed if you cannot get your idea to a point where the comments from those consuming are strong, and you are meeting a need. (If you never get to a point where you have an idea that will gain traction, yet you still have the burning desire to own your own business, find a product or service you can take to market by franchising or joint venturing.)
At this time, you have something which can change your life and the lives of others. You have a big step to take, and this is where most stop and turn back. So what do you do? You need to overcome fear here; if it were not worth it, many before you would not have willingly forged ahead. Take a minute and evaluate those whom you know who have started their own business and what successes they have or are experiencing. Assess what it is about them that is different from your skill set. You will notice they are no different from you, yet they took the step and, as a result, are experiencing their dream. Overcoming the fear is all we need to do in this step. The next steps will help as they calculate the risk. In life, there are rewards for those who take risks, and this will be risky. As a result, we want to be judicious and create safety nets to ensure success. Build confidence and desire as you move from fear and say, “I can do it, so that I will do it!”
At this point, we surround ourselves with trusted advisors. A successful business has a variety of thoughts from differing backgrounds. Find people with diversity in their backgrounds. You want individuals who:
• will be consuming or using your product or service
• understand production
• know about financing
• have knowledge of marketing
• recognize delivery methods
• identify with web traffic and design
• have management experience
Set up an environment where a discussion with these advisors is open. Listen to the criticism and build on the comments by improving your idea. If capital is short, solicit help from those willing to give free advice; but understand at this step that expertise is very important. You will get a better sense of the value of your idea through these advisors’ eagerness to help. If your idea is worth spending time on, you should get requests for participation from people who are professional.
Next, after having overcome your hesitancy to enter the market by testing your product’s viability and receiving input from competent advisors, you are now ready to begin. Planning is the next critical step, as you are nothing but a dream with legs at this point. You need to organize a structure that will take you from the beginning to where you hope to take your idea. Perhaps you may be working out of your home at first and have plans to move into another space after reaching certain hurdles. I am one who believes that if it is not planned for, it will not happen. You will need details of expected expenses, income, and capital required. In your planning, you will discover a release of your entrepreneurial spirit. Over time this plan will need updating and revamping. Be consistent in knowing where you are going and setting your goals high enough to challenge your company continually. This planning is not only needed for you to understand where you can go but will also be a tool necessary to obtain the funding you will need for growth.
Money, money, money. We are now ready to approach the fund providers. There are many options available to assist with your growth. My advice is that you use as many opportunities as you can. There are grants, joint venture groups, and various financial lending institutions. Contact the Small Business Administration, the local and state Economic Development Corporations, and even state business funds. In Utah, we have a group called the Utah Fund of Funds or Ustar. So check online for groups providing assistance. You will find very quickly whether or not your idea will be successful based on the reaction of people or groups considering funding your company. Do not be easily discouraged and take to heart the comments made. If you are not opening doors, you need to return to your advisors with the input you received and recreate it.
With money in hand, the work is just starting. You will put in long hours and often be unaware of the time passing as you are passionate about what you are doing. Do not be afraid of hard work, as the basic ingredient separates the average from the great. Be tenacious, work smart, and delegate. You are in this to succeed, and you will be using others’ strengths. Often new entrepreneurs have been so intimately involved that they hesitate to release responsibility. Put people with a similar work ethic in place and let them shine. Step back and ensure that the goals continue to challenge your group. Keep the focus on the customers by continually soliciting their feedback. You got into this to make a difference; never forget that your success will depend on continuing to provide the market with something unusual. Learn, grow, and inspire. Congratulations on your decision to follow your dream. Now allow others the same by inspiring and assisting the next upstart by opening doors for them. Remember, you are where you are because of others, and we all are responsible to give back.