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Do you want to start a business, but don’t know how? Then, this is your lucky day! In this article I will share with you six ways you can use to start your adventure. Some of these ways are more riskier some are less. All that matters is how hard do you want it and what are you willing to sacrifice to make your dream come true. I also think that being at least a bit crazy can be your competitive advantage and give you better starting position. Without further ado, let’s start!
No.1: Test the Water Before Jumping
Let’s start with one area where many first-time entrepreneurs are making mistakes when they want to start business. They just don’t do their homework first. Meaning, if you want to start a business, one of the things you can do is research. Going out and ask people is… Wait! Let’s make it an even better. Going out and sell your idea to people is one of the best ways to see how viable your idea really is. Here is the catch… Exclude your friends and family members from your Petri dish. They love you and they will lie (yes the will) to show how much they care about you.
Testing your idea on your friends, family or people who like you is a waste of time. Instead, you have to reach out and go to the streets where your customers are. One more thing… Although it could be enough just to ask people whether they like your idea, it’s worthless. What’s the problem? There is a big difference between liking something and actually buying it. You can like tons of stuff, but you’ll be willing to buy only few of it. When you want to start a business you are not interested in people who like what you sell. They might become your fans, but they are not your customers. At least not yet.
This why it is much better to try to pre-sell your product or service instead of asking for feedback. By the way, you will get feedback anyway. How so? When someone will reject your offer, simply ask on what they don’t like. Take every rejection as a chance to improve your product. Apply it to people willing to buy your idea as well. In other words, after every chance to sell, successful or not, ask people on what they like and what they dislike. Following this approach you will be able to perfect your product before it will hit the market. Also, don’t forget to write down your contracts.
Takeaway: Testing viability of your idea by trying to sell it to potential customers and asking for feedback are great ways to build sustainable business.
No.2: Reuse and Recombine Existing Ideas
Let’s say that you have a burning desire to start a business. You believe that your life’s task or goal is to become an entrepreneur and make your own dent in the universe. The only problem is that you don’t have any idea worth pursuing. So, what can you do? Well, one of the simplest things is to take a look at the products or services already available. Explore the market and pick couple of successful products you like and try to combine them into something new. But, before you start to browse the app store, there is a catch you should know about.
What’s that catch? I don’t mean to bluntly steal or copy other ideas. That would be like one plus one equals one and half. There is already enough clones of Instagram. Instead, you should take these ideas and use them to create whole new product. In this case, the equation would be one plus one equals two or more, depending on how innovative your idea is. You can even end up with one plus one equals ten. All you need is to pick the best ideas readily available and take them further. This is one of the ways you can start a business with a potentially groundbreaking product.
Takeaway: You don’t need new idea to start a business. Take what’s already working, combine it and improve upon it.
No.3: Be Bold and Go for Moonshot
Since we are talking about creating groundbreaking product, truly innovative ideas and solutions, let’s quickly discuss the concept of moonshots. Moonshot idea is when you, as Peter Thiel would say, go from zero to one. In other words, your idea is marginally better than anything else currently available on the market. For example, moonshot idea was going from horse to a car or from typewriter to word processor. Moonshot idea is not just innovation, but invention at its core.
According to Google, every moonshot idea shares three important properties. The first property is that your idea must address a huge problem. In this context, huge means something on a global scale. Think about food shortage in third world countries, lack of clean water, diseases and so on. Second property of moonshot idea is that it proposes a radical solution. This is the first piece the “innovation” part. Since moonshot idea aims to solve a huge problem, you will have to come up with solution so radical nobody have ever thought about it.
The third property of a moonshot, and second piece of the “innovation” cake, is that it uses breakthrough technology. Let’s take a look at some more recent examples… What about augmented reality or driverless cars? Both of these examples require inventing new technology. Otherwise, such a feats are impossible. Think about it. If we would have such a technology, these problems would be no longer relevant. They would be already solved.
The darker and less pleasant side (for some people) of going for moonshot ideas is that people will think you are crazy. You will be considered a lunatic. If you are capable of handling this kind of social pressure, then go for it. Although the chance to succeed with moonshot is ridiculously low, I think it is still worth pursuing. So, where should you start? Great introduction to moonshots, future and building great companies to solve huge problems are books such as Bold by Peter Diamandis, Zero to One by Peter Thiel and Moonshot! by John Sculley.
Takeaway: If you want to start a business and you are bold enough, focus on moonshots. The greatest companies in the history were and will be build to solve global problems.
No.4: Find a Co-Founder
Okay, we discuss scenarios when you either have an idea or you can combine already existing ideas. What if you don’t have neither an idea nor the skills necessary to create something on your own? In that case, you can reach out and look for a co-founder with technical skills. Or, if you are weaker on the business side, look for co-founder having business acumen. In both cases, there is an important question or factor you should think deeply about first. When looking for a co-founder, should you focus on skills or personal preferences?
What I mean by this question? Well, should you choose co-founder you can’t stand, but with enormous knowledge and skills? Or, on the other hand, should you start a business with less experienced co-founder, but also someone you are willing to work for next decade? This can be hard question to answer. Both options have pros and both have cons. However, my personal choice would be option two. I would rather choose co-founder I can imagine working or even living with for the next couple of years while pursuing or entrepreneurial goal.
My reason for this choice is simple. You or your co-founder can learn any skill necessary along the way. You can also hire someone if you have enough capital. However, when you start a business with someone you can’t stand, the situation is completely different. You can’t just learn to like that guy or gal. Sure, you can try to force yourself to fake it, but this will not work for a long time. Whatever business you and your partner will create will be like a house of Cards. Meaning, there will be a lot if smaller holes creating conflicts and undermining the overall morale.
In a short, no matter how hard will you try to change your personal opinion, one day the whole structure will collapse. Unfortunately, it is highly probable that it will take down your business as well. Is it worth the risk? Definitely not. So, do yourself a favor and choose less skilled co-founder you would not want to kill after being in the same room and working for twelve hours. If person of your choice meets this condition, go ahead and start planning how will you take over the world.
Takeaway: Any skill necessary to start a business you lacks you dream about you can supplement with co-founder. However, choose wisely.
No.5: Make It Easier with Franchise
Let’s suppose you don’t have any viable idea and you also don’t want to look for a co-founder. However, you have a solid capital to start with. Possible solution to start a business? You can buy a franchise! Although it will not be your business with all aspects, it can still be possible way to launch your entrepreneurial career. In a fact, using franchise to start a business can give you a competitive advantage over other entrepreneurs. How? When you start a business from a scratch, you have to build its brand, turn people into customers, find evangelists and so on.
Another harsh truth about entrepreneurship is that your first year or two will be the toughest periods of your life. You will be fighting for survival on a daily basis. On the other hand, when you buy a franchise, all of those things are mostly in place and ready to use. Having said that, every franchise also comes with specific rules and guidelines you have to follow. Otherwise, the owner of the franchise will simply close your business. That’s the first you should keep in mind.
The second thing is that almost every franchise has also some kinds of minimal conditions you have to meet. What’s more, franchisor will also want to inspect the environment in which you want to open the franchise. He wants to know there is a demand big enough to sustain that kind of business. For example, it is unlikely that Starbucks would allow you to build their store in a small village. In such a place, it would be hard even for a newspaper stand to survive for a longer time.
There is one last thing to make clear about franchises. Many people are against this type of business for two reasons. First, the often consider them MLM-based businesses. Yes, there are companies built on such a model. If you want to avoid them, I would suggest that you to study the franchise you chose in-depth and ask people with experiences before going in. The best advice to follow is to use your brain and be very very inquisitive. That’s all you can do.
Second, some people won’t start a business this way because they think the only option is to buy license of unhealthy fast food chain. Today, people are, fortunately, finally taking the ethical and health side into consideration when they want to start a business. For example, if you are advocate of healthy living, it’s unlikely you would open another McDonald’s or KFC branch. Also, unless you are a regular reader (guilty) of Fast Company, Inc. or Entrepreneur magazines, your awareness about available franchises is probably low.
You would be right just couple years ago. Fortunately, this is no longer true. Today, there is a large number of franchises built on high ethical and healthy standards you choose from. With every day more and more of these companies is created. So, no matter what your taste or philosophy is, I’m pretty sure you will find your favorite if you want. Don’t throw in the towel. Just keep looking.
Takeaway: If you have a capital to start with, you can make the whole company-building process easier by buying a franchise.
No.6: Start Small as a Freelancer
The last way to start a business the “safe” way is to become a freelancer first. Although it is not exactly like building a company, it is still similar in many things. You will be responsible for your actions and results. You will have to manage yourself and keep yourself accountable. You will also learn a lot about selling, negotiating, pitching and all the areas regular business requires you to know and do. Still, when you will start as a freelancer it will be easier and less demanding than when you would start by building a company.
You can also think about freelancing as a training camp and a way to find out whether business is the right fit for you. Unlike with company, it is much easier and faster to “fold the cards” and return to a regular job. There is much less administration to get done and also smaller number of people dependent on you (if any). For people not sure about what they want to do or just want to try as many options as possible, freelancing can be great choice to start with. Despite that, don’t think that it will be a piece of cake. You can bet it will be hard and test your resilience.
Takeaway: Freelancing can be easier and less demanding introduction to the world of business. However, you will still have to work very hard.
Closing Thoughts on How to Start a Business
Building a company from the ground up is tough job. It doesn’t matter what size it is. You will sweat, swear and even cry a lot. However, it is also a great way to learn about yourself. If you are willing to undergo this painful process I’m sure there will be some benefits to gain. You just have to step out from your comfort zone. Let me know what your favorite way to start a business is and if you have experience with any of those listed in this article.
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