Let’s Get Personal
This post is part of the “So You Want to Start a Business” series featuring blog posts aimed at helping the complete novice start their own business. This week’s blog post focuses on personal questions to answer before starting your business.
Last week, I started my So You Want To Start a Business series and took you thru my journey to entrepreneurship. This week I introduce you to branding, setting boundaries, and thinking about how you – personally – define success.
Why do you want to start a business?
If you google “why do you want to start a business”, you will see page after page of search results all giving you different reasons to start your own business. Understandably so – this question can be a bit overwhelming, especially for people who know they have a good idea but don’t know if they are best suited to execute that idea. It can be helpful to break this question down into more “bite-sized” questions.
Do you want to start this business to make money? If yes – how long will you stick with your business idea if it is initially unprofitable? What about when your business has been profitable for some time, but becomes unprofitable for a month?
Do you want to start this business because you hate your job or your boss? If yes – what about starting your own business resolves this issue better than, for example, working for a different company?
Do you want to start this business because you are passionate about your idea? If yes – do you think you can still be passionate about this idea even after experiencing failure (sometimes repeatedly)?
What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses?
Articulating your strengths and weaknesses is especially important if you want to start a business in partnership with someone else. Knowing what each of your strengths are can help you delegate certain tasks and responsibilities to whoever is best suited to tackle them. Similarly, knowing what each of your weaknesses are can help identify potential issues and develop solutions that mitigate those problems.
For an individual businessowner, identifying strengths and weaknesses is important too. If, for example, I know that I can be forgetful, I know I need to implement safeguards in place that suit the type of business I am starting. This can look like a marketing and social media calendar, writing out a daily task list and schedule, or setting multiple reminders on my phone to make sure I meet deadlines. It can also help me anticipate costs. If, for example, one of my weaknesses is photography, then I may want to consider the cost of taking classes for professional photography (or otherwise outsourcing that work to a freelancer or other business).
What unique perspective or quality do you bring to this industry?
This question is important for several reasons. First, it requires you to know your competitors – and not just competing products.
Part of the product or service you are selling involves telling your story. Your story becomes part of your branding, which informs what and how you market your product or service. Perhaps your cultural background informs how you provide a service to a client.
What are your goals (with respect to this business)?
Goals are important for any endeavor, not only because it provides you with a target to strive for (from which you can build a roadmap or a strategy) – but because it also provides you with a set point at which you can re-evaluate your position and set new goals.
For example, if you are just starting your business, set manageable, realistic short-term and long-term goals. For example: a reasonable short-term goal might look like 10 sales in the next three months. A long-term goal might look like 50 sales in the next 12 months, at least five of which are repeat sales. With quantitative goals like these, you have several benchmarks at which you can re-evaluate and adapt your strategy. What if it takes six months to hit your goal of 10 sales? How should your strategy change if you have made 50 sales in 9 months, but none of them were repeat sales?
Goals can be qualitative as well, but they should ideally be attached to a timeline to keep yourself accountable. Maybe your goal is to bring your business to different social media platforms. How does that timeline change if you set your deadline at one month versus three months? If your business mission statement involves customer satisfaction, that is an excellent goal. Are you going to be assessing whether customers are satisfied after each individual transaction, or will you be making an assessment at the end of each month? What does customer satisfaction mean to you?
What does it mean – to you – for this business to be successful?
This question goes hand-in-hand with the question above. So, if you find yourself struggling at setting goals for the business – think about what it means for the business to be successful and then work backwards from there. Similarly, if you have a number of goals but aren’t sure how to define success, use those goals as a jumping-off point to consider “success” in broader terms.
People define success differently. Success can be estimated in qualitative terms (e.g. whether your business is considered a staple of the community) or in quantitative terms (e.g. the number of sales per month, or the total annual profit exceeding a certain number). Without defining success, you may find yourself constantly chasing the “next big thing” – your business alone will never be fulfilling enough. By setting some measure of what it means for your business to be successful, you will not only have more clarity when it comes to creating a strategy for your business – you will alleviate a lot of stress when it comes to running your business.
What resources do you have to start your business?
Think about what things you have on-hand that will be helpful with starting your business. This question is deeply underutilized by dreamers and entrepreneurs: many online guides and articles will ask you to think about all the things you don’t have. You don’t have capital. You don’t have an audience (yet). You don’t have everything on your checklist.
Instead of framing starting your business with what you don’t have, think about what you do have. You don’t have significant capital, but you do have $100 in a separate savings account for your business. You don’t have an audience, but you are well connected to other small businesses in your community (whether in-person and online) and you have a supportive network of friends and family. You don’t have a professional photographer, but you do know your niece or nephew has been interested in building their photography portfolio.
While it is important to be realistic about the difficulties of starting a business, it is simultaneously important to remind yourself of all the different things you have going for you when it comes to starting your business.
What is your hard limit?
When you are assessing your hard limit, really consider what you would be willing to sacrifice for your business: where are you going to draw the line? If you value work-life balance, will you draw the line at the point where your business interferes with your hobbies and interests? If you value your relationships, do you draw the line at the point where your business creates significant stress on your relationships with your partner or your family? What about financially?
Setting boundaries in life is important. Setting boundaries with yourself (and your future business!) is no exception. Setting these boundaries can also relieve some of the stress or anxiety about starting a business. If your small business venture is crossing the line, it makes it easier to hang up the towel before things get out of hand and you jeopardize the things in life that are most important to you.
If You Still Have Questions
If you still find yourself struggling to answer some of these questions, then your next step is to schedule a consultation. I’m here to help you, every step of the way. Next week, we’ll dive deeper into questions about what it is you are really selling.