Start a business and make your fortune? Perhaps, and that is why every year many thousands of people answer a resounding “Yes” to that question but every year that answer costs many of them money, time, confidence, and ultimately heartbreak.
With as many as two-thirds of new businesses surviving at least a year and nearly half of all new businesses surviving at least two years, there is much merit in exploring the path to success in small business ownership. Two of the key factors in the businesses survival and ability to thrive: the owner’s knowledge and sometimes their education level and the owner’s reason for starting the firm in the first place.
How can you make sure that you are among the winners rather than the losers in this personally high stakes game? Chances are, you know the answer but just don’t know it yet. You must ask yourself four key questions to determine whether your own startup or small business will survive and more importantly, thrive. So, if you are ready to start a business, read on.
Are You Ready
Have you mentally prepared yourself for the switch from being an employee (or a student or whatever label is most suited) to becoming the boss. You are going to be the one making decisions now about everything from back office and administrative tasks to service and product lines. This total control is one of the driving forces behind many people who take the plunge into starting their own business but it is also one of the elements that drives new entrepreneurs crazy. When you start out there is an endless list of decisions that need to be made and new questions will arise almost every day – weekends included!
Even more important is that you will need to remember that in a small business you will wear many or all the hats. Even if you manage to start out with one or more employees you will each fulfil more than one role in your new business. And if you are running a one-man or one-woman show then you serve in every capacity from credit control to secretary to salesman and eventually on to CEO. Can you handle switching from task to task and role to role like that? Are you willing to make those switches, often on a needs must basis?
Similarly, have you prepared your family and friends for this switch in attitude. Your life is going to change — probably pretty drastically — and that change can have a positive or negative impact on your family life and social interactions. It will make things much easier if your friends and family are supportive going into the process.
Where Is Your Niche?
Have you identified your niche yet? One of the reasons many businesses fail is that they fail to focus on a target audience. Yes if you are a major discount chain then you can sell everything from peanuts to wallpaper but this type of business requires vast resources that just aren’t available to the small business. But small businesses dominate the marketplace (creating more than 50 percent of the private gross domestic product last year) by finding a different approach — a niche.
Knowing your niche means you are better able to find, target, and maintain your customers as well as provide the best possible goods and services to that customer base. That focus is one of your best chances to not only survive but to thrive in a very competitive marketplace.
What Is Your Plan Of Action?
Another key factor in the survival and ultimate success of your business is how much planning you do before you open your electronic or physical doors. You need to decide if your business will be based on the internet or include more traditional models. Are you going to work full-time or part-time at your new business? Are you going to recruit help or go solo? Have you written (or at least outlined) your business plan? Dreaming, thinking and planning can save you much trouble and waste later when things are hectic and problems strike. Planning can also help keep you focused and to balance your spending and time.
Who Are You Going To Call?
At some point, no matter how experienced a business person you are, you will need help. You will need support, advice, tools, or information — or all of the above. One of the beautiful, and most frightening, aspects of growth is that it can lead you to places you never imagined. No matter how much planning and experience you bring to your new position as CEO the unexpected will arise. How will you cope with this? It is important to recognize that no business is an island. It is not failure to seek help. Failure is when your business shuts down because you didn’t get the help you needed.
The best way to get timely help is to work on your support system while you work on building your business. That way you will already have a ready list of resources available that you can quickly tap into when emergencies strike. In today’s world there are many marvellous resources available to you no matter what your business model may be. These include:
- Publications (newsletters, magazines, books)
- People (professional advisers, mentors, teachers, consultants)
- Networks (organisations and forums in your niche as well as general business and marketing)
- Education and training (tutorials, courses, and seminars)
After you have answered these four key questions you are now ready to ask yourself that one big question again — are you ready to start your own business?Download this article as a PDF