Have an idea for the next best and greatest product or business?
You’re one step closer to becoming a true entrepreneur.
It just so happens that you live in one of the best and most supportive areas of the world to go into business – North America.
Deciding to go into business for yourself can be frightening.
There are so many potential pitfalls and so much hard work that a high number of entrepreneurs never make it out of the starting gate at all. Becoming overwhelmed and not being sure where to start? That’s incredibly common but easily rectified.
Use this step-by-step business creation guide to find your path.
Brainstorm an Idea
Do you know what you want to do?
If you think of the product or business you want to create, can you immediately picture it coming to fruition in your mind? If asked exactly how you want your business to run, could you provide an answer at a baseline level? And finally, if someone asked you why your business will succeed over competitors, what would your answer be?
If you can’t answer any or all of these questions, you’re on the first step. Brainstorming and forming a cohesive business idea that holds at least some merit can take weeks, months, or in some cases, even years, but it is the foundation upon which every other step sits.
Brainstorming, of course, begins with spending time thinking about your new potential business. Keep a notebook with you and jot down every idea you come up with. Identify your chosen industry (e.g., “restaurant,” “entertainment,” “sports” or some other market) and make lists of other businesses operating in the same industry. Don’t worry about market research for now; that’ll come in the next step. For now, you just want to form a picture of who and what your business will be if you take it to fruition.
A significant part of this step also lies in determining how will your business make money.
You should be able to identify what you will sell and/or how you will make money offering services. If you can’t, the idea may not be sound and may need a bit more thought.
You have an idea; you can even identify how and why it’s sound. Now is the time to move forward into the research stage. This is your time to shine; get out there and determine whether there is a market for your services or product, and if there is, how exactly you plan to win over your target market over any competition that exists within it.
Market research is the next logical step simply because attempting to open a business in an oversaturated market isn’t just unwise, it’s expressly difficult. In order to win clients away from other businesses, your product or service must provide them with some type of benefit they aren’t already getting. That could be a lower price, better service, faster service, better quality, or even just friendlier staff.
You can’t adapt to what you aren’t aware of, so begin by taking the list of competitors you made in the last step. Research these businesses and try to determine where they’re succeeding and where they’ve failed. Look for answers to questions like:
- What products and services do they offer?
- What makes this business special?
- What sets them apart from others?
- What total volume of sales (if available) did the business have in the last year? Two years? Five years?
- Have any of these businesses experienced closures or bankruptcies (if known)?
- Where are these businesses located?
- What is the distance between each business?
Your research doesn’t stop there; it simply shifts gears. Next, focus on the market itself with questions like:
- How much demand is there for your business?
- How much of that demand will be shared with other businesses?
- How attractive is the overall industry and niche market?
- Who is your target audience (age, profession, business, and other variables)?
- How many potential customers can you market to immediately?
- How much money could you make if you sold one product or service to each of those customers in the next year?
- How will your business survive in the first year?
- Will you need to seek out financial capital?
- If so, from whom will you borrow?
- How feasible is it for you to pay back borrowed capital in one year? Two years? Five years?
Some of these questions might seem exhaustive, but they’re valuable in giving you insight as to whether or not your local/national/global market is viable. The last question on the second list amounts to something called a “bottom-up evaluation” and is really an estimation; never rely on it for absolute answers. Competition, the economy, and even current politics can change this number for better or worse, but it will give you a fast glimpse at your potential viability when needed.
Create a Business Plan
You have your idea. You’ve researched the financials, the particulars, and the facts, and you can demonstrate exactly how and why it makes sense for you to go into business. Now is the time to put all of this information into a business plan.
If you haven’t created a business plan yet, understand that the process can be a bit complex and confusing. The average business plan is between 30 and 50 pages long and contains just about every potential factoid you can imagine, from financial viability to connections. Yours may be even longer than this if you fall within a specialized market.
It’s okay to follow a template or get guidance online if necessary. The better organized and arranged your business plan is, the better a chance you have of it grabbing attention when it comes time to seek financial support.
If you start to formulate your plan only to realize that you can’t answer certain questions just yet, that’s okay; most business plans take at least a few weeks or even a few months to come together. The most important point is that you take action and get started now.
Network and Forge Connections
Networking – it’s the single-most important step an entrepreneur can make when starting a business. Word of mouth is incredibly powerful; meet the right people at the right time and you will suddenly find that doors open before you with much less effort. Networking can win you clients, gain you access to financial support, and even provide you with valuable insight on your business that can help you succeed.
If you’re not already on social media, make that your first step. Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn are musts for most of today’s markets. LinkedIn is especially useful for forging intramarket connections, hiring employees, accessing guidance, and even sourcing creative media freelancers to help with your graphic design and web page development needs.
Once you’re online, be sure to start reaching out to others within your market. You can also market your upcoming launch at this time if desired; just be sure not to push too hard right away. Your first goal should be to get known and get your name out there, and a reputation as a spammer is incredibly difficult to recover from.
Market Your Product or Service
A quick caveat: this step assumes that you already have financial support and/or backing. If not, you should know that gaining that support is essentially the next logical step. Advice and guidance on seeking financial support isn’t straightforward; realistically, it’s an entire topic in its own right. We’ll address that in another article.
If you reach this fifth and final first step in creating a business, congratulations! Your hard work and dedication are paying off. With any luck, you already have connections forged or orders placed for at least a few potential clients. Your prospects may still be uncertain, but you have already come so far – why stop now?
Once everything falls into place and you’re set up to market your business, either online or in person, it’s time to accelerate your growth through marketing. If you followed the previous steps, you should already have a significant network to lean on. It’s okay to contact them and reveal your idea; if it’s sound, many are more than happy to share your product and help get the word out there. Always be polite and ask them if they’re interested in hearing your idea before you spill it all out via private message. Remember, the idea is to interest, not to annoy.
If you haven’t already done so, set up a blog and/or newsletter mailing list on your website. Host a contest for signups and give away a product that only your customers or clients would find interest in where possible. For example, if you’re running a restaurant, offer a free meal for two with wine for the first 1,000 people to sign up for the newsletter. Avoid products like iPhones, iPads, and Android devices as they’ll attract a wider audience that isn’t necessarily interested in what you have to offer.
Just like that, you have your first email marketing list and a handful of potential clients.
Continue to grow your market by publishing industry-specific content like blogs and social media posts on a daily or weekly basis. If you’re not sure what to post or when, hire a content company to manage the process for you; this will ensure that your content is not only valuable but well-sorted for SEO purposes, too.
As you experience new growth, always be sure to remember your roots. Stay honest, transparent, and humble; clients and customers truly do appreciate this and will pick up on it throughout their interactions with you. Above all else, maintain your willingness to work hard and see every bump through to the end. You can and will succeed with the right attitude and perseverance!