November 29, 2013
You’ve got that brilliant business idea. That’s step one. In a world where web development is as easy as signing up for a service like Wix.com and developing a quick-and-dirty Facebook fan page, you could essentially commandeer a startup with minimal effort and, hopefully, maximal profit. But, be weary. The risk isn’t as high as the “I want to start a brick-and-mortar business” days, but the failures and shortcomings are just as common. Here are a few things to avoid when taking the startup plunge.
1. Find Your Audience
It may seem like an obvious fact, but finding your calling can be a little trickier than you’d think. It’s super important to find the proper audience when starting a business, but that means a few things. Not only do you need to find a product or service that you’re passionate about, but you also need to find the demographic that product or service will resonate with the most.
Are you starting a construction equipment company? Great. You know you’ll need equipment and the know-how, but most of all, you’ll need clients. Chances are, advertising in the local paper whose route reaches 3,000 area residents who are 25 years old and up is probably not the smartest use of your time. You need to identify your target. Focus on companies and clients that would benefit from your service. Network with local materials suppliers, construction companies, relators and developers to generate leads and expand your customer base. Find your target audience and go from there.
2. Find Your Niche
A little more specialized than your general audience, you need to find a product or service that actually fills a need. In our construction equipment example, this might work because your local area doesn’t currently have affordable equipment for contractors and builders to buy or rent. Be the solution. Offer used construction equipment at a great rate. What’s important is that you’re not reinventing the wheel. Find a clever idea that fits a very specific need.
If you’ve ever seen an infomercial, you know what we mean. Small business owners, most generally, need to identify a problem and figure out a way to solve it. Only then will they find a focus for their business that not only fits their passion but also fills a void enough so that it can be monetized.
3. Treat it Like a Business
This might seem obvious, but one of the easiest ways to sink a business is to, well, not treat it like a business. Think about it this way: if you have a job you generally need to go to the office from 9:00AM until 5:00PM. You need to dress a certain way to maintain professionalism, and you need to be accountable for what, exactly, you’re spending your time on. If you don’t have these rules set up for yourself, then you won’t stay focused. After all, you have to be your own boss.
But, more than this, is the sense of work-life balance. If you’re starting your own business, you’re most likely working out of your home, or local coffee shop when you need to get out of the house. So, it’s important to set a schedule. You need time to unwind, chill out and get away from your 9–5, just like you would in a real job. This is just as important as staying focused while on the job. Without your “you” time, you’ll burn out and you won’t get any real work done.
4. Measure Success
The final tip is to set long-term goals for your business model. This can mean a variety of things, but, for the most part, it can really make or break a young company’s confidence. Do you want to have 20 equipment contracts with various businesses by the time your company has been open for four months? Perfect. That’s your goal. Now make sure you get as close to it as possible.
Not only does it give you benchmarks to follow, much like a to-do list for a standard job, but it also quantifies your goals. You’re more likely to achieve “success” if it’s a tangible thing. It’s a fuzzy term, and it can mean a ton of things to a ton of people. So before you can achieve success for your business, you need to actually figure out what it means to you. After all, you’re the one who started the businesses, which means you’re the one who sets the goals.
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