By Fiona Quinn, Business Coach
No matter what your current situation – finances, family, qualifications or experience – you are free to choose how you want to live your life and what you want your work to look like. If you want to run a small business that allows you to sail around the world with your kids, or if you want to spend the next 10 years building the next AirB&B, both are open to you. But, this ability to choose what it is that you want is a key point that many founders miss; remember that your start-up is supposed to support the life you want. Market opportunity is important, but it’s not where your focus should be.
So let’s start with you.
What do you want?
I can guess that the main reason you want to start a business is probably for lifestyle reasons, to one degree or another. But in order to end up with a business that delivers the kind of lifestyle and control that you want, it’s a good idea to start with figuring out exactly what these are for you.
They differ for everyone so spend some time jotting down what you’re after. A good question to ask yourself is; if in 6 months I could be creating anything in my life (work, family, personal development, travel, money, etc) what would that look like? Be honest. And consider it without judgement as to whether you think it might actually be possible or not, just dream.
From the answers you can then start to think about what you would need from a new business in order to create this life style that you’re after. If you’re going to run with an idea, what must it be able to provide you?
Perhaps you’d need to be location independent or you know you definitely don’t want to work more than 15 hours a week. You might also consider the type of work, clients, level of tech involved, amount of travel, level of income possible, time until you start generating income etc. Once you have a list of criteria for your business, you can then select your top 3 idea criteria.
Consider what you already have
You don’t need a loan or investment to start a business. We have access to a lot more resources than we often think and in a lot of cases contacts can be more valuable than money.
So lets consider what you already have. Start with a blank piece of paper, forget any business ideas you might already have and just list;
- all of your skills,
- all of the sectors you have contacts in, and
- all of the physical assets you have access to.
From these three lists you can now link up existing resources to create new business ideas. They’ll naturally be easier to implement that a random idea where you have no contacts in the industry.
For example, you might know someone in the property sector and you might have a natural skill for decor. Why not try consulting for property professionals to help them sell/lease property by redesigning them? Just have a play around, list any ideas, whether they make any sense or not. After a while you’ll start to see potential business opportunities all round you.
Think of it as a side project
The only thing standing in your way now is actually doing it. Doing the stuff that’s going to get your business off the ground. It’s easy to do the work around the work, it often doesn’t require us to ask anything of anyone else and doesn’t feel scary, but it also doesn’t move us forward and won’t tell us if the core concept of our business actually has legs.
The best way, I find, to get going and do the work is to think of it not as staring a business, but as running an experiment. The reason being is that if it’s your business, your baby, this thing you’re precious about, you’ll find it really hard to share it and put it out into the world for fear of judgement. But if it’s just a casual side project it doesn’t matter if it fails or someone doesn’t like it.
So start with the absolute core concept of your business idea. If that’s offering design services to property professionals, don’t create a website, or a blog, or business cards. Forget spending months on a business plan. The core assumption you need to test is “Do property professionals want design services?”. The best approach to this is that explained by Rob Fitzpatrick in The Mom Test. It walks you through talking to customers in such a way as to avoid false data and actually get some good evidence that your business has legs. Once you know that your customers want what you’re offering, start trialling your product/service with them while it’s still rough and ready. Then you can iterate and mould it in real time with direct customer feedback.
To sum up, your next steps are:
- What do you want from your business? Find your top 3 idea criteria.
- What resources do you already have? Come up with an idea from these, that fits your 3 idea criteria.
- What’s the core concept of your idea? Test this assumption using The Mom Test approach and keep it casual.
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I’d love to hear what projects you’re working on so do get in touch firstname.lastname@example.org.