So You Want To Start A Business?

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shutterstock_123872212Starting your own business can be one of the most rewarding experiences of your life. It can also drive you bonkers. Having experienced both sides a time or two over the past ten years, I’ve been able to learn a lot, enough to build a checklist to joining the gainfully self-employed. That list can be broken down to four “I”s: idea, income, identity and inspiration.

Idea. No business is worth a dime without an approach to solving a problem. That solution is your idea. Do your homework; find out how many other companies are using your idea in the area you want to set up shop. Then, find out how many people this idea will serve. Most start-up business owners like to ask around to get feedback on your idea. That’s a great idea, but beware: you will get negative criticism. Don’t let that alone dictate your decision. You’ll be spending your entire entrepreneurial career dealing with naysayers. Just do your due diligence to make sure that your idea makes sense and move on.

Income. I started Imagine with $14, but I would never recommend that to anyone starting out. The only reason I wasn’t begging for food or a box to sleep in for the first couple years is because I had a patient spouse that supported us in the beginning. Instead, build a plan that outlines what you’ll need realistically for the first year (equipment, marketing costs, payroll, taxes, etc.). To meet those financial demands, either hold a full-time job, borrow money from friends and family, look into loans or investments to get you off the ground…just don’t plan to save up. You’ll lose steam, and can quite possibly miss the opportunity to have a relevant idea.

Identity. The second you start selling, you’ll be in competition with other companies. You’re going to need an image that competes, and does a damn good job of it. It’s always a wise investment to make sure that your logo, business card, website and marketing materials both look and speak in the way you want to be perceived. You’ll either spend it in the beginning, or spend it in lost business down the road. Choose a freelancer or design firm that has significant experience in the type of business you’re creating. In an age of specialization, they won’t be hard to find.

Inspiration. Being your own boss can be a rush. Most of the time, you’re flying by the seat of your pants. However, no matter how excited you are when coming out of the gate, there will be times where you’re beaten down to the point of wondering if any of this is worth it. That’s where inspiration comes in. To keep you motivated, it may seem counterproductive to step away from your work, but do it. Engage with new people, take up an unrelated hobby, spend time with the family. Taking some time to breathe will allow you to get renewed energy and perspective that will definitely pay off on the battlefield. Doing the same thing all the time will not only make life less fulfilling, but it’ll make you a pretty boring business owner.

To sum up, it’s important to lay a strong foundation before setting off on your own. But be careful; taking too much time or being buried by too much minutia or unnecessary work can stifle you before you even get started.


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