Starting a business can be a challenge and the most important decision you will make is the product or service and therefore the industry you'll choose. The information to follow comes from years of working with entrepreneurs as a business consultant and coach. It should give you a great starting point to help you determine what type of business will be right for you.
If you’re thinking about starting a business, here are some ideas to get your creative juices flowing. Consider these issues if you aren’t sure what business you want to get involved with and if you'd like additional perspective on what you’re about to do.
Do you have any hobbies that could become a business? How do you spend your free time? Golfing, fishing, talking sports, cooking, writing, designing art, helping friends decorate, etc. ? Other? Could any of these activities be a business opportunity for you? What about a business tied to something you actually like to do? For example, I have known people who became certified travel agents so that they can go on more vacations.
What are you interested in? Antiques, cars, music, building, dance, business, teaching, snorkeling etc. ?
What are you good at and/or experienced in? Party planning, gardening, working with children, writing résumés, sewing, special recipes/dishes you make etc. Think of things that people call you about for advice. This is usually a sign that people consider you to hold a certain degree of expertise.
Below is a brainstorming exercise and it is designed to make you think. When you brainstorm you should just let your mind wander. Better yet, involve a few people to help you. The secret to brainstorming is to not suppress any ideas. Just get out sheet paper and start writing the first thoughts that come to your mind.
What skills do you have? Can you make money with these skills? What jobs have you excelled at? What is the market for your experiences? Have you ever thought about vending? Do you own a computer? What about buying into a franchise or freelancing? What childhood dreams and aspirations do you still hang on to that aren’t fully expressed? What did you want to be when you “grew up?” What would you do if money, education, and experience were not an issue? What business would you enter if you knew you could not fail? What were you good at that no one encouraged you to do? What business are others operating that you would like to be a part of?
Other ways to get you thinking about a business include: Visiting the magazine rack to see which topics/magazines arouse your interest. Is there a business in that area for you? Search the Yellow Pages: what occupations have always interested you? Have you seen what you believed to be your “calling?” Have you done anything to move toward that calling?
What service or product is not being provided and that very fact surprises you? This would likely be an area you’ve often seen a need for but have never done anything about nor seen others do anything about it.
ONCE YOU CHOOSE THE BUSINESS…
What are the advantages and disadvantages of the business you are mostly likely to choose? What are the advantages or disadvantages as your friends and family see them? Sometimes friends and family will get you to see things you never even thought of as it relates to you and your personality. Keep in mind however that friends and family can also shoot great ideas down too. Is this business something you would enjoy doing every day? Would you rather offer a service or a product? Often service businesses are less expensive to start and because you can start with a simple offering and expand it gives you time to capitalize for bigger expenses.
Based on your answers above, sell yourself on the business idea, then un-sell yourself on it, and then sell yourself on it again. This is an exercise to look at both sides.
Does your idea have broad enough appeal to attract customers through more than one season? Yes or No? If not, what can you sell during the slow times of the year? You should have ideas that keep your business earning money year round. Constant cash flow is important for businesses.
What of the following resources do you have? Time, Willpower, Money, Knowledge, Connections
You’ll need to have at least the time and willpower. Connections, knowledge, and money can all be acquired in time, but you will need willpower and time each day to grow your business.
Is it recession proof or darn near? Yes or No? If your business isn’t recession proof and most aren’t, you may want to consider expanding your products or services offered to include some offerings that in good economies and bad the demand will still exist. This will keep your cash flowing and provide some safety while you wait for an economic rebound.
After looking at the advantages and disadvantages, do you still feel like this is the right business for you at this time? Yes or No? If you answered “No, ” go through the same exercise with your next business idea. Eventually, you will find an idea that gets you to “Yes” and if you don’t find one that excites you, question if you’re still struggling with some fears as they relate to self-employment.
Starting a business is a pretty huge thing as your life will never be the same once you commit. So, consider it to be like marriage. There is commitment, work and a need to stay passionate. If you can’t see your life clearly 4 or 5 years from now in this new endeavor, then don’t get involved unless of course you plan on using it as a stepping stone. Finally continuing with marriage as an analogy, it is only the wisest of entrepreneurs that actually work in their prospective industry to test it out before going in with a full commitment. So, “date the business”, talk to others that have been in it and get the “B” side info as well. It may mean you have to go out of state to work for free with an unthreatened identical business and get a real hands on look at your future.
Have a great time planning out your company and its operations step by step and keep in mind the power of professional experienced business advice. If you can afford to pay for it, great and if you can’t be sure to get it from someone that is self-employed. Don’t take business advice from your neighbor that’s never even run a lemonade stand. I don’t care where she teaches or what law firm he works for. Get multiple views and advice from entrepreneurs that have been in the trenches even if they’ve been belly up. Learn from their experiences. Now, go and make it happen!
America's Small Business Advocate, Author and Speaker Dan Nichols’ is a business coach and business plan expert. “Lemonade Stand Simple" is a Federal Trademark of P2E LLC, a Michigan Company. All works are copyrighted 2001-2007 Business planning doesn't have to be boring!