So many entrepreneurs are stuck before they start. They don’t know where to start, they don’t know what to do. They know what a growing and successful business looks like because they see them everywhere, but what about a business that is still in its infancy? They don’t lack motivation; they just don’t know how to apply it.
I asked entrepreneurs to tell me what they would do first if they started from scratch. Their answers fell into four categories: decide on your business idea, become deeply familiar with their target audience, prepare for success, and then enlist the help of a mentor. Here are the details.
Decide on your business idea
First of all, know what your business will be. Without a defined business idea, it’s easy to be in an ongoing journey of research. Daniel Priestley, founder of Dent Global, knows exactly what he would do. “I would bring a team of four people together for a brainstorming session. We would come up with 5-10 ideas and create landing pages for each of them. We then tested the popularity of each idea with real customers and plan a launch event for the winner.” A solid team, a proven idea and a deadline to start: simple. Kriss Britton of Kaybe Mega Marketing also focused on the launch, which he said should happen “as soon as possible.” He added: “Too much time is wasted developing ideas or perfecting everything. Start fast, fail fast. Learn, progress and repeat. Make a rough sketch movement.”
Validation and product market fit are the first pieces of the puzzle and there are multiple ways to find them. Keir Spoon is a coach who is starting from scratch and shared what he is doing at the moment. “I talk to as many entrepreneurs as possible. Testing my message and offer with a live webinar. Writing down my lessons in blogs on Medium.” Seeking validation of a service with real customers and documenting the journey alongside it is a solid move in those early days.
When the practical steps of your idea start to make sense, don’t forget passion and purpose, these entrepreneurs say. “Make sure you have a real passion for the idea,” said Embellish Truth’s Bharati Manchanda, “it will keep you through the ups and downs.” Business mentor Emma Hine wants you to “know your purpose, including why you’re starting the business and what you want your life to look like. Then build a strategy that has that right at its core.” Adrian Kidd, financial planning coach, took it one step further, saying, “Do something that will improve the world or other people’s lives in some way.” He believes this puts “everything else in its place.” falls” and that you appear more authentic.
Graphic designer Ollie Booth would ask herself a simple question: “Do I enjoy it enough to spend weekends and evenings working on it for the next two years?” He believes that maintaining turnover is the most difficult during that period.
Do your customer research
Without customers, you don’t have a business, so it makes sense that step two focuses on them. Forget the product and “focus on the market,” said Loud Llama PR founder Paris Collingbourne. “You can come up with the most revolutionary idea in the world, but you won’t get anywhere if there’s no market for it.”
Ed tech entrepreneur Matt Jones starts with a chat. “I would find some potential customers and talk to them to validate the need.” He would see if he could “solve a pain point for them” and move on from there. Biz Coach UK founder Rohit Nanda would figure out what makes his company different and then “focus on how it tackles my potential clients’ hot buttons.” He said everyone has a “problem they don’t want” and your solution may be one they don’t know they need. “With that, format your messages,” he added.
While it may be tempting to win customers at this early stage, publishing entrepreneur Crystal Richard wants you to “check new customers and be more selective.” Especially when starting a service business, rushing to sign clients “can end up working with anyone to fill your pipeline, including clients who aren’t a good match.”
Author of The Design Sheppard Stacey Steppard thinks step two should be your very first move. “Start building a community around your new business idea before it even exists.” She advised you to “sort your branded messages and share them with your community on social media and via email and content marketing.” She believes the secret to getting people involved with you and your new business is to “share the journey from day one.”
Ready for success
So what’s next? Set up for success. Once your idea is finalized, proven and in demand, put your foundations in place and line up your ducks to turn it into reality. Welcome to the execution phase, where your role is to build traction and get the momentum going.
Blogger Tom Bourlet would “build a solid business plan, with a gap analysis, competitive analysis, financial information and budgets.” He is said to include a “marketing strategy, content plan and recruiting strategy” and believes that “the biggest mistake is not to prepare.”
Entrepreneur Viva Andrada O’Flynn revolves around the SWOT analysis while setting up her business, with an internal and external approach. “I made an inventory of my experiences, what I like to do and who I am as a person. I would investigate what is going on with the market, the location and the world.” She would turn this into her unique selling point, to find out “what I could do better than the people in the field and what I could do to add value to potential customers.”
Entrepreneur and author Lucy Werner said you should check the intellectual property of your brand name and buy a domain name. Build the brand and take your audience on a journey.” Marketing and PR consultant Sam Martin adds, “Secure your social media handles and make sure they are all uniform.” He knows from experience that this can annoy brands too late if they are “amazed to find that the name they think is theirs is already gone.”
Immortal Monkey founder Estelle Keeber would keep it simpler, zoom in on maximizing social media and have a solid plan for it. “It’s a great first step and your biggest free marketing tool,” she said.
While some advice so far has been to set up cheap and fail quickly, PR freelancer Kelly Chin says don’t skimp on your site. She would “spend money working with a reputable developer to make a functioning, fantastic website instead of doing it cheaply and having to spend more in the long run to fix it,” which she also said,” the launch date may be delayed.” Kelly The Poet would also invest, but “in social media marketing courses to learn how to share my story from day one.”
Find a mentor
You have your idea, you know your customer and you know what to do to sign them up. There is another crucial step that current entrepreneurs recommend to aspiring entrepreneurs. “Surround yourself with the right people,” says Count On Us Recruitment founder Fiona O’Neill. “Join business groups, ask them questions, learn from them. Learn from their mistakes and their achievements.” Hardly anyone made huge waves without fellow sailors and O’Neill agrees. “Starting a business requires a certain mindset. Dealing with others with the same mindset is key.”
Activist and business owner Tony Robinson OBE would take a more shotgun approach. “Ask an existing business owner, who really understands how to sell to your potential customers, how to test trade at minimal cost.” Learn and imitate someone with existing success in your field.
Digital media entrepreneur Euan Cameron says he can find some of these people by “assembling a board of experienced advisors”. He believes that “government is essential in the beginning to keep you accountable, focused and on track. It also opens doors that are often closed to startups with no track record.”
A business coach can also keep you on the hook. After twelve years in business, including multiple companies, entrepreneur Sian Lenegan would secure hers. “My first move would be to introduce responsibility,” she said.
Getting started can be the hardest part, but once you find momentum, your business will start to grow. Set the wheels in motion, sharpen the blade before cutting, prepare to strike; they are all essential to the success you seek. Come up with your great idea, plan your first actions, really get into the minds of your customers and learn from others on the rollercoaster of entrepreneurship.