Like many you woke up one day realizing that your career has hit a ceiling, or the daily hustle of corporate America has worn you down like an old pair of shoes. Many of us find reasons to start our own business, and the reasons really do vary from person to person. However now comes the hard work; Every body has a different list of priorities when they enter this segment of time. How you react here will ultimately determine how the venture will go!
Many in these critical times tend to do the easiest, most fun things to distance them selves from the difficult questions they need to ask. Some of these include taking an obscene amount of time to draw up business cards, or buying several domain names just in case. These vanity steps are less productive, and a waste of time. In the early part of the development process your time is best spent by creating a business plan for yourself and then the idea (company). Venture capitalist who are exeprts at weening out the bad idea’s from the good, do so by understanding the strength and weaknesses of both the individual pitching as the idea itself. Knowing if you are built for the challenges ahead for you and the business is critical.
Once you have examined these crucial steps about yourself, you are ready to get to work.
Time – The most important analysis you can do is to calculate your investment of time. You will ultimately never get this precisely, but you can be close. Most of the modern entrepreneurs moonlight before the truly leave to go on our own. It is the only way to guarantee some stability in a highly volatile time. This is never recommended, but its a “dog eat dog” life out there and guess what your boss isn’t exactly giving you a raise every year. From my experience I did this for the first 6 months of my company, in order to build up something substantial. You must understand how much time you will need to develop the idea, build prototype (if product), and produce necessary marketing materials to begin the pitch.
Money – Understanding the financial investment is self explanatory (really), but often new entrepreneurs tend to under estimate the investment that is truly required. Do the math wrong and you can really minimize the chances of your business succeeding.
Passion – I know this is cheesy, but as the old age saying goes “do what your passionate about, and you will never work a day in your life”. As an entrepreneur twice over, I can tell you this is true without exception.
You have the time, capital (or idea of how to get it), and you are passionate about your idea. You have passed your own pop quiz, great!
Usually the things that are the biggest drag are the most important, do them first! I must admit that when I started my agency i did not come up with a business plan, I also must admit that since i have gone back and written one my business has shown measurable growth. Do this first.
The Business Plan – when it comes to the business plan most tend to make “the perfect be the enemy of the good”. Dont fall in this hole. Make sure you cover the 4 basic things
Executive Summary – although these may seem like just words about your idea, it is important to be able to be succinct about the general concept of your product or service. Think of this as your “elevator pitch”, it will one day bring you great benefit.
Features & Benefits – I have found nothing in your business plan is as critical as outlining every detail that your consumer will make you unique and profitable. This is where you make your money, you better understand it, and can describe them all in great detail.
Competitive Analysis – my suggestion is to always have others help you here. We are (as humans) incapable of judging our on ideas with zero bias. Trying is admirable, and always educational, but if this is our first business try to get as many strangers to opine. If your feelings are easily hurt, I would reconsider become an entrepreneur in the first place.
Financial Analysis – This step is also important, but less so. The reason being is that you can pay people to analyze the market for you for a fairly cheap cost if math and research is not your strong point. Although i will say that the understanding of the companies financial health and status will catch up with you one day, better it be the first day rather then the last.
Marketing Materials – now you have set a path to certain goals and expectations to achieve. Marketing is the engine that takes you there. Here is what you will need.
Logo – this one is actually important, don’t go crazy but do not forget this is literally the face of your idea, make it interesting and (most of all) clean.
Business Cards – don’t try to “over design” these. At the end of the day all you need to do is relay your contact info. remember that new cards are cheap, so don’t agonize over this. get a couple of comps from a freelance designer, and settle on the one you like best. it helps to get others opinion on this as well. Ask 20 friends, and you might validate your already preexisting feelings.
Fact Sheet or 1 Pager – This will be something that you will send to people to present your idea. Use the same designer (if possible) that made your log and cards and have them put together a clean way to describe your concept
Brochure – a visually appealing tri-fold will do the trick. In the brochure you can outline your product or service and list your rates and contact info. If you cant make them look nice, don’t waste the money on printing them (probably waste of money).
If you like this please check back soon for part II.