Being an entrepreneur sounds alluring and exciting to many. But in reality, it is both exhilarating and nerve-wracking. There are great benefits in starting a company: an opportunity to bring your idea into fruition and contribute to the economy by hiring others. But between achieving those things can be many obstacles; twists and turns that will challenge even the strongest person. And while you cannot prepare for everything that will happen over the course of starting and growing your business, you can learn how to navigate each obstacle. TCI offers an Associate’s Degree in Business Administration as well as programs in Accounting Technology, Security Services & Management, and Paralegal Studies. These courses are designed to help potential entrepreneurs master the foundations that make a business operate successfully no matter which sector it is in. Are you ready? Below we pulled together 10 questions aspiring entrepreneurs should ask themselves before they decide to take the plunge and open their own business.
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1. Will my business provide a solution to a problem?
Good ideas become great ideas when they actually solve a problem. The best and most successful companies create solutions. Whether that is a computer or networking technology music solution, a human services solution like providing helpful advice to friends; or a creative solution like using digital media arts to create interior designs, doesn’t matter. But what does matter is whether or not your company makes its own mark by providing a solution. This is not just important for ego sake; it’s vital for relevance, for obtaining funding and for helping to determine if what you build your business model around will be relevant in 10, 20 or 30 years from now. If what you want to create helps to solve or manages a problem, then you are well on your way to success.
TCI Biz Tip: Every time you complain about a service or an experience, it is a sign that you can create something to make it better.
2. Can I survive for six months to a year without earning specific income?
Sometimes people believe you go from conception to instant success in one year. But every overnight success is at least five years in the making. The reality is startups require bootstrapping to build a solid foundation. This may require that the company exists on incredibly lean times even if you have venture capital investment. That may mean your income, as the founder, is not the highest. Sometimes it’s nothing. So you have to ask yourself: If my income becomes shaky, do I have the wherewithal to survive and push through that non-income stage?
TCI Biz Tip: Before you take the leap, make sure you have at least one year of your current salary in savings dedicated for helping you during those lean, mean times.
3. How much do I need to market my business?
You have a great business idea and some funds that will allow you to begin. But ask yourself how much you will need to allocate toward marketing to the masses to gain new customers. If you have a great network of people, that’s wonderful. But, no business ever gets off the ground without strategic marketing for each year of its existence. This is an essential part of your business plan.
TCI Biz Tip: Your marketing budget should be at least 10% of your operating budget. So allocate funds for social media and public relations, at minimum. Make the plan, and then work the plan.
4. Who are my competitors and can I distinguish myself from them?
There are innovators and there are duplicators; the former reinvents the wheel and the latter recreates the wheel. No matter which one you choose to be, you must offer a point of distinction—even if it’s minor.
TCI Biz Tip: Make a list of your immediate competitors and do a comparative analysis of what they offer and what you offer so you are crystal clear on your value proposition.
5. Am I shy with strangers?
We live in the age of “See me.” That means the world wants to know the creator, the founders, the innovators. The entrepreneur is the face, voice and complete reason for the company existing, and a strong secondary reason people purchase. Being shy will not serve you or your business. Customers will purchase whom they see and like. So learn to be more sociable; it’s crucial to the success of your business.
TCI Biz Tip: If you are naturally shy, take acting classes to help you break out of your shell and to boost your confidence; learn techniques to start conversations and practice often.
6. Do I typically act fearlessly, or does fear drive most of my actions?
This is a big question that requires an honest answer. Fear-based actions include the belief that whatever the issue is, it cannot be done. Fearless-based actions include the belief that there is a way to get it done. It is the glass half-empty, glass half-full concept. Entrepreneurs have to exist on fearlessness; it’s your foundation on which everything is built. But let’s not confuse being careless with being fearless. Weigh the options, look at it from a win-win perspective and move confidently on the correct actions.
TCI Biz Tip: The best way to learn if you act fearlessly or not is to monitor your actions and your language. Are you speaking more empowerment can-do language when you discuss an issue? Or are you speaking from a place of fear. If it is the latter, ask yourself why. They ask why again until you get to the real answer.
7. What will the business end of my business actually look like?
You are an expert in your industry, or you have a very unique idea. But what will the business component actually look like for this new venture? How will you pay people? What will you pay yourself? Will you have employees or independent contractors; what type of liability insurance will you need to obtain? Is your business set up with you as the sole owner, or will you bring on partners? There are two major hires that you need before putting any idea into motion. And that is a lawyer and an accountant. Both will help you to set up your business legally
; create contracts and help to make sure you are compliant. A Human Resources consultant, at the beginning, will also help you with creating contracts for independent contractors. You can hire one full time as the company expands. But establishing who will handle your billing, accounts receivables, and your quarterly taxes are all crucial infrastructure to every business, no matter the size.
TCI Biz Tip: Use online services like Legalzoom.com to set up your business and trademark its name; Rocketlawyer.com to find a lawyer and get contracts, and Matsuma.com for accounting, to get you started on the right track.
8. What does success mean?
There are key performance metrics to consider for what success means. When it’s monetary, ask yourself how large can your company scale? Can it scale to hundreds of thousands; millions; multi-million; billion or multibillion dollars? Knowing the potential of your business and seeing it in black and white will help determine if this idea is something you want to actually work on. If it’s about reach or impact, determine what that number would be to actually make an impact.
TCI Biz Tip: Establish the milestones for success immediately, and adjust along the way. You learn from doing and you excel from learning what worked and what didn’t.
9. Am I patient enough to wait for success?
If there is one thing being an entrepreneur actually requires is patience. From registering and trademarking your company’s name to finding funding to experience organic growth, patience will be your greatest asset. When it comes to building a business, you will need a sense of urgency to get things within your control done. You will need the patience, however, to wait on the things out of your control.
TCI Biz Tip: Remember this advice whenever something is taking longer than initially anticipated: The journey is more important than the outcome or the time it took. Everything happens exactly at the time and moment it is meant to occur. So wait. Patiently.
10. How do I bounce back from adversity?
If life for you until this point has been a bed of roses, get ready to experience some prickly thorns during your entrepreneurial ride. But those small or big inconveniences can become your biggest lessons on what not to do, or the biggest brick that stops your momentum. When they occur, the choice will be yours and only yours. So what you really have to ask yourself is whether or not you will be able to bounce back—not just once or twice, but twenty or more times—if necessary.
TCI Biz Tip: Keep these words of wisdom from Harriet Beecher Stowe, renowned abolitionist and author of Uncle Tom’s Cabin: “Never give up, for that is just the place and time that the tide will turn.”
Are you an aspiring entrepreneur? If so, which of these tips do you find the most valuable? Sound off on our Facebook page!