By: Ghada Saleh
There are no limits on who can become a great entrepreneur. You don't necessarily need a university degree, savings in the bank or even business experience to start something that could become the next major success. However, you do need a strong business plan and the drive to see it through.
Check out this step-by-step guide to help turn your big idea into a successful business:
1. Evaluate Yourself
Evaluate why you want to start a business. Use this as a guide to what kind of business you want to start. If you want extra money, maybe you should start a side hustle. If you want more freedom, maybe it's time to leave your 9-5 job and start something new.
Once you have the reason, start asking yourself even more questions to help you figure out the type of business you should start, and if you have what it takes.
What skills do you have?
Where does your passion lie?
Where is your area of expertise?
How much can you afford to spend, knowing that most businesses fail?
How much capital do you need?
What sort of lifestyle do you want to live?
Are you even ready to be an entrepreneur?
Be brutally honest with your answers. This will create a foundation for everything you do moving forward, so it's better to know the truth now than later.
2. Think of a Business Idea
Do you already have an excellent business idea? If so, congratulations! You can proceed to the next section. If not, there are a ton of ways to start brainstorming for a good idea, here are some things to ask yourself:
Ask yourself what's next. What technology or advancement is coming soon, and how will that change the business landscape as we know it? Can you get ahead of the curve?
Fix something that bothers you. People would rather have less of a bad thing than more of a good thing. If your business can fix a problem for your customers, they'll thank you for it.
Apply your skills to an entirely new field. Many businesses and industries do things one way because that's the way they've always been done. In those cases, a fresh set of eyes from a new perspective can make all the difference.
Use the better, cheaper, faster approach. Do you have a business idea that isn’t completely new? If so, think about the current offerings and focus on how you can create something better, cheaper or faster.
3. Do Market Research
Is anyone else already doing what you want to start doing? If not, is there a good reason why?
Start researching your potential rivals or partners within the market by using this guide. It breaks down the objectives you need to complete with your research and the methods you can use to do just that. For example, you can offer surveys or questionnaires that ask questions like “What factors do you consider when purchasing this product or service?” and “What areas would you suggest for improvement?”
Just as importantly, it explains three of the most common mistakes people make when starting their market research, which are:
Using only secondary research.
Using only online resources.
Surveying only the people you know.
4. Get Feedback
Let people interact with your product or service and see what their take is on it. A fresh set of eyes can help point out a problem you might have missed. Plus, these people will become your first brand advocates, especially if you listen to their input and they like the product.
One of the easiest ways to utilize feedback is to focus on “The Lean Start-up” approach, but it involves three basic pillars: prototyping, experimenting and pivoting. By pushing out a product, getting feedback and then adapting before you push out the next product, you can constantly improve and make sure you stay relevant.
5. Make It Official
Get all of the legal aspects out of the way early. That way, you don't have to worry about someone taking your big idea, screwing you over in a partnership or suing you for something you never saw coming. A quick checklist of things might include:
Register your business
Necessary bank account
6. Write Your Business Plan
A business plan is a written description of how your business will evolve from when it starts to the finish product.
Here's what we suggest should be in your business plan:
Title Page. Start with the name of your business, which is harder than it sounds.
Executive Summary. This is a high-level summary of what the plan includes, often touching on the company description, the problem the business is solving, the solution and why now.
Business Description. What kind of business do you want to start? What does your industry look like? What will it look like in the future?
Market Strategies. What is your target market, and how can you best sell to that market?
Competitive Analysis. What are the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors? How will you beat them?
Design and Development Plan. What is your product or service and how will it develop? Then, create a budget for that product or service.
Operations and Management Plan. How does the business function on a daily basis?
Finance Factors. Where is the money coming from? When? How? What sort of projections should you create and what should you take into consideration?
7. Finance Your Business.
Fund your start-up yourself. Starting your business might take longer, but the good part is that you control your own destiny and equity.
Pitch your needs to friends and family. It can be hard to separate business from personal relationships, but if you’re considering asking for a loan, here’s a resource you can use to make it as straightforward as possible.
Start a crowdfunding campaign online. Sometimes power is in numbers, and a bunch of small investments can add up to something major.
Apply to local investor groups. Online platforms and local networking can help you find potential investors who relate to your industry and passion.
Solicit venture capital investors. VCs typically look for big opportunities from proven teams that need a million dollars or more, so you should have some traction before approaching them.
Join a start-up incubator or accelerator. These companies are designed to help new or start-up businesses get to the next level. Most provide free resources, including office facilities and consulting, along with networking opportunities and pitch events.
Negotiate an advance from a strategic partner or customer. If someone wants your product or service bad enough to pay for it, there's a chance they'll want it bad enough to fund it, too.
Trade equity or services for start-up help. For example, you could support a computer system for office tenants in exchange for free office space. You might not get paid for this, but you won’t have to pay for an office, either, and a penny saved is a penny earned.
Seek a bank loan or line of credit.
8. Develop Your Product or Service
After all the work you've put into starting your business, it's going to feel awesome to actually see your idea come to life. But keep in mind, it takes a village to create a product. If you want to make an app and you're not an engineer, you will need to reach out to a technical person. Or if you need to mass-produce an item, you will have to team up with a manufacturer.
Here is a seven-step checklist -- including finding a manufacturer and pricing strategies -- you can use for your own product development. A major point the article highlights is that when you’re actually crafting the product, you should focus on two things: simplicity and quality. Your best option isn’t necessarily to make the cheapest product, even if it lowers manufacturing cost. Also, you need to make sure the product can grab someone’s attention quickly.
9. Start Building Your Team
To scale your business, you are going to need to hand off responsibilities to other people. You need a team. Whether you need a partner, employee or freelancer, these three tips can help you find a good fit:
State your goals clearly. Make sure everyone understands the vision and their role within that mission at the very start.
Follow hiring protocols. When starting the hiring process you need to take a lot of things into consideration, from screening people to asking the right questions and having the proper forms.
Establish a strong company culture. What makes a great culture? What are some of the building blocks? Because a great culture is more about respecting and empowering employees through multiple channels, including training and mentorship, than it is about decor or ping-pong tables.
10. Find a Location
This could mean an office or a store. Your priorities will differ depending on need.
11. Start Getting Some Sales
No matter your product or industry, your business's future is going to depend on revenue and sales. Steve Jobs knew this -- it's why, when he was starting Apple, he spent day after day calling investors from his garage.
There are a ton of different sales strategies and techniques you can employ, but here are four tenets to live by:
Listen. When you listen to your clients, you find out what they want and need, and how to make that happen.
Ask for a commitment, but don't be pushy about it. You can't be too shy to ask for a next step or to close a sale, but you also can't make customers feel as though you're forcing them into a sale.
Don't be afraid of hearing "no. Most people are too polite. They let you make your pitch even if they have no interest in buying. And that’s a problem of its own. Time is your most important resource.
Make it a priority. As entrepreneurial wizard Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Actually creating revenue, and running a profitable business, is a good strategy for business. Where are we that people think users or visits or time on site is the proxy to a successful business?”
12. Grow Your Business
There are a million different ways to grow. You could acquire another business, start targeting a new market, expand your offerings and more. But, no growth plan will matter if you don't have the two key attributes that all growing companies have in common.
First, they have a plan to market themselves. They use social media effectively through organic, influencer or paid campaigns. They have an email list and know how to use it. They understand exactly who they need to target -- either online or off -- with their marketing campaigns.
Then, once they have a new customer, they understand how to retain them. You've probably heard many people state that the easiest customer to sell to is the one you already have. Your existing customers have already signed up for your email list, added their credit card information to your website and tested what you have to offer. In doing so, they're starting a relationship with you and your brand. Help them feel as good about that relationship as possible.
Start by utilizing these strategies, which include investing in your customer service and getting personal, but realize your work will never be done. You'll constantly be competing for these customers in the marketplace, and you can never simply rest on your laurels. Keep researching the market, hiring good people and making a superior product and you'll be on your way to building the empire you always dreamed about.