Imagine the world completely different from this one, a world in which you get to do that which you truly love and in the process improve people’s lives. Imagine that you are free to build your dream and put a dent in the Universe. Imagine that you can live an eternal life through the hearts and minds of those whose lives you’ve enriched and made more enjoyable. Imagine that you are in a total control of your own life and destiny. Wow, wouldn’t that be awesome?
I know, this may seem unreal for many of you but it’s all well within your reach, if you truly want it that is. As a product of your surroundings and everything you met throughout your life i.e., parents, society, peers, mainstream media and government, it’s easy to understand why the foregoing may seem unreal to some of you. However, there are proofs all around us that such ‘imaginary’ life is very much possible and real. Some of the great examples of visionaries who’ve lived such lives and still do include Henry Ford, Steve Jobs, Richard Branson, Elon Musk and scores of others.
If by now you’ve not started your business but are thinking about it from the side-lines, this realization that you too can have the most amazing and fulfilling life should be your wakeup call, the call to action. None of the aforementioned men of enviable achievements is more capable or better than you. They simply wanted it bad and resolved that nothing else would do or stand in their way. Therefore, if you are to follow in their footsteps of high achievement, you too will have to – at some point – resolve that you’re here for a reason and must fulfil your life’s mission of enriching people’s lives though your business. What that business will be it’s totally up to you.
What it Takes to Start a Business
Not to get too carried away though, starting and running a business is far from easy otherwise, everyone would probably be doing it. Entrepreneurship is the way of life which isn’t suited for everyone. Uncertainty, risks, pain and suffering all come before joy, pleasure, riches and fame in the life of an entrepreneur. The journey is long and treacherous which only the most persistent and toughest of them manage to complete and eventually come out victorious.
Before you even take the first step toward building your dream business, one question you absolutely must answer is ‘why do I want to start a business’? This question or rather your answer is of utmost importance as it can be a decisive factor in whether you should pursue your dream business or not.
It’s no secret that people start businesses for various reasons e.g. money, fame, power etc. and that’s their prerogative however, those who actually make it are the ones with a BIG and meaningful why e.g. right a wrong, fill otherwise unmet needs, wants, desires and pains etc.
Having the big and meaningful why is of utmost importance because when the going gets tough and be sure it will more often than you can even imagine, the only true ally to help you get through it is your BIG and meaningful why. Everything else, all other desires you may have had about getting rich, becoming powerful and famous will fade away and abandon you to deal with excruciating pain and suffering which could possibly break you and make you throw in the towel.
Staying power, which in my mind and experience is the single most important trait of a successful entrepreneur, is an offspring of a cause, purpose or a BIG why. Considering all of the obstacles, challenges and setbacks every entrepreneur is bound to encounter, having that big why is of utmost importance – what’s yours?
Mistakes To Avoid When Starting A Business
Assuming you’ve identified and locked your big why, next there are couple of things to keep in mind when starting a business. Namely, some of the most common mistakes first time founders or entrepreneurs make include the following:
- Starting a business for the wrong reasons
Thanks to the advancements in transpiration, communication and technology we’ve witnessed over the past two decades, starting a business nowadays is much easier than it was in the last century. Because of it, we hear and read daily about a new and exciting start-ups being launched world over by visionary entrepreneurs who come from all walks of life.
This however, doesn’t mean that you should start a business simply because everyone else is doing it. Just because your college buddy is making a killing with his new and in demand dating mobile app, doesn’t mean that you should jump right into mobile apps business.
Also, you must never – no matter how strong your temptation may be – start a business in order to become a millionaire or a billionaire, for that’s a surefire way to fail. Instead, focus on finding otherwise unmet needs, wants and desires of your target audience that you can fill. You can also possibly right a wrong or come up with a BIG and meaningful why, something you’re truly passionate about which will give you the STAYING POWER to whether the storms and overcome various setbacks and obstacles you’re bound to encounter on your entrepreneurial journey.
- Selecting the wrong partner
Good old proverb says “partner can either make you or break you” and for a good reason. Business partnership is in so many ways similar to marriage in that if any one of the partners isn’t the right fit for that partnership or fails to contribute to the common goal by underperforming or behaving in the manner not conducive to the overall success, your business, like marriage, would be in a serious bind and possibly fail. So be mindful of who you choose as your partner for in the absence of an adequate partner, you would be better off to go it alone. Word of caution though, going it alone isn’t easy so be prepared mentally for what’s to come.
While you can never really know with certainty whether a person you may have in mind would make for a perfect business partner, there are signs that he or she could indeed be a good fit. For example, the two of you share a common values and aspiration, have similar work ethics and complementing skills which are conducive to your business success e.g. business and technical skills in the case of an online tech business etc.
In addition to the aforementioned commonalities and traits, you should look for someone who is candid, passionate and willing to question everything for the betterment of your coveted goal.
- Reaching out to Angels and VCs prematurely
While the money is clearly an essential part of business, much like an idea, determination, staying power and good timing among others, unless you’re starting a capital-intensive business e.g. manufacturing, telecommunication, automotive etc. you should be able to bootstrap for initial 12-18 months in which time you could possibly even breakeven and turn profit – this is especially true if your business entails provision of professional services e.g. consultancy, web development, blogging etc. as the overhead is fairly low.
Being a startup founder has its perks and the very freedom to be, think and do what you believe is right, is one of the most precious and should be guarded accordingly. As a business owner you are completely in charge of your business and have no one to answer to. There’s no boss or a board, it’s just you and your partner(s) in case of partnership. You are as free as you’ll ever be until you succumb to the external funding from an angel or a venture capital (VC) investor, at which point you lose your right to freedom you’ve enjoyed as a startup founder and surrender all your privileges.
Freedom is an expensive price to pay for angel or VC funding. So unless you absolutely need additional capital to help you run your business, don’t go looking for it. When and if you ever truly need additional capital, do yourself a favor and take only what you need to get to where you need to be. Whatever you do, never raise more money than you need at any given time for it could completely ruin you and your business.
- Being inflexible and rigid
Don’t take yourself or God forbids your business plan too serious because no one else will. It’s been said time and again that no business plan – regardless of how exceptional, well thought out and eloquently written it may be – ever survives the first contact with customers or the marketplace. Forecasting or guesstimating is a guessing game at best, no one – I don’t care what business school they went to or how many years of professional experience they may have – can know with certainty what your target audience will want 3 or 5 years from now and how much will they be willing to pay for it. The only thing you can do is make a well-informed guess.
With aforementioned in mind, look at the business plan for what it is, a tool to help you stay focused and on track to where you need to get to over a period of time. Meanwhile, make sure to keep an open mind and be completely flexible and open to change, tweaks and pivots.
Finally, make use of the feedback loop in your daily business operation and use your prospects and clients as the source of improvement. Your biggest critics should be your most valuable assets in the early going so embrace them but not blindly – use your common sense and open mind when evaluating their feedbacks and criticisms. Don’t sell out, stay truthful to your values, beliefs and aspirations.
- Think or worry about what the competition is doing
Unless you’re in business of selling bird’s milk, chances are you’ll have a competition. Competition in any one business is healthy and serves only two purposes: one, as acknowledgement that what you’re getting into is really in demand and there’s a real market need for it and two, as a benchmark or a measuring stick to compare against and know how well your startup is doing, progressing and advancing at any given time.
Therefore, instead of thinking or worrying about what the competition is up to, embrace and use it as your driving force on your way to the top. Your only focus and concern should ever be your target audience and their unmet needs, wants and desires. Develop a customer-centric, market-driven mind-set.
Wrapping It All Up
Instead of dreaming of and imagining a more fulfilling and meaningful life, start living it. Resolve today to truly get to know yourself and discover your life’s purpose. Figure out how best to go about fulfilling it and jump right into it.
If you believe there’s an entrepreneur in you and you’ve got what it takes to start and scale a business, use your entrepreneurial skills to tie your life’s purpose into the business of your dreams and live a purpose driven life. Think, act, be.