Although destined to be a serial entrepreneur, it took me nearly 24 years to realize that and start my first business. You see, I – like millions of others – have been brought up to believe that the way to live a happy and successful life is to go to school, get a degree – preferably from a reputable university – and get a job in the most promising company in which to retire 40 or so years later.
What a waste of life…
As I started my first business and became more aware of my innate talents, abilities and winning traits conducive to entrepreneurial success, the more I realized that entrepreneurship is the only path to happiness, success and utter fulfillment…the only right way to live my life.
Over the years, I’ve started several businesses of which first three flopped but not due to a bad idea, execution or timing but lack of persistence or the ‘staying power’ as I like to call it. Since, I’ve learned my lessons well and have put them to the best possible use in building my other businesses – including my most recent Parttimerz – and helping aspiring entrepreneurs do the same, avoiding the mistakes I’ve made along the way.
Truth be told, not everyone is cut out to be an entrepreneur who can start and run a successful business, which is why this post isn’t suited for everyone…nonetheless, I let you be the judge as to whether to continue reading or not.
Either way, as you take the leap of faith, here are the most crucial things to consider which if thought out and executed well, will help you build a successful business, guaranteed.
So without further ado let’s get right to it…
- Winning Idea
To start a successful business, the first thing you’ve got to have is an idea…not any idea but the winning one.
But how do you know if you’ve got the winning idea?
Well you don’t until you put it to work and even then, you might not know until much later in time. Nonetheless, to have a shot at starting and running a successful business, you’ve got to start with the winning idea.
Now, don’t get too carried away and think that a mere idea – even if it’s a winning one – will guarantee you have a successful business. Far from it in fact, for ideas are dime a dozen, everybody has them, so don’t congratulate yourself just yet.
So, what else is required to start a successful business?
Starting and running a successful business will greatly depend on your ability to detect otherwise unmet needs, wants, desire and pains of your target audience and address them better than anyone else, particularly your biggest competitors.
This is of prime importance because let’s face it, you may come up with ‘the winning’ idea of transporting people to the Mars and back for $100 dollars per seat and in under 7 days, much better than anyone could ever dream of, including Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos.
However, since quick and affordable flight to the Mars and back isn’t what your target audience really wants, needs or desires, you’ll fall flat on your face and your ‘winning idea’ will be worthless. In other words, the so-called winning idea is only as good as the intrinsic value it offers to its intended audience.
Another thing to keep in mind when starting a business is timing. Timing is a huge factor when starting a business and could mean the difference between business success and failure.
Let’s take the Mars roundtrip example from before…although there’s an aspiration and several failed attempts at going to the Mars, today the technology just isn’t quite there yet and having witnessed failed attempts, I think we’d all agree that not too many people would dare take a chance and attempt to fly to the Mars any time soon…I know I wouldn’t.
Because of it, launching a business today which could actually fly people to the Mars and back for 100$ dollars per seat and in under 7 days would most certainly fail. Now, fast forward 10 years from now after people have witnessed many successful attempts of flights to the Mars, NASA has a solid proof of life on Mars and new and improved technology has been tried and tested time and again, the same business model could prove extremely successful and lucrative. I’m over simplifying here but you get the point, don’t you?
- The BIG Why
Next, this is my personal favorite – the BIG why or the very purpose of your business. Why do you want to start a business in the first place and do exactly that which you’ve intended?
Your answer to this question better not be to make millions of dollars and become wildly successful entrepreneur. If you’re starting a business for a mere money-making and aspiration of riches, you might as well just drop the idea of a business altogether, let alone a successful business.
I’m not just saying this to discourage you or because the money-making is bad, far from it. I love money and can’t think of anyone who doesn’t.
In fact, if you dream of running a successful business, it’s your utmost responsibility to make a profit, for if you don’t your business will be ruined along with you and any other shareholders it may have. So, money-making is a duty of every responsible and successful business.
However, as you can see that’s not its purpose – the purpose of any one successful business of our time or throughout history had to be very meaningful and close to its founder’s heart.
Think of any successful business and you’ll see that they’ve succeeded because they were able to detect and fulfill otherwise unmet needs, wants and desires of their target audience, better than anyone else, particularly their competition.
Another strong argument for having the big why when starting a business is that entrepreneurship sucks, particularly in the early months of a startup. Life of an entrepreneur is lonely, stressful and flat-out petrifying.
Think about it, you take the leap of faith and find yourself in the middle of possibly the biggest uncertainty you’ve ever been in. You’ve got tons of time-bound and extremely crucial deliverables along with shoestring budget and limited resources. The worst of all, you’ve never been in a similar situation and don’t have the slightest clue where to start or what to do. You can’t help but feel dumbfounded and petrified.
But guess what, that’s just the beginning…
Every successful entrepreneur will tell you that entrepreneurial journey isn’t for fainthearted and for a good reason – it’s filled with seemingly insurmountable obstacles, temporary setbacks and formidable challenges which will undoubtedly push you to your limits.
If at this point you don’t have anything real – something you’re strongly passionate about and believe in with all your being, the BIG why – to hold on to, you’ll most certainly quit and fail.
The only thing that can truly keep you focused and give you much important staying power is your BIG and meaningful why. In the absence of the big why many wantrepreneurs and entrepreneurs have tried to hold on to their desire for riches when the going got tough but eventually they broke under pressure and quit. Don’t be a quitter, discover your big why.
- The Team
It’s been said time and again, a partner can either make you or break you so make no mistake, starting a successful business will in great part be directly dependent on the start-up team or the partner(s) you choose.
I’m mean think about it…you can have the best – winning idea – but if your team are incompetent to execute on it, what’s the point? Your ‘winning idea’ will mean absolutely nothing and your business will fail before you even start.
Likewise, if you have an average idea but exceptional team who are highly competent and can execute on it, you’ll have a shot at building a successful business.
You see, not so many people know this but in business, execution matters the most which is why fortune 500 CEOs and their senior executives are paid astonishing amounts of money in salaries and bonuses for their leadership and execution.
Teams come in variety of sizes and shapes. Many businesses are one-man or a woman show while others have two or more co-founders. Whatever the case may be, start-up team selection must never be taken lightly, in fact you’ve got to be very vigilant and forward thinking otherwise, you might get into big trouble or at least have a tough time getting your business off the ground.
For example, in my last business venture – Parttimerz – which is a technology startup, built on state-of-the-art online platform which was designed and built from scratch by superstar developers, both my partner and I were non-technical. Ouch!
Now, I’ve done fair bit of coding 17 years ago and have singlehandedly started my first online business in 2000 but considering that last 14 years I’ve not written a single line of code, I consider myself non-technical.
So, there we were with a solid business idea very close to my heart, armed with arsenal of business strategies and tactics…backed with BIG and meaningful why, we’ve set out to build a technology startup. Not entirely thought through…but there we were.
Aware of the predicament we’ve found ourselves in early on, we’ve quickly realized we needed a strong CTO to join our startup as a partner or alternatively outsource the platform design and build to a third-party – which in reality is never a good idea if you’re a technology company.
Due to time constraint, we’ve done the latter as finding an adequate CTO partner who shared our values and was passionate about our idea was easier said than done. We’ve outsourced our initial platform design and build to a third-party company we’ve found thought trusted recommendation of a dear friend.
Not to veer off the subject much here but the long story short, we’ve eventually taken over our platform from a third-party company and have been developing it in-house for the past 18 months.
In hindsight, had either one of us been capable of being a CTO, we would have done a far better job quicker and for much less money. We’ve paid dearly in the early going for not having the right ‘partner mix’ in our startup.
So be prudent and forward thinking when selecting a partner for your startup…complement each other in every way, particularly skill set.
- Minimum Viable Product (MVP)
Imagine you put in 14 hours days, 7 days a week of hard work for 18 grueling months and invest tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars along the way into designing and building your dream product, only to find out that your target audience doesn’t really want it…what they wanted was something completely different.
Ouch! That would be totally brutal, wouldn’t it – something only a few exceptional entrepreneurs could ever recover from…don’t you agree?
To avoid the foregoing catastrophic scenario from ever happening to you, you’ve got to put your ‘winning idea’ to the test to ensure it has legs before you invest all that time, money and effort in it. You do this with a minimum viable product (MVP).
But what exactly is an MVP and how do you go about building one?
Simply put an MVP is usually the bare bones version of your final product you plan to launch into the marketplace. Assuming you have a tight grip on and full understanding of your target audience and their needs, wants, desires and pains, simply develop the bare bones version of your product and you’ve got yourself an MVP…simple, isn’t it?
Without oversimplifying it though, this can ideally be done relatively quickly and fairly inexpensively…depending on the complexity of your product, of course.
Once ready, soft-launch it and get it into the hands of your prospective target audience…offer them a free test drive of your product, let them use it and familiarize themselves with its functionality.
Solicit their candid responses, criticisms and improvement recommendations, all of which is invaluable information for you as it’ll help you understand any of the shortcomings your product may have and improve upon before the official launch.
Now, you’ve noticed that you have to get your MVP into the hands of your prospective target audience, but how?
Not to veer off the subject I’m not going to discuss the go-to-market (GTM) strategy or content marketing in this post, as I cover that elsewhere in my blog, all I’ll say is that you’ve got to start building your prospects pipeline way before you launch your final product into the marketplace…ideally, start in parallel with product development.
This way you’ll have sizable sample size come MVP testing time and fairly large captive audience at the product launch. Both of which you need badly or else your effort could be in vain and no one wants than.
- Tweak and Pivot
When you set out to start a successful business and build a product you believe your target audience will fall in love with head over heels, you’re pretty set in your ways and relentless in your pursuit towards your coveted goal.
At times, it feels like you can do no wrong but that’s a dangerous feeling as every now and then throughout the life-cycle of your product development, you’ll need to tweak and occasionally pivot, if you’re to ultimately achieve your coveted destination.
So, beware…don’t let your ego get in the way of your success.
This is where flexibility and patience come into play…as you run your MVP and consolidate all the feedbacks, criticisms and improvement recommendations received from your target audience, you’ll more often than not be required to make some drastic modifications and changes to your initial design and functionality…just know that’s perfectly fine and it’s for the benefit of your business.
Do whatever necessary to build exactly what your target audience want, need and desire.
- The Launch
Long awaited moment has arrived. Give yourself a pat on the back for job well done and the staying power you’ve demonstrated. You’re worthy of praise, so give yourself one if there’s no one else to do it for you.
You’ve come a long way from a mere idea to the final product and have been through many ups and downs by now, which you’ve managed to overcome and prevail. The moment of truth has arrived and you’re psyched as can be.
Launch your product with a lot of fanfare and make a big splash. This seems obvious but it’s much easier said than done. For you to really launch with much fanfare and publicity, by this time you’ve had to build a sizable following on your personal blog, startup blog and relevant social media e.g. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram etc. depending on the type of your product and target audience, of course.
In addition, you’ll have to hire one or two high quality PR agencies to help you with your PR release and distribution. Be very diligent in your research before selecting the right PR agency as most of them are completely useless. I’ve tried several and have literally threw away my money.
This is why I’m a strong proponent of building a blog and social media followers first, which if I’m honest is super tough and time-consuming but in the end well worth it. As I talk about how to build a blog and social media following for your business in another post, I’ll leave it at this for now confident that you get the point and will do the right thing.
Wrapping it up
While building a successful business isn’t easy or suited for anyone, if you’ve got what it takes to see it through all the pain, suffering and seemingly insurmountable obstacles you’re bound to encounter on your entrepreneurial journey, do yourself a favor and put to practice all of these tried and tested points which are guaranteed to help you start and run a successful business.