It’s such a commonly asked question, where do I start? We all have a moment of panic when we dive into something new, in whatever profession, pastime, or process. It can feel like wandering into a cave when you start a new business, you’re looking into this mass of darkness, and you have no idea what dangers lurk there. While we all feel that at some point in time, it doesn’t mean that you need to constantly feel like you’re treading water. The stats about startup companies are bad enough to put people off ever starting a business of their own, even if it has been a long-harbored dream since you were young. People use words like “competition,” “targets,” and “markets,” which are such big, scary words that it makes the small stall owner shy away from ever setting up his own shop. Looking for an entry point into a market can be a frustrating and stressful experience. Where do you begin? Right here, that’s where.
Looking for inspiration? Aren’t we all? We want to start a business because we have an idea, a kernel, a nugget of something that we have faith in. You may have a product fully formed, or you may have an idea of something nifty to sell. While we need to have a good product, as everything will come back to that in the end, we need to be sure in what our vision is as a company. What is your goal? What do you believe? This links to so many different aspects of business, from the core values to the marketing. If you are in contact with a marketing company and they are working with you to create a campaign suitable for your product, they need to know what your company is. As an ethos. A belief. A credo. Apple’s is “Think Differently,” and that is because Steve Jobs was doing just that. Look at yourself and figure out the bigger picture for your company. Once you have focused in on what you want to do, try and pinpoint it even further if you can. The reason many startups fail is because they want to do too much, or they spread themselves too thinly. By identifying your vision as a clear picture without any blurred edges, it is a tangible goal for you to aim for. Just ask yourself, what do I, as the leader of my company, want? It’s a big question, and one you need to answer.
It may sound like a hippy-esque statement, but you need to be able to see what it is that you can bring to the table in order to bring your vision to life. Look at yourself and identify your strengths and weaknesses, what your goals are in life, and what drives your passion. While this can be interpreted as psychobabble, you only have to look at your idols in business. Elon Musk, Steve Jobs, Tony Robbins, or the man running the local store! What do these people all have that you strive for? That you feel you lack. This is not a case of emulating these people in terms of their decisions, what they have done does not apply to you, as you are your own person, and you need to find out who this person is. Once you do this, it’ll not only make business easier, but you’ll open yourself up in a whole new way.
Once that is done, you need to assess what you have in terms of your resources. Who do you know? What access to additional finances can you muster up? What do you have, and what don’t you have? You can’t do this alone, although you may try. Do you need to work on how to get your budget up, or do you need to integrate your business into the online world? Handy resources like Opstart can work to get rid of a lot of the teething issues young companies have, like keeping your business name, company registration, and aligning yourself with essential pillars like accounting and web design. After you have weighed up your supplies, you need to figure out who you need to supply to, namely your target market. And who will try and steal your target market? The competition. Assessing the outside world and its components makes you prepared for anything.
Getting to understand your target market requires many approaches, and not every shoe will fit. But the fundamental point of working out a target market is to understand how they see it. Your product is the cure or the solution, so you need to understand their pain or problem. How do we get to understand their pain? We ask questions. We research, and we engage with our target market. It’s at this crucial stage that we may find that the vision we once had doesn’t fit with our target market anymore. It’s better to change it at this point than finding out after years of reassessment that you will have to make a complete shake-up of the operation, which will not only cost you money, it will cost you precious time and fill you with regret. Better to get it right now than when it could be too late!
“Strategy” is an intimidating word because it means finding an answer to a problem that you have created. In simple terms, it’s working out how to solve your customer’s problems. While that is the essence of it, getting there is more than a couple of coffees and an afternoon in front of the whiteboard. It is about getting from your vision to reality, building that bridge. There are millions of books and articles about “strategic thinking” and “value innovation,” but all you need to know is:
Strategy is all about the best methods you can create to get to where you want to go. It requires energy, creativity, and all the time you can afford.
Implement the action. Execute it. Just do it. The early bird gets the worm. Do or die… If you don’t do it now, when will you do it? It is the crucial component of getting business. It is the bane of the inexperienced entrepreneur to try and do everything and try every avenue. By identifying your vision, assessing your resources, and building the right strategy, you’ve already done the legwork; all that’s left is to jump in. And by doing those three steps, you’ve made it very easy for yourself. It can be very tempting to try new ways because one isn’t working as quick as it should be. There is no such thing as should. If it doesn’t work, go back and retrace your steps, was there a flaw in any of the previous steps leading up to the execution? Every plan, be it business, marketing, or floor plan is all about the right structure and process. What stops a building falling apart? Its pillars! The best plans are ones that are given time and effort. Your staff structure needs to be strong to encourage versatile working relationships. And by working through the process, you can pinpoint a weak link and make the change for a better process, or a better idea, or a better staff member. There is never a better time than today to get it started, so do it, and begin to reap the benefits.
We, as people in the modern world, are impatient. We want results, and we want them now. The execution of a grand plan means that it can take time to get right. Man didn’t build a rocket and go straight to the moon, and the Beatles didn’t magically start writing classics, and you won’t get it right straight away. You need to make the little steps in each journey. By pinpointing focus in your vision, getting the right people around you to realize your vision, and setting out each little step in your strategy, it is how you can get to the finish line. No matter where you are in your business life, whether you are starting out or have been in the game a long time, there is no one way to build a vision, but by evaluation and taking stock, you can make a dent in the market with your product. The world of entrepreneurs and builders of business always want to start now. While they may start “now” they have prepared and done the legwork to get to the starting line. Like the athlete that has trained before the race, they have built up their strength and resources to get to this point. Where you begin is your choice, but when you begin is integral to your whole vision. So start it now.