Getting Into Shape
First, let’s take an inventory of your strengths and weaknesses to see if you’re in the right shape to start a business. It can be a grueling undertaking and we want to make sure you’ve got what it takes to turn pro.
Are you a self-starter?
The success of your business is up to you. Are you able to get up in the morning and be ready to tackle the day, start new projects, organize your time, follow through on all the little details (even the ones you don’t really want to face) and make that difficult sales or collections call without putting it off? If you’re the type who likes to hit the snooze button four or five times before rolling out of bed and think that surfing the Internet for a couple of hours is a productive day at work, you probably aren’t ready to start or run your own business.
Are you a people person?
Running a business requires you to wear many hats. You will be an employer, customer service representative, accountant, collections person, consultant and janitor at various times in the life of your business, sometimes all in the same day. You’ll work with a lot of different people at different levels too, each requiring some level of finesse in dealing with a range of interactions, including some filled with outright anger. How would you handle the different personality types and emotions people bring with them into business relationships? Do you have the right temperament to run a business day in and day out?
Are you a good decision-maker?
Making tough decisions, often under pressure and without all the facts, is part of the game. Do you have what it takes to leave the huddle, call an audible and see it through to its logical conclusion, even if you end up improvising a bit to reach your goal?
Do you have the stamina?
Starting a business is not a 9 to 5 kind of job. You may find yourself working well into the night and on weekends, at least in the first few years. Are you physically, mentally and emotionally up to the challenge?
Can you create a solid game plan?
Many business failures could be avoided if there had been better planning at the start. Do you have the research and analytical skills needed to forge a comprehensive plan for your business?
Can you stay focused and motivated?
Starting and running a business is a game of inches. Never lose sight of the ultimate goal, but realize that you will gain and lose ground along the way. Do you have the ability to adjust your game plan continually to win the game, even when it’s fourth and long and you’re out of timeouts?
Will your family and friends be supportive?
It can be hard to balance work and home life, especially in the beginning. You may have to adjust your standard of living a bit to make ends meet or put off that family vacation you were planning for over a year to meet a last-minute client request. Are you and your family willing to make short-term sacrifices for the potential long-term gains? Are your relationships strong enough to weather the inevitable conflicts between work, family and play?
You may want to take a few minutes and use a startup assessment tool or two to see if you’re ready to give your business what it takes to succeed. The Small Business Administration has an excellent one.
No, this isn’t the child’s game by the same name.
These 20 questions cover all the basics: why you want to start a business, what you are going to sell and who’s going to buy it. Before you ever get to your business plan, you’ll want to take some time to think about the type of business you want to start. You may even want to visit our SizeUp tool first to do some initial homework before you tackle this section.
Answer each of these questions as completely as you can. Feel free to use extra paper if you need it. It will come in handy later when you start to work on a business plan.
1. Why am I starting/buying a business?
2. What kind of business should it be?
3. Who is my ideal customer?
4. What products or services will my business provide?
5. Am I prepared to spend the necessary amount of time and money that will be required to get my business off the ground?
6. What makes my business, product or service different from anything else on the market?
7. Where will my business be located?
8. Will I need employees? What skills should they have and what roles will they fill?
9. What suppliers do I need?
10. How much money will be required in the next 30, 60, 90 and 180 days?
11. Do I need to get a loan?
12. How long will it take before my products or services get to market?
13. When will I start making a profit?
14. Who is my competition?
15. What is my pricing strategy compared to my competitors?
16. What is the legal structure of my business?
17. What kind of taxes do I need to pay and to whom?
18. What kind of insurance will I need?
19. How will I manage the business?
20. How will people know about my product or service? Advertising? Marketing? Word of mouth?
O.K., so there are more than 20 questions here. But every one of them is important as they will help you get through the nuts and bolts of the Fundamentals section (coming up next), get you into the game more quickly and put you on the offensive rather than the defensive as you try to score points with your customers.
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