When you decide to start a business, you’ve got a lot to think about. It’s also a very emotional time full of excitement, fear, and varying levels of support from those closest to you.
In this article, I’m going to zero in on the first 3 decisions you should make before doing anything else. If you’ve already started, make sure you review these to make sure you’ve got a great foundation before continuing.
1. Your purpose
Why did you decide to become an entrepreneur? If your answer is “I want to create the next Facebook” or “I want to make a billion dollars”, you’ve got a problem. Big success stories can provide powerful inspiration but don’t try to walk in their footsteps.
You need your own vision, based on your passion. So, first work out you’re passionate about. This is likely to be something that you have returned to again and again in your life (e.g. Teaching. Writing, Building), or that you get ‘on your pedestal’ about when talking to others (e.g. Power of meditation, plight of farmers etc), or might have on your ‘someday I’d love to…’ list (e.g. Be a travel writer, host a TV show, work with apes etc).
Try not to filter yourself too early. Just write a few ideas down. Don’t think about whether you can make money from it or what your product would be just yet.
Personally, my passion is for entrepreneurship – specifically the mechanics of how to build successful businesses, and even more specifically, how those businesses can support enriched personal lives of parentpreneurs (entrepreneurs who have kids) so that they can spend time with their partners and children.
Don’t worry if yours isn’t this specific yet, you’ll get there with the next couple of decisions. If you want some further help developing this, read ‘Live it!’ by Jairek Robbins.
2. Who your purpose ‘helps’
“People don’t buy what you do. They buy why you do it.” – Simon Sinek
For you to turn your your dream into a reality, your customers, employees, and other stakeholders have to feel a connection with your product or service.
Watch this video of a TED talk from Simon Sinek to really ‘get’ this.
Once you’ve watched that video, write down some ideas for what purpose other people could get behind / excited about. Specifically, who do you care about helping? Who would be your perfect customer to work with and serve?
For example, if your passion is writing about holiday destinations, that’s not going to inspire others… But “helping large families with 4+ kids find the perfect holiday destination” is actually pretty inspiring to a specific group of people.
Simon Sinek has written a book called “Start with Why” that will help you if you are struggling with this.
3. What you will help your target customer achieve / overcome
Now you know who you are going to help, you need to be clear on the problem you’ll help them overcome or goal you’ll help them achieve.
To do this, speak to people in your target audience 1-2-1. That’s right speak to them! Surveys just can’t do this well enough (trust me, I love surveys and even own an online survey tool business, yet I still do this 1-2-1!).
- What are their goals / priorities?
- What problems / obstacles do they face?
- What questions are they are asking?
- What solutions do they current use to address these problems and answer these questions?
- Why haven’t they solved it already?
- What’s wrong with existing solutions?
- What is the most difficult / tricky aspect of the problem?
- What benefit does overcoming the problem provide them with?
- What solution(s) would help them achieve their goals / overcome these problems?
This research can feel awkward, needs a lot of patience, and may completely go against your initial gut feel for the ‘answer’.
However, if you don’t do this, you’ll be likely to spend months and $1,000s working on a business that is doomed to failure because you haven’t framed your product/service in terms of what your customer wants. And guess what? Your target customer wants you to build a product that solves their problem, so they’ll happily talk to you about it!
Once you have a good understanding of what your target audience want (6-10 interviews should be enough), write it down, and use as much of their words as possible to keep you focused on their needs. Don’t worry if it’s ‘wordy’ or grammatically incorrect – this isn’t marketing copy yet – it’s a statement from the ‘voice of your customer’.
For example, here’s mine: “I provide baby/child-friendly (online) accelerator programs, training / coaching / support for parentpreneurs who want to quickly identify the right steps to take to make their business successful, so they can spend time with their families. This includes identifying the right idea, validating their proposition with customers, creating their business model, developing a detailed plan, making time for their start-up, and identifying their top priorities to work on.”
Want to learn more?
I ran an online training session about the approach I use to build start-ups without sacrificing my health or time with my family. Click here to find out more (and watch the video).