This is the second of two posts with the same title. The first post dealt with starting a new role in your career and this second post deals with starting a new business.
When you are starting a new business, whether it is delivering a product or service or both, you are so excited and enthused about it that you want to immediately start prospecting for clients/customers, communicating about your business through social and traditional media and thinking about how you will spend all of the money that you will be making from this hot idea that will guarantee instant success. But wait… can you answer these questions? What is it that you have to sell? What is it that you have to tell? What is it that you have to show that you are swell? Even though it is much more fun to be talking up your business, the first thing you need to succeed in your own business is to be doing up your business. Businesses that are huge successes today like Apple and Facebook spent many years taking care of business in order to have the stratospheric success that they enjoy today. They realized that in order to succeed and decorate the condos, they needed to first dig the hole. When you dig the hole, you put together a plan for the business that describes the business and your product and/or service, how you are going to produce and sell the product and/or service, what resources you need in terms of time, money and people to launch and grow the business, what are your strengths and weaknesses and what do you love to do and what would you rather have someone else do for you.
Next, you have to lay the foundation: are you doing this business alone, with a partner or with a group of people? Who do you need to make this business a success? If you hate working alone, but don’t want a partnership, you may end up building a series of strategic alliances with people who have what you don’t have in terms of skills or who love to do what you hate to do in terms of work. If you want to work with a partner, make sure that the partner has skills and strengths that complement rather than duplicate your own and that you share the same vision, mission and objectives for the business. They also must want to get their hands dirty and work as hard as you do to ensure that the business has a successful launch and a lasting future. There are three types of workers: finders, who love to prospect and find clients/customers; minders, who love to take care of clients/customers and grinders, who love to do the work and would rather not find and take care of clients/customers. Make sure that you and your partner are covering off all three types of workers. If you love working alone, set up an advisory board of experts and supporters who can help you when you need it and can give you advice based on their own experience. Be selective about who you ask to be on your advisory board as who you surround yourself reflects who you are as a business person.
The next step is to start building the condo where you start to produce and sell your product and/or service and tell everyone about it. Make sure that you have set a realistic budget and stick to it. Be prepared to make mistakes and learn from them. Get out there and network, network, network. Get as much exposure as you can from both social and traditional media. Ask for feedback and accept that constructive feedback is a gift rather than a criticism. Believe in yourself and what you are doing. Create an interesting and informative pitch that communicates to potential clients/customers the features of your product and/or service and how it will benefit them in terms of cost savings, increased profits and improved productivity. Confirm that they are connecting the dots and seeing what’s in it for them. Go to where they are rather than expecting them to come to you. Remember this is not about you. Avoid getting in your own way and getting ahead of yourself.
Congratulations, you have your first client/customer. Decide what you are going to charge for your product and/or service and be able to state the number with clarity and confidence. Analyze whether you require a deposit in order to produce the product and/or service and the amount of time that it will take for delivery. Confirm invoicing and payment terms with your new client/customer.
Now it’s time to decorate the condos. You have delivered your product and/or service, invoiced your client/customer and are awaiting payment. If the due date for payment has passed, you may feel reluctant to e-mail or pick up the phone and follow up on an invoice or “chase the money”. For all you know, the client/customer thinks that you were paid weeks ago. Handle this situation with sincerity, simplicity and sensitivity. Also, see this is an opportunity to follow up with them on their satisfaction with the product and/or service and discuss the possibility of more business. Remember in order to be successful in any new business, before you decorate the condos, you have to dig the hole.