Lots of people have great ideas – my doorman pitches me a new business every week. But great ideas don’t always translate into a great business. To prove my point think about these stats:
- In 2013, there were 406,353 startups of new businesses and 400,687 firm closures.
- Out of these new businesses, only 7 out of 19 survive for more than 2-years (36%)
As part of your entrepreneur’s survival guide, it’s critical to ask yourself questions before you rent office space and start asking friends and family for money you’ll never be able to repay.
First, what is my goal? Sometimes people go into business because they inherited Aunt Ginny’s favorite cookie recipe, but what’s the goal? To make money? For everyone in the world to taste Aunt Ginny’s cookies? Are you willing to do this for free? If you’re interested in making money be very specific. Do you want to make $50,000 a year or $100,000,000?
It’ll serve you well to have a disciplined approach to your profitability, finances, and bookkeeping from the start. Because believe me, there will come a time you’ll need investors, or to borrow money, and you need to be prepared for that. You also want to know every month if you’re winning or losing so you can make informed decisions moving forward.
Next, is there a demand? Doesn’t matter whether YOU love your product, or whether it’s good if no one wants it. So, you need to find out and test the market. Handsome coffee is a great example because whenever there was a cool event they were there with a little kiosk, making coffee and selling bags of coffee. They had something like 80 wholesale accounts before they even opened their doors. It’s possible to test without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, and anything can be tested.
How committed are you? Are you willing to sleep on your mom’s couch as an adult to make this work? I’m not kidding because the time will come for any entrepreneur when you run out of money, something goes wrong, someone tries to sue you, whatever… Expect things to go wrong and know going into it how you’re going to handle it when that inevitability happens. The time for a gut check is before you go off and spend a bunch of time and money.
Also, the best time to work out an exit strategy is at the beginning. Put it in writing and make it clear what’s going to happen if it doesn’t work out, or things go wrong.
What’s the monetary of the system you’re going into? Most successful businesses have different ways to make money so you need to understand the monetary system, and all the streams of income. For example, if you have a wine store it might end up that your wine club makes more money than bottle sales. Create a consumption plan for your customers because they’re looking to you to guide the experience.
Who, or what, is your potential competition? This can make, or break, a new company because if you don’t know who you’re up against there’s no way you can put the right strategy into place. The last thing you want to do is compete on price with someone who has it locked down. Sometimes you have to take a hard look in the mirror and ask yourself, is my product really better? But better to ask yourself that question before you find yourself competing with Starbucks. Tivo is the perfect example because they had a great product, and was first to market, but they never made any partnerships so when all the companies came out with their own version than they lost their edge, and ultimately all their business.
Finally, what’s the relationship with the customer? At Virgin Airlines, they’re selling an experience—a really great experience. The result of that is the customers grow accustomed to that first-rate experience. They like it, and then they count on it, so when it’s gone they feel a gap.
So early on it really serves you to create a relationship and build a list of raving fans. So, every time you interact with someone they walk away thinking that was really good. Exceed their expectations. Even slight differences can make all the difference in the world.
Think I’m onto something? Disagree entirely? Reach out to me on Twitter at @bulldogcollins. I’d love to know what you think.