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In my 33 years, I’ve started around ten businesses, so the following list is coming from the trial and error process so far in my life — the positives and the negatives.
Starting a business takes a lot of hard work and determination. The positive aspect of entrepreneurship is the freedom and flexibility to make your own decisions and pursue your passions. However, starting a business involves financial risk, long hours, decision-making and stress. Be prepared for these challenges and have a strong support system. Let’s get into it.
Related: The Complete, 12-Step Guide to Starting a Business
1. Discover your passion
Let’s start with the idea of what you want to create and “sell” to the world. Coming from my own experience, it’s best to follow the passions you have in your life. That way, you’ll stick to the business you are creating when it gets complicated.
Do not go for the shiny objects or the things that others are doing, no matter the success they are achieving. You know your passions, the things you are looking at in your free time, that you watch, read and experience – the ones that charge you with positive emotions. Go for any of those.
2. Know who you are and who you are not
Life is a beautiful experience, and we share it with many people around us. Knowing yourself through your discovery process or using different tools such as personality tests or human design is best.
Keep in mind that it will be a difficult pill to swallow as we identify ourselves as different than the ones we actually are. But this step is focused on setting the boundaries and the responsibilities you have for yourself in your business. For example, some people will be perfect executors, others idea generators and others leaders of teams.
There are more specifics to this, but you need to know yourself to the best of your ability to align your business to your persona. This will help you find out who you need to attract to join your team and connect all the pieces to the puzzle in your business endeavors.
3. Crystallize the business model
Many people want to have long days and be fully immersed in their work. Others will be driven by the fulfillment they get from leading teams. At the same time, others are here to balance out their life with the freedom they desire for themselves.
That is why the previous step is valuable, as you must work on the business model that best suits you. For example, if you imagine yourself working from all around the world, starting a big team company based in one location will not be aligned with your vision and ideal life.
Or on the flip side, if having big teams is your dream — it will have a different business model structure. Research the possibilities for the business model structure and go for the one that aligns with your dream lifestyle.
Related: Want to Change Your Business Model? Answer These 3 Questions.
4. Go to market fast
Once you identify your business model, start testing your idea as soon as possible. It can be done by creating the MVP (the most viable product) and showing it to your target audience for feedback.
This might be baptism by fire, but you must endure and face the end client you are creating a solution. Keep your ears and notebook open for the feedback they provide to you. Write or record it all and analyze it later. Speak to as many people as possible and understand their perception of your creation.
It’s best to know if your business cannot solve your client’s problem in the 2nd month of starting instead of working on perfecting something that might not be valued after years of work. Go for it!
Know your target market. Define your target market and explore whether the brand and overall marketing messages resonate with them.
Here you can test different mediums — blogs, websites, expert content, social media, video form, exhibitions, face-to-face meetings, referrals… The list is never-ending.
Find what works and how much it costs, and scale your marketing ads to increase the CTAs (call-to-action) for the campaign’s desired outcome.
Not everything should be paid advertising. Remember that you need to create the whole branding strategy for your product once you’ve found a product-market fit. Having a content strategy will benefit you in the long run, as people will associate your product with the content you’ll be producing. Marketing will help your sales process by clarifying questions before your target customer goes for the buy.
Related: 9 Sales and Marketing Tips for Startups
6. Test sales
Selling is the life force of any business. You cannot have a sustainable business and not have a sales strategy in place. Try and sell your prototype/product to your target market. This way, people will be brutally honest with their feedback, and it’s the best time to write/record the learnings from that if done in a face-to-face environment.
Or it might be the perfect fit for your solution and your best client. Go from there.
Once going through the cycle — learning, implementing, marketing to clients and selling your products, you need to focus on the next iteration of this process.
Go for this as often as you need, and always be eager to learn even when you might not like the answers. In the worst of times, you grow the most.
A note to point out — test out the list initially for yourself and follow it with a grain of salt. Not all details will work for everyone, and there will be nuances to the specifics. Go with your gut feeling on each step, test, iterate and make it yours!