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Starting or expanding a business is often fraught with challenges. The biggest problem is that you don’t know what you do not know! I started my business back in 1995 thinking that I knew everything. After all, I am a smart guy, I have a Master’s degree, and, at the time, I had (almost) 20 years of experience in business. Sadly, I knew NOTHING!
Sure, I was technologically competent and I understood how businesses work, however, there were big gaps in my background that I hadn’t even noticed. I struggled with finance and accounting, never understood how to raise money, never even wrote a business plan, hate marketing (especially on-line), and I am a terrible salesman. Because money was always short, I was forced to hire inexperienced people thinking I would train them. In reality, much of my staff sat at their desks doing very little and I was doing all the work! WHAT’S WRONG WITH THAT PICTURE?
In this blog, in the weeks to come, I will try to show you a path to succeed, hopefully, avoiding some of the land mines that I tripped over constantly.
The first step in making this happen is to have an idea. You need to find a product (or service) that interests you. This is critical, because, you need to be passionate and committed to succeeding. If you aren’t there, then how will you get up in the morning and go to work? As I have told my kids and my students frequently, you cannot live your life from 4:30 on Friday afternoon until 10:30 Sunday night! As an entrepreneur, you will be working on your business every waking minute. If you hate that idea, go do something else!
So where do you find ideas?
In truth, ideas are everywhere. You can see them in your everyday life, in the paper, on TV, in conversation with friends and relatives. Use Google, or maybe go to the library, walk around town, the possibilities are endless.
If you find an idea you like, you must consider three things:
1. Is the idea marketable? That is, is this something that people want? The allegory here is about pain. You need to find the pain so you can make it go away. The pain may be geographic, for example, the service isn’t available in the area. Another is that the existing solutions are not fully meeting the needs. The key point here is you need to be able to answer the question, why?
2. Is the idea technologically feasible? You may have a great idea but the technology to implement it does not exist.
3. Is the idea viable from a business prospective? That is, can you do it profitably? You need to assess your costs to implement your idea and understand how much you can charge for it.
If your idea is to open the first McDonald’s franchise on the moon…
1. While the service is not available yet, there is no demand. No one lives on the moon!
2. The technology to build a restaurant on the moon does not yet exist.
3. Even if you could figure out how to do it, the costs would be prohibitive. Getting supplies to the restaurant would cost millions and it is very unlikely you can recoup those costs in the price of a Big Mac!
So your idea is looking great. People love the idea and it fulfills and unmet need. You know how to do it and it looks economically viable.
In my next blog we will move on to analyzing the state of the industry.
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