Hundreds of thousands of students attend business classes every year. Several dreams cross their path when thinking about their careers. Some of them dream of joining a big organization, pursuing an MBA, joining their family’s business, and, increasingly in recent years, young business students are thinking about starting a business.
Several factors are influencing this desire. Some feel inspired by l entrepreneurial success stories, such as that of Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Richard Branson, or Jeff Bezos. Some have a naïve desire to manage their own time, make decisions freely, control their income, and successfully bring their vision to life.
A lot of people say, “I want to have my own business.” Yet, most don’t even have any idea what kind of business they want, or more importantly, why they want to start it in the first place. Starting a business takes vast amounts of time, energy, commitment, and determination. Most people cannot imagine what they will have to face while opening a business, and few entrepreneurs know how to prepare for the challenge properly.
Through this article, I would like to share some tips that I learned from the stories of my friends who tried to open their businesses and who are currently owning one. Some of these stories have happy endings, while some of them do not. But as the saying goes, “smart people learn from their mistakes, wise people learn from the mistakes of others.”
Tip #1. Knowledge is your weapon when starting a business
Opening a business becomes easier when you do so in the sphere that you know a lot about. Maybe you have hobbies that you are passionate about, you spent countless hours on mats training Jiu-Jitsu, or have read countless business books that have inspired you.
Be sure you have sufficient knowledge and expertise of, first and foremost, the industry you are trying to do business in.
Ask yourself the following to check your understanding of the industry:
- Do I know enough about how the industry works?
- Am I aware of the industry’s best practices?
- How will my business fill a void in the industry?
- How will I make my products and services unique?
- What challenges does my business solve?
When you spend a lot of time learning about something, and even better, practicing, you know it from the inside out. You know how the mechanism works, and that’s a requirement for starting a business.
Of course, you can do the opposite – choose the sphere first and then explore. But you should be ready to spend enormous amounts of time learning about every detail. This will help you to avoid costly mistakes and save a lot of money.
This sphere should also be of personal importance to you. Keep in mind that in the following years or maybe the rest of your life, you will spend time and energy on it – things you’ll never get back. Your business idea should be something that inspires you.
Ask yourself, “why did I choose this sphere?”. If the answer is “money,” think about it one more time. Anything can bring you money if you become skilled in using it or know how to sell it.
Tip #2. Do not be afraid to be an employee
You cannot be a great business leader or manager without first understanding how a business works. Push yourself to try different roles. You should understand what it takes to grow a company, how different business departments operate, how to manage a team, and strategize to achieve the desired objectives.
It would be naïve to think that if you decide to start a business, you’ll only be doing the things you enjoy. If a chef decides to open his own restaurant, he should be aware that there’ll be plenty of other tasks other than cooking that he’ll have to perform. Entrepreneurs should be ready for that.
You can do so by going out of your comfort zone. Try learning about finances, management, logistics, and marketing. Try to make good connections with everybody. You never know how people can help you in the future.
Try to talk more with people above you (managers, directors). Show them your respect and interest, and maybe they will walk you over their experience on what it takes to lead a company.
Tip #3. Build strong connections
There are a lot of successful people in this world who can help you to learn stuff. Always be open to new connections. You never know if you will meet the owner of the biggest restaurant chain in the city at the grocery store today. Or tomorrow at the bar you will dance next to a congressman.
Stay alert and be ready to start a conversation. Networking is a key component to becoming successful and building your team.
When you start a business, you’ll run into many questions and a lot of problems, so it would be good for you to have a lot of people to call for advice. Be open to meeting people and learning from their experiences. Attending networking events or reaching out to old colleagues and friends are great places where to start.
Tip #4. Never stop learning when starting a business
Markets are constantly changing. Stay tuned! Watch the news, communicate with people, listen to the prognoses, and always check the economic situation.
Ask yourself the following to test the potential of your business idea:
- How is the industry doing?
- Is the industry declining? Or is it growing?
- What are some of the latest trends impacting the industry?
- How can I better serve my customers?
- What challenges need to be solved, and how can I help solve them?
This year, for example, traditional Turkish clothes have become popular all over the world. Then next year, nobody might wear it anymore. Today, you cannot start a fast-growing sustainable business selling it, you are too late, and the trend is declining.
Months ago, there might have been a high demand for dancing schools in the city, but recently only four more schools have opened. Opening dance schools might no longer be an attractive business opportunity. If you were planning to do so, it would be much more challenging to compete with the existing business.
New technologies appear on the market every day. Some of them are great and are industry-changers, but some are not. As an entrepreneur, it is better if you know about them before they are on sale.
Make sure you are not only keeping an eye out on recently launched products and services. You should also stay on top of any law, logistics, and economic policy that might impact your business. Staying ahead is much more effective than always trying to simply keep up.
Tip #5. Take off your blinders and be conscious
You will have a lot of hopes for your business. It’s normal, but you should be ready for any outcome.
Starting a new business is always a risk. There are not only financial risks involved, but also lifestyle risks. Entrepreneurs often report that it’s hard to find a work-life balance given the significant number of hours that starting a business involves.
You should always be ready to pivot your strategy if needed. Do not spend every penny you’ve saved on opening your own business; always have savings. Do not be upset if something goes wrong. Be ready to embrace different circumstances and accept challenges with a readiness to solve all problems.
And more importantly, be patient. There is no such thing as an ‘overnight success.’
It is estimated that the first five years are the most difficult ones for a business. They are also the most important ones for its future success. Embrace the journey – don’t look back!