Starting A Business: 14 Important Questions to Ask Yourself
So, you want to start a business? Congratulations!!! You have chosen a very interesting path. Despite the fact that growing a business is tough, a lot of people have done it quite successfully. You can do so too. An important thing to do before you start building a business is to conduct an evaluation that provides you with information that could improve your odds of success.
I have compiled a list of questions that is absolutely important for you to answer before you set off. If you have already started a business, answering these questions could provide you with insight on how to structure your business better.
1: Why do you want to start a business?
Of all the choices available to you, why pick this one? Why do you want to start a business? It is filled with uncertainties, hard work and sleepless nights. So why choose it? Wouldn’t it be much easier to get a job and earn a pay? An assured salary could help you plan your life.
I don’t like sugar-coating the challenges that would be faced in starting a business. It can be tough. But it can also be the most reward and liberating thing you’ll ever do with your life. It all depends on why you want to do it.
Are you going into business to better control your schedule and live on your terms? Maybe you have identified a problem that you want to solve in an innovative way and the only way to do it is to launch out. Maybe you want to start a side hustle, to earn extra income for your family.
Whatever it is, you need to be sure. It must be clear to you.
I remember a story I heard about a baker. He was 40 years old. His bakery in Italy was always selling out. People would troop in from far and near to patronize him. He was later approached by a visiting businessman who was in town for a conference. The man was amazed to find out that his bakery always sold out and he closed business at 4 pm every day. He convinced the baker that he could help him grow his business. He could increase revenue and even open a chain of bakeries worldwide. After all, his product was highly sought after.
So the baker asked him what he needed to do to be more successful. The businessman went out to lay out the plan for growth and expansion with the work needed. The baker seeing all the man had laid out told him that the reason he was comfortable with his little bakeshop was that it allowed him to close at 4 pm every day and go back home to spend time with his family. It was obvious that the growth plan laid out by the businessman would not allow him to do that anymore. So, he graciously declined. He stated that he was happy and comfortable with what he had.
The baker knew why he went into business. To build a life that allowed him the flexibility to spend time with his family and take care of them.
You need to decide the type of life you want to live. Would building a business give it to you? And how can you build a business that could give you that type of life?
2: What type of business would you like to operate?
Do you want to own a small mom and pop shop? Or maybe you want to build a business that gets publicly traded. Or maybe you want to build a family business that you pass on to your kids.
You need to know. This would inform how you build. It would also help you decide the type of opportunities you take or decline.
Not every business is designed to be funded. It would be a disaster to invite investors into a business that you have no plan of growing.
3: Who would you like to do business with?
You need to clarify the customers you are looking to provide value for. Also, clarify the type of partners that would be an asset for your business. Then decide on the type of team you would need.
Some people decide on the problem to solve first before clarifying the customers to solve it for. Whichever way you decide, the important thing is to know who you would want to be working with.
For example, I hate hospitals. If I decided to build a product that required that I interacted with patients in a hospital regularly, I could become frustrated. I could instead design a product that allowed me to interact with healthcare providers that served patients.
You need to decide who you want to do business with. Maybe you love working with mechanics or rural farmers or billionaires who own private jets. You need to clarify your target audience so that you can better understand them and speak their language.
4: What problem can you solve for your target?
What value can you bring to them?
So you have decided to work with busy middle-class moms who have corporate jobs. What problem do they face? It even helps if you can relate well with the problem that you are solving. Having a personal experience would help you think from the point of view of a prospective customer.
Put yourself in the mind of your target. Map out the day in their life even a month in their life. What do they face? What stresses them out? What would make their lives easier?
How can you solve that problem for them? You need to make sure that it is a big enough problem (i.e faced by a large number of people and not just two people) and a painful enough problem (that they would rather not continue to live with this problem). Their buying habits should also show that this is a solution that they would be willing to pay for. It’s easier to convince someone who is familiar with buying a category of item to keep buying similar things.
For example, if you have never bought a book and you hate reading, it would be more difficult to convince you to buy a book or attend a book reading. It would be easier to convince an avid reader with a full shelf. One person is already familiar with allocating money to that purchase the other is not.
5: Am I the best person to solve this problem?
And how do I become the best person to solve the problem.
I would love to do something about building cleaner energy sources. But I am in no position to do that at the moment. I have a knowledge gap. I know nothing about building cleaner energy. Could I learn to do this? Of course. How long would it take me? A few months, maybe years to gain enough expertise.
To solve a problem you must be knowledgeable about the problem. You should have some technical skills that give you an advantage. But if you do not have that knowledge, can you get it? By learning or by recruiting. Your strength may be in coding, but the problem you’ve identified is in renewable energy. You could team up with a person whose expertise is in renewable energy and become the dream team.
It is important to identify knowledge gaps and have a plan to fill them up.
6: Why should your target customer choose you?
A very good question to ask. They are spoiled with choices. Why should they choose you?
Even I don’t have the answer for you. But if you want to build a sustainable business, you better find the answer.
How are you planning on competing for your customer’s money with everything else that is screaming for it? If you own a pizzeria, why should they choose you over buying pies? or a cake or another person’s pizza?
You could use the, “we are cheaper, better and faster” rule. Or you could go a different route. Either way, you need to clearly define your competitive advantage.
7: What does research say?
The reason you are asking questions is to help inform your decision. You need to carry out some external research as well to obtain more information.
Go online and read statistics, surveys, research done on the matter. Also, hit the road and speak to people. Ask your target customers for their opinion on your idea. Do some competitor analysis. Do lots of market research.
And as you build your solution always get feedback. You may not like what some people say. You may even choose to disregard some opinion after all some people are haters.
Whatever you choose, you need to make sure to you know as much as you can about the business you’re venturing into. Then your decisions would come from a place of information as opposed to ignorance.
8: How would you deliver value to your customer?
This speaks to the business model that you would choose. What would the internal structure of your business look like? Delivering value to your customer is more than the product or service design (which is important by the way). It is also about everything that plays within your company to deliver value. What type of people would you recruit to handle customer service? How would your payment be integrated to ensure things would be seamless. What are your channels to get to your customers? How would you educate them about you?
All these things add up to describe how you plan on delivering value to your customers.
There is no point in designing the most amazing online course that your customers can’t access because they have poor internet connectivity.
9: How can you make your business official?
You’ll probably need to get registered as a business entity. What other legalities would you need to navigate through? Maybe there are licenses you’ll need, dues and fees to pay, associations you may need to join.
Either way, I advocate that you make it legit.
10: How would you fund your business?
There are different options available to fund your business, from personal financing to equity investment funding, grants, crowdfunding, etc. Your choice would depend on the type of business you’re seeking to build. It is important to outline all the options available to you that you are willing to explore. Sometimes your funding could be a combination of different options.
11: Where would you conduct business?
A business concept might do awesome in a remote village in Enugu but might not do very well in Accra. A business might also do better online than in a physical store. Or maybe your fast food business could do better in a prime location with lots of foot traffic as opposed to an obscure place on the tenth floor of a plaza. Maybe you would do better in a co-working space than working alone.
Either way, your research would help inform you on where to locate your business.
12: What are the possible hurdles you might face?
Maybe you’re about to venture into a business with lots of regulatory bottlenecks. You need to be ready. It could be that there is already a giant in that market, are you positioned to face this behemoth? Or are you comfortable with taking only a very small market size?
Outline your possible future challenges and indicate how you plan on facing them.
13: What does business success look like to you?
In answering your “why do you want to go into business?” question, you would be able to pull out important success metrics for yourself.
Success could look like proving employment to so many people for one founder and for another it might be exporting goods that bring recognition to her country.
It is possible to have multiple success criteria. Outline them.
14: What can I leverage to improve my odds for success?
You need to conduct an assessment of your strengths. What do you have that can help you grow your business. It could be certain skills, network, access to certain support that could give you an edge.
It’s always a good idea to have an ace up your sleeve that helps you compete better. If you feel like you don’t have one, you’re wrong. it might be something that looks so ordinary to you that you miss it. Maybe you are good at convincing people to see your vision. I’m sure you would find something if you search really hard.
I hope that by the time you go through all the assessment questions I have outlined you would be in a better position to start your business right.
I wish you all the best on your beautiful journey.
Thank you for following. :)