I met with a potential consulting client last week.
He wants to start a business. He has a great idea, he thinks. He’s very passionate about the industry. He’s seen a gap in the market. It’s small, maybe. It could be bigger, possibly. He’s worried that it’s too niche. Or maybe it’s not niche enough. He thinks his product idea could be great. But he’s not sure if people will buy it.
This is how he explained the product to me when we first sat down together.
Then he told me how one friend thinks he should take the product in one direction. And a guy he met at a conference recommended that he should go towards another direction. One of them sounds pretty cool, but harder. The other sounds more achievable, but boring.
He’s not sure what to do.
In the nicest way possible I want to tell this client, and anyone like this client who is starting a business for the first time:
Seek your own counsel first.
I see this all the time. People want to start a business. But then they spend days, weeks, months, years pinging from one persons’ opinion to the next. If someone said it was a great idea, they are elated. If someone is not impressed with the idea, they think it’s the pits. So they keep looking for external validation, for external direction. For someone to tell them exactly what to do and when to do it. So that they won’t fail. So the business will be a guaranteed success. Everyone will applaud the idea from the moment it comes out of their mouth. And the business will grow with nothing but smooth sailing all the way.
You can imagine how long it will take to find the person or advice that will provide that for them.
The fact is, the seed, the germ, the very start of a new business has to come from you and you alone. Or you and a co-founder, if that is your circumstance.
Only you can decide if your business is a good idea. The only place that you can confirm those first, tentative, shaky steps is from within.
That said, there are a few things you can do to bolster your own confidence.
People often think they are doing market research by asking the opinion of a few random people. Sometimes that helps, especially if you have a consumer driven product. But most people need to do intentional research into a relevant population. If your product is for moms or animal lovers or the visually impaired, you need to ask your questions of that specific end user. To better understand what else is out there and how many of them. What are they charging? How many people already use them? What is the unmet need?
This kind of background work can be very helpful in providing confidence to yourself. Which, in turn, will give you more confidence when speaking with other people.
You don’t need a professional financial model to start. But on the heels of some quick market research, you can start to put some numbers together. How many people could use your product (realistically)? What is the pricing that you see in the market, and what price could you apply to your product? Then think through expenses. How much will it cost to get the product off the ground? But also, will you need to hire staff or consultants or marketing experts? When could the product launch? Once again, these numbers don’t need to be set in stone. But if you start to have answers for yourself, you’ll feel less wobbly when other people ask those questions of you.
Does this market/product/idea matter to you?
Starting a business is hard. It’s a long road, even for those who find success. There will be many bumps along the way. So, it’s important to be very clear on your Why, as Simon Sinek would say. To know what is compelling about this idea and that you are committed to giving this a try. Because if this is just an idea that sounded good based on what someone else said to you. Or because its “cool” to be an entrepreneur. It’s not the right road for you. You need to get aligned with your commitment in your head. Because if you don’t, no one else will.
I don’t want you to think that you shouldn’t seek input, advice, or counsel from anyone else. That’s an entrepreneurial mistake that I also see, and falls on the other end of the spectrum. It’s about using that input or advice to make your product even better and increase your understanding. t’s about using that input or advice to make your product even better and increase your understanding. Not every question or misunderstanding is an sign that your product will fail. Or that you’re a hack. Or that no one believes in you.
If you do your research, if you know your Why, and you believe in yourself, you are in the right place to start a business. You will feel solid in your confidence from within. And that will be infectious with others. Once you believe in yourself, it will be hard not to find at least one other person who believes in you. From there your idea will grow and begin to take form. And the next thing you know, your new business will really take root.