#1: Know thyself. Many entrepreneurs launch before they take the time to articulate what they really want from the future they’re about to build. Ask yourself a few questions before you launch. What am I passionate about? How will this business help me fulfill that passion? Am I committed enough to stay the course? For how long? What are my, strengths, gifts, and talents? What do I enjoy doing? Don’t forget to identify your weaknesses too--knowing your strengths is fantastic, but knowing your limitations is vital.
#2: Know what you want. Get specific! This is your life we are talking about, not just a product or service. So take the time to identify how you want to spend your valuable time and energy. What does your average day look like? What hours will you work? Whom do you want to work with (are they hip and young, well-educated, dynamic self-starters, etc.)? Who are your customers or clients?
Define your main objective. What will your accomplished dream provide once it is in motion--are you in it for the money or for a flexible working schedule, or for pursuing the financial gains of a hobby, or for fulfilling a deep passion?
#3: Know your industry. One of the biggest mistakes start-ups make is not doing their research or ignoring red flags in the market. Do your homework and research your industry, making sure to include the following key items:
1) Has there been any recent growth in the market? If so, why? Is this growth on the rise, or has it peaked and is about to decline?
2) Have consumer tastes changed relative to your product or service? Has there been a recent shift in the way people live that has created a need for your business?
3) Have consumer sentiments or perceptions about your particular product or service changed?
#4: Know how to identify a trend or opportunity. Have there been any recent trends or developments that make entering the marketplace ideal (or not ideal)? Take a look at any opportunities created by consumers as well. For example, the “green” trend--as a retailer, offering these “green” products to your customers may enhance or distinguish your position in the market.
#5: Know your competition. When trying to figure out who your competitors are, don’t just go for the obvious. If you want to open a candy store, your competition is anyone who takes money from a consumer hoping to satisfy a sweet tooth, not just other candy stores. Once you start thinking in these terms, your potential consumer population will grow.
#6: Know your place. Where do you belong? Start thinking about what it is that you are offering. Is it unique? Does it fill or create a need that is not currently being met in the marketplace? Are consumers happy with what the competition is offering and how they are offering it?
#7: Know your audience. The goal here is to separate the group most likely to be interested in your product or service from the entire group of people who might be interested in your product. Once you know exactly whom you are selling to, you can more efficiently allocate your resources, time, and money.
#8: Know your objectives. There is no shortage of good ideas out there: it’s successfully implementing that can make you exceptional. Every good strategy addresses the five P’s plus: product, positioning, pricing, promotion, and placement—and the plus, by the way, is for customer service.
Product Your product can be a physical item, a service, or an idea.
Positioning How do customers view your product or service in the marketplace? How is your product or service different from the competition's?
Pricing What will you charge customers for your products and services? If you plan to charge more than the competition, what additional selling points or features will you add to make it worth choosing your product/service over the competition's?
Promotion How will you promote your business and create awareness in the marketplace?
Placement Where do you intend to distribute your goods or service? Is location important to the success of the business? Does your location need to convey a certain image, such as a gallery space or a high-end home furnishings store?
Plus Good customer service anticipates the customer’s needs and provides a product that delivers the benefits it promised. Consider what services you will offer after the sale has been made. Some examples include delivery, warranty, customer support, follow-up, and flexible refund policies.
#9: Know where your money is coming from and where it’s going. Knowing this involves the most basic of basic financial forms. Use them to see what’s possible both immediately and in due time. These simple forms will guide your steady growth and promise staying power.
A sales forecast worksheet will enable you to see monthly sales. Once you set your monthly projections and get a sense of your growth rate, you will be able to forecast for a year or three!
A start-up budget allows you to see how much it’s going to cost to make this dream business of yours a reality.
An operating budget is often an extension of your start-up budget, because a good deal of your startup costs will be repeated on a monthly or quarterly basis.
A personal budget allows you to gauge how much of your time you can commit to your endeavor. It also reflects the amount of personal finances you may be able, or unable, to invest.
#10: Know thyself, part 2. In the end, it comes back to doing what you love and loving what you do. “Do what you love and the money will follow"--we couldn’t agree more. For one, you’ll have staying power because you’re passionate and you will be less likely to bolt at the first sign of a problem. Additionally, doing something that you truly are committed to will motivate you to find creative and, when needed, alternative ways to achieve the dream—your dream.
Nada Jones and Michelle Briody are the authors of Sixteen Weeks to Your Dream Business, a guide for prospective women entrepreneurs. They blog at Sixteen Weeks To Your Dream Business.
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