If you’ve ever listened to the doomsayers who frequent the commercial sphere, you’ve probably wondered how anyone is brave enough or foolish enough to take a gamble and start their own business. As the less optimistic are all too happy to point out, there are cautionary tales galore to deter and dishearten, from those whose start-ups have failed miserably to the individuals who are nearing their 60s, self-employed with no retirement plan in place.
The stark truth is this: an awful lot of small and medium businesses fail in their early years. They turn a profit, but their incomings simply aren’t large enough to be sustainable long-term or else the entrepreneur behind them decides that having the safety net of standard employment is no bad thing.
But if you want an accurate picture of what starting your own business looks like, you have to take the success stories into account too and believe us when we say that there are plenty of them to inspire and motivate the more enterprising among us.
In fact, the difference between the two is often quite obvious to those who delve beneath the surface and it should act as a beacon of hope to anyone who has ever dreamed of building their own business: successful companies are those who work harder and smarter, stacking the odds in their favor. Those that can’t handle the pressure are often built on shaky foundations from the very beginning.
So, how do you make sure your enterprise falls into the former category rather than the latter? You might find these three pointers helpful.
Know your business
Before you launch a business, you need to get to grips with everything that entails. You might believe your idea is entirely innovative and game-changing, but do the people that matter agree? Is there a market for your product or service or have you gotten carried away and failed to even consider this?
This is where market research is your friend. Begin by identifying your demographic and familiarizing yourself with their specific needs and wants. Pinpoint empty spaces in the market and ask yourself whether your product fills these. Even if it doesn’t, there might still be room for it, so think about what it is that sets it apart from its competitors: a lower price, superior performance or even just jazzy new colours that will allow your audience to express their individuality to a greater degree than they’re currently able to.
Once this is done, take a look at your nearest competitors and how they’re doing. You need to evaluate everything from profit margins to logistics to see whether your idea is workable and whether theirs is failing or thriving. The more you know, the more confident you can be that your product or service has the potential to be profitable. If it doesn’t, cut your losses and go back to the drawing board.
Play to your strengths
Starting a new business is a gamble and this is exactly how you ought to view it. With this in mind, there are some important lessons to be learned from the world of sports betting. Here’s an example: the horse racing world is currently gearing up for the Grand National – the greatest jump racing event in the equestrian calendar. The bookies to devise odds for each horse by looking at individual equines’ performances from every possible angle, identifying their strengths and weaknesses to see which one has the greatest chance of success in any given contest. Even as a bettor, you wouldn’t place a bet before first comparing the odds and prizes obtainable from different platforms. There’s detailed research involved at every stage.
It’s time to apply this same formula to yourself, as a business owner and the driving force behind your company’s success or failure. Put yourself under the microscope and be honest about what you see. You cannot micromanage every aspect of the project, but playing to your strengths will up your odds. If you’re a superstar salesman or woman, for example, but terrible at social media advertising, focus on the former and have someone else cover you for the latter. Recognize where you do and don’t need help and your business will be the better for it.
Put in the hours
Last but not least is this important bit of advice: you have to put in the time if you want your idea to pan out. Unlike standard employment, which you can leave come the end of the day and not think about again until the next morning, you’ll almost certainly have to sacrifice your free time, especially in the early days.
This can be absolutely exhausting and there will undoubtedly be times when you want to throw in the towel, but if your idea takes off, there will come a day when you can expand your business to the point where there are other people to take the slack – and you’ll be the one profiting from it.
Hang in there, hold out for that delayed gratification you so deserve, and you’ll already be miles ahead of the ones who couldn’t hack it.