Starting a business can be an intimidating concept and uneasy process. Before anyone considers starting a business, the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State suggests entertaining these 7 questions every entrepreneur must answer. Industries are constantly changing and these ideas should be addressed consistently, not just once. Additionally, no idea is a bad idea. Ideas evolve and pivot to become viable.
- Why am I doing this?
- Most would answer this question with some sort of following their passion, inspirational motive. Great. Starting a business is a serious commitment. Many hype up their idea without understanding the work ethic that must be in effect to even have a chance. Do you think about your idea in the shower, in class and all day at work? Does this idea resonate with your true passion? When starting a business, you must be motivated at 3am to get your hands dirty in the never ending, un-glamorous tasks.
- What pain point am I solving?
- This is the entire reason for your business. Who is better off because your business exists and why? This may be a customer need, want or problem, real or perceived. Whatever it is, this must be addressed and is usually in a business's mission statement. Ultimately, your business has the solution to this pain point in the industry.
- Who is my customer?
- Knowing the demographic you are targeting is imperative. Consider geographic location, gender, age, education level, income, profession, hobbies, relationship status, etc. More importantly understanding your target market's wants, desires and buying behaviors will uncover key insights for your go to market strategy. Additionally, what technologies does this market use and how do they absorb information?
- Is It sustainable?
- Sustainability refers to potential economies of scale. Investors are looking for a business that can grow exponentially in profit with little additional monetary input. A business, in its infancy, will focus on a niche industry but absorb new markets and geographical regions as the business grows. Take software for example; there is a cost to create a minimum viable product, but replicating this product for sale has virtually no incremental cost. On the opposite spectrum, a service company requires expert knowledge and labor that is cost intensive to replicate. Therefore a strong team and streamlined process is essential. Create a one year, five year and ten year business plan to project growing pains and potential pivots.
- What is my greatest strength / weakness?
- Often overlooked, your greatest strength is your business’s core competency setting you apart from your competitors. This is your unfair advantage. Rule of thumb; you can do 6 things well but only one extraordinarily well. Many entrepreneurs try to do everything and in return dilute their product set. Niche wins every time. On the flip side, acknowledging and understanding your weaknesses can only make you stronger. Set aside time each day to address these weaknesses and better yourself or bring on necessary help.
- Is the timing right?
- Timing is everything. It wouldn’t be smart to start an ice cream parlor in January nor release a price sensitive luxury good in a recession. When starting a business and taking on risk, studying market trends, gaps in competition and size of your potential industry will reciprocate whether the launch of your business is prime or premature. Also, are you ready to be a leader? Launching a venture takes a bit of luck, lots of knowledge, experience and influential connections.
- Can I execute?
- Many entrepreneurs feel the need to keep their idea secret before owning patents and intellectual property. I have seen so many great ideas with no execution. When it comes to starting a business, the idea adds up to 1%. The other 99% is execution. It is all about the execution!!! Don’t worry about someone stealing your idea, worry about executing a flawless product. Set large goals with strategies and tactics to reach these overtime. (specific, measurable, attainable)
As you begin to address these questions and ponder feasibility, believing in your gut feeling trumps all. Commitment always seems to be the hardest step to overcome. Everyone must start somewhere and somewhere is a great place. Just start! Ideas will evolve to become amazing business's. You can always pivot and transition to new markets or industries with more potential gains and the Blackstone LaunchPad at Montana State can help foster these ideas. Entrepreneurship is inside everyone of us and remember, in the words of Andrew Nakas, "even if you fall on your face, you are still moving forward."
Ps. "Even if you fall backward, you are moving forward, just in a different direction."
Written by: Sam Lucas, Marketing Account Manager at the MSU Blackstone LaunchPad