Time and time again, I see questions pop up, either in my mail box from various forums or other sources from the public asking things along the lines of, ‘I want to start a business, what should I do?’ or ‘I’m thinking of wanting to start a business, what is something good to start?’
At this point aside from being perfectly legitimate questions, in my opinion, there is simply no good, simple or clear answer to them.
So how can it possibly stand to reason that a simply legitimate question has no clear or simple answer? Well … its because the answer is complex, multi-dimensional, complex, based on various dependencies and … complex! Simply speaking, starting a business is legally very easy, while actually ‘starting’ a business is profoundly complicated.
So lets start with the simple stuff.
Perhaps the deceptive aspect of starting a business is that – very little can actually stop you. You see unlike going for a job, you don’t have to have a formal education to self-appoint yourself as Director-in-Chief of your own company. You can easily give yourself the title of CEO or supreme overlord of operations if you really like.
There’s no interview, no qualifications check, no references … Legally starting a business isn’t that hard at all. Depending on where you’re based, starting a business can simply be a case of registering a business name, paying any legal fees and voila … you’re now in charge of running your very own business. Set your own office up and you are now the boss … and you’re now in charge of your own destiny & success!
Related: Is Having a Success Dream Selfish?
Don’t register your empire just yet …
In terms of logical sequences, this isn’t where you race off and promote yourself to the top of the corporate ladder just yet.
There is a stack of research (and reflection) that you ‘should’ do before you even start to think of taking the plunge with your own corporate entity.
What are some of those things, I hear you asking …
Perhaps the first one is – “What are you going to do?”
And now we circle back to the original question? ‘what should I do?’ … ‘what is something good to start?’
Urgh … quite frankly, in this day and age, nearly anything can be turned into a business. Questions instead that you would ask yourself would be; ‘What am I good at? What am I interested in? What can I actually do?, Is it actually worth it?’ and most importantly, ‘are you willing to work for nothing?’
There are a ton of other questions that you should coach yourself through, but looking at just these, lets explore them 1-by-1 and get a hint at how deep this little rabbit hole goes.
What am I good at? What am I Interested in?
Questions like these can seem like an unwanted slap in the face at the best of times. They force you to reflect and above all else, to be brutally honest with one self. Yet these are questions that are vital to confront and answer in some way, shape or form.
Whether you’re looking to escape the rat race, become a digital nomad or become an industry leader, you have to know what you’re good at and what you’re interested in.
Believe it or not, some people actually aren’t interested in what they are good at.
Sales is a big one! Technical support is another.
In other cases, some people can’t even define what they are good at! At worst if the honest answer is that you’re average at what you’re good at and / or interested in, then you might want to think twice about being average in front of potential customers.
In other cases, the things you might be interested in, you might have little to no professional experience in, so aside from needing to rapidly get yourself up to speed, this also gives you no bearing on where you would position yourself if you decide to become a pro.
What can I ‘Actually’ do?
This is a very humbling question. Using myself here – Say for example that you’re interested in the fields and disciplines of engineering. Say that you’re interested in practical and realistic progress, and that you’re already a person, people come to for support, answers and solutions … it wouldn’t be a stretch to suggest that you could position yourself as a provider of a service or a provider of a solution.
But can you?
Being good … hell even being the best at something within your sphere of influence may not be enough to get you started.
Ask yourself … ‘what can I actually do?’
The reason this answer can be confronting is because, for various reasons it might come to a big fat zero! You might very well have the knowledge to be innovative, to calculate, to design new products or solutions, but … if you need a warehouse just for the machinery to build it, then you’re as good as nowhere.
if you know how to build it, but you don’t have the tools, then you’re as good as nowhere. If you know for a fact that you can provide the best service the money can buy, but your market cant afford you … you’re nowhere. If you’re the best, but you don’t have the time, or enough cash to get you started … you’re nowhere. if the risks in getting started are nothing short of total loss … you’re nowhere.
Is it worth it?
Above all else, despite what most socialists on the left want you to believe, businesses must make money! That is all there is to it. Businesses don’t work for free.
There are 4 standard business models out there; Hard & Soft products; Services & Subscriptions.
Physical products (hard offerings) are a commercial space that has changed in recent times. Globalization has allowed eCommerce guru’s to live and work in one place, whilst promoting their products in digital spaces on digital platforms whilst having them made on demand in another country and having them sent direct to the customer. Amazon is one space that has reduced the cost of entry into business remarkably, however as we are seeing – the world has and is changing.
The cheapest factory floors in the world perhaps aren’t the ones we want to use any longer. But despite the cost of entry having been dramatically lowered, it has created a swarm of competition like no other time in commercial history, especially when everyone could be a competitor.
Services come at the cost of your time and how much your willing to work for the dollar, as well as the equipment you might need to provide that service, whilst subscriptions provide a stable flow of income, at the cost of ongoing content creation, where only the mighty survive. Services and Subscription models being as competitive as they are have also been shown to be a race to the bottom.
Are you willing to work for free?
Its also fair to say, that just because you’ve decided to start a business today, doesn’t mean you’re going to have your first customer tomorrow. Parents, Family & Friends also don’t count. Perhaps the simplest business to setup is a soft product, an eBook, a fitness program or … an app!
Can you actually do it? Despite what some say, writing an eBook is not something you can do in a weekend. Sure, perhaps you can structure it in a weekend, but writing it and then publishing it? The same is true for a guide to organic juices and smoothies.
Safe to say, for those who spit out an eBook (as an example) for $0.99 probably aren’t too invested in their product. J.K. Rowling didn’t vomit out the Harry Potter series in a weekend. Writing books or developing digital products are efforts that take time and careful curation and only make money once they are published and that’s if they stand out proudly enough to get seen! Marketing costs money! Serious Marketing Costs Serious Money!
From the day of conception to the day things go on sale, you’re working for nothing, pouring in time and energy with no guaranteed result in the hope of selling 6 to 7 figures … just in the hope of paying yourself off let alone hitting any big money goals.
Related: Why Money for Time is a Poor trade
Starting a business, or a side hustle of any sort is not the work of a moment, and not something to be taken likely. It takes time, energy and money. Starting a business or any venture is a calculated risk. Writing a book carries little to no risk, other than burning countless hours whilst you put your soul onto paper. Services can consume more energy than you might be willing to give, and solving the next problem might simply be beyond your reach.
The cost of entry dictates how many players there are. Writing a book is easy and cheap – that’s why anyone can be an author! Inversely the costs associated with building aircraft or cars are the exact reasons that there are only a handful of companies capable of doing it. Depending on what you’re thinking of, costly regulations matter too!
… Perhaps the best place to start a business is to do what innovators have done – look for a solution to that big problem! There are countless problems out there that need to be solved, but remember this.
You might not be the only person looking to solve it. There might be others like you – with answers who only lack the time, energy and capital to make them happen.
Perhaps its not about what business people should run.
Instead, when you have the time, energy and capital to solve a real-world valuable problem; that’s when you should start a business!