Sometimes you see opportunities to go into business for yourself. Sometimes those opportunities come out of the woodworks and you are overwhelmed. Maybe you have 100 ideas about a new business to start and don’t know which one to pursue. When that starts to happen I recommend you conduct a personal SWOT analysis. SWOT is an analytic tool to determine strengths and weaknesses, usually, your business versus your competitors. In this case, it’s just you so the SWOT stands for Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Talents (as opposed to threats in the original SWOT). We will go step by step through a personal SWOT analysis and get you on the road to figuring out what business you should be going after. Remember, this isn’t the only step, if you decide on a business you still need to do a Market Analysis to determine if it’s a viable business.
You are going to examine what advantages you have that others may not. What education have you received, what certifications? Are there skills you have that you do better than other people? What have you accomplished that sets you apart? What kind of a network have you built?
This is examining your weak points. Failure to understand where we need help can sink us fast, so be honest with yourself. What don’t you like doing or aren’t very good at doing so you avoid it? What skills do you still need to work on? Where are your education gaps? What are your negative work habits? Are there personality traits that limit you?
Looking at the business and personal opening that might be available to you. In what industries are you connected? How extensive is your network? How is your network constructed, as in what types of people? What equipment do you own or have easy access to? What are your capital resources?
These are your inherent abilities rather than trained or learned skills. What are you naturally good at? What do you do that feels good? What kind of tasks give you a sense of accomplishment? What do you get compliments on that isn’t something you learned?
Once you have all of these written down a better picture of what business you should be involved in will come to light. The more strengths, talents, and opportunities that align the better your chances of sticking to it and making something a viable business. Get a couple of ideas together then start your market analysis to see where your efforts should go. Keep in mind you don’t have to start at the top, get a minimally viable product and start from there.
When you have your own business there is no one who can define success but you. In a regular job, you have metrics you are measured by, above this number is good, below it is bad. When you are the boss those numbers don’t come from an outside source. Some numbers have a bearing, for example, above this many sales and we can pay all our bills and below we can’t, but those don’t necessarily define success, they just define reality. So, what does success mean to you? I have run businesses where success wasn’t measured with money or other standard business metrics, it was measured by how much I learned and grew. Others were more practical, I make a certain amount of money and keep expenses below a certain percent and I was successful. Currently, it is more complex with a monetary component and an educational one. I have a goal for the number of people I want to teach but still provide a reasonable living for my family.
Above all make sure your success is internally defined and not externally. If you look to outside sources to define your success for you or try to keep up with someone else, your chances of success diminish significantly. It’s ok to use outside info to make your definition, for example figuring out costs for maintaining a lifestyle, but the motivation and the drive for success has to come from within. When your definition comes from an internal source you are motivated and driven to achieve that success and it will be easier to drive toward. Make sure you write it down so that once you get there you can celebrate that success and maintain it. Without that definition in writing it is easier to lose focus and remember why you are doing what you do.
Starting your own business and going the path of an entrepreneur can be daunting. The security of a 9 to 5 job is appealing as well as the allure of a steady paycheck. It’s a wonder anyone even makes an attempt with so much uncertainty.
One way to get through the initial doubt is to firmly fix in your mind the reasons you decided to strike out on your own. Rember your why. It’s important to write these reasons down and keep them in a place you see often as they will help when times are difficult (and they will be). Your reasons why you are going on this journey can shift so keep the list updated.
Keep revisiting this list to keep you motivated and on track for growing your business.
“Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” – Mike Tyson
Every business will eventually get “Punched in the mouth” and needs to know what the plan is for when that happens. Sometimes that plan goes right out the window, as Mike Tyson explained, and sometimes it’s followed to the letter, though not often. Having a plan in place gives your business a fighting chance when things go wrong. Succession planning, crisis planning, disaster planning, it all needs to be done because it can happen to any business any time. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said, “Plans are worthless, but planning is everything.” Sometimes the plans don’t hold up but since the resources are gathered and ready you can adapt the plan to suit the situation. If you have no plan you not only don’t know what to do, but you have no resources to do anything about it. My tip? Look at the worst-case scenario and be ready for it, just be glad when it never comes.
The short answer is yes. In my opinion, every business needs a business plan. It doesn’t have to be long and complicated, but it needs to exist in a written form. It’s not good enough to have a half-formed idea, you need to get it written down. Clemson University entrepreneurship professor William B. Gartner points out, that with a business plan “You’re two and a half times more likely to get into business, that’s powerful.” Why else would you want a business plan? Let’s take a look.
A business plan is a roadmap for your success. It shows strengths, weaknesses and the potential for your business to do well. This is especially important if there are multiple people involved in the business. How do you know your partner’s idea of success is the same as yours? How can you tell if you all are moving in the same direction? The business plan gives you focus and clarity. It shows you where you want to go and gives a path to get there. Just remember, with business, detours are the rule rather than the exception so be ready for them.
If you are looking for any kind of funding you must have a business plan. I recommend being conservative with your numbers if funding is a goal of your plan. The people loaning out money have been around the block a few times and will know if your calculations are realistic or not. I have helped many businesses that thought they had billion dollar ideas, but the entire market they were entering was barely a tenth of that. Keep the end reader in mind. Would you loan money based off unrealistic numbers?
Understanding Your Market
You really can’t go into business if you don’t know the market. Who is going to buy? Why are they buying from you? How do you stack up against your competitors? These questions are essential and a business plan helps bring them out and sets you up for success.
Over the next few days, I am going to guide you through a business plan. The traditional plan, which is what I will teach, is good for most businesses and is what you want when you plan to get financing. If you need something quick and dirty, use the traditional plan as a basic sketch. Remeber, the more time you spend on your plan the less time you are putting your business on the market. A plan is important but don’t let it be the excuse for not starting.
There are several versions of this quote floating around and finding an original source ended being a lesson in futility but I like this version best. A goal without a plan is just a wish. If you want something but don’t have a plan to get it you are just wishing you had it, which is fine, but rarely gets you what you want. If you truly want to go after something come up with a plan. As you set your goals and plans use the S.M.A.R.T. acronym to help you along.
- Specific – Being too general with your goals makes them harder to achieve. Make sure you break giant goals up into more specific goals.
- Measurable – If it’s not measured it’s not managed. Measuring is the only way to be sure you are making progress.
- Achievable – Do you have the resources to do it? If not you need to rethink your goal.
- Relevant – Does it apply to you and your life? Is it part of your overall ambitions and needs?
- Timely – Can it be done in a reasonable time frame. Longer-term goals are harder to accomplish, consider breaking the timeline down into smaller time frame goals.
There you have it. Out with the easily breakable New Years Resolution and in with the S.M.A.R.T. goals for a better year.
I have never liked New Years Resolutions, mostly because of the negative baggage attached to them. I was told as I grew up the only purpose of a New Years Resolution was to see how long it took to break it so from an early age I made goals. Sometimes I achieved my goal, sometimes I didn’t but since I could keep going towards my stated goal I hadn’t broken a promise, it just took longer than a year to accomplish it. The last couple of Years I had heard Dr. Larry Hass talking about what he does for the new year and it seemed very affirmational and useful so I have adopted it to my practice of goal reviewing each year. Mind you I set goals all the time but the first of the years seems as good a place as any for a goal review. Here are the 3 questions Dr. Hass writes down.
- What are my Achievements from last year?
- What Commitments Should I make for this Year?
- What are my Goals for this year?
Make sure to write down your answers because an unwritten goal is just a wish. Make sure to use the S.M.A.R.T. method when writing your goals to make sure they are good ones. That is to make sure your goal is specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely. Make sure to send me a note or give me a call if you need help with your business goals this year.
It’s never too late to get started on this. Which ones have you done?
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