Starting a business is a major decision. One so major, in fact, that it will alter the rest of your life. For at least a couple of years, you should be prepared to live without a regular income, spend less time with family and friends and a whole lot more at the office or on your phone. There are many questions regarding your business that only time can answer, such as ‘In which year will I turn profitable?’. But there are a whole bunch of questions you should know the answers to even before you begin. Here is our list of 15 questions all entrepreneurs should have the answers to.
1. What’s the purpose behind this venture?
By now you’ve probably been told many times that businesses take at least two to five years to develop and stabilize, depending on the market you’re in. You need willpower, courage and heaps of determination to keep going. You will have what it takes if you’re convinced of why you’re doing it in the first place. Typically, the answer to this question should be that you really believe in the idea of the business.
2. Am I the right person to do this?
You may have a great idea, but that doesn’t mean that you’re the one who can execute it properly. You will need the right kind of help, or need to acquire the right kind of experience before you begin. Don’t jump into it before you’re confident of execution.
3. Who will buy my product?
Business, like never before, is centered around the customer. The customer’s wants should be met by your product, and with the right messaging, service and reputation to go with it. Before you jump into the building of the product, try to understand whether there is an actual market for your product. Who are the people that will purchase what you’re selling? Can they afford to buy it? Will they want it in large enough numbers to make your product viable? If the answer is yes, super! If the answer is no, try again.
One way to figure this out early on (and on the cheap) is by figuring out a content marketing plan. If there is going to be demand for your product, there will be interest in content you put out. For many businesses, particularly in the services category, the right content growth strategies can be the cornerstone of digital marketing efforts.
4. How will I fund the business?
You may be willing to work for free, but no one else will do this. From very early on, if not on day one, you will need to pay your employees. As your business grows, it will have bills too. Figure out how many months you can sustain the business for on your own and use it as a deadline to raise funding or breakeven.
5. Am I adding value to the market?
A very important question to ask regarding your idea is whether it represents a significant improvement over what’s available in the market. If it’s only minor, the current players in the market may adapt fairly quickly and run you out of business before you even get there.
6. What’s my greatest strength?
As an entrepreneur, you need to be sure of what your biggest strength is so you can focus all your energies there.
7. What are my weaknesses?
Wherever there are weaknesses, you need help. All businesses have three of four high-level tasks; the ones that you’re not good at, you will absolutely need to hire for.
8. How will my business change the market?
Your business will succeed if it brings something new to the market. It could be a better product, new features, amazing after-sales service or all of those things. Given your business idea or your team, you probably know which one you’re going to focus your energies on. Be sure to include this differentiation in all your marketing communication.
9. What matters most right now?
New businesses don’t have unlimited amounts of money. You will need to make choices between two, three or even five things that seem equally important.
10. What’s the most definite outcome of entrepreneurship?
Entrepreneurship is full of learning, if nothing else. There are things you will try while starting a business that you are certain will work, only to find out the opposite 12 months later. And the opposite is true, too.
11. How will I market my idea?
One of the most important questions if you’re building a new business in a new market. Many successful businesses (LinkedIn, for example) have been able to market their business in unique ways at very low cost. Spend at least some of your time every day pondering this question. Have a look at the opportunities in digital marketing nowadays.
12. Where do I want to be six months from now?
A lot can happen in a startup in just a week. So six months is practically long-term. Set some important goals for your business for every six months. You may not meet them, but the distance between your plans and achievements may give you insight into your capabilities.
13. Is my product or service good enough for word-of-mouth publicity?
Word-of-mouth publicity is the best kind. It’s cheap and the most honest. If it’s the kind of publicity you’re getting, you’re really making a difference. Keep an eye on this from day one.
14. Am I giving up too much?
As a business owner, you’re going to have to make a lot of sacrifices. To many in your life, they may appear to be too many. Every once in a while, it is worth asking whether you’re doing too much. No one’s saying you need to give up, of course. Although you may need some help. So always pay attention to your body and the needs of those most important to you.
15. If not this, then what?
It’s charming to think that entrepreneurs should never have a plan B. But it’s unhealthy. Any reasonable person should always know what’s in store for them if their business or job or big decision doesn’t work out. Entrepreneurs should, too. After all, most startups fail within the first 12 months. But that’s no reason to not try.