To launch your business can be an experience of extremes, both deliciously exciting and overwhelmingly daunting. It’s risky, yet rewarding, requires amazing amounts of time in the beginning for the promise of amazing time freedom when success is achieved. Those things seem to compel a lot of people to take the plunge into entrepreneurship. But before you get started in the planning details to launch your business, take a look at this practical list:
Ten Things You Should Know to Launch Your Business.
Asking and answering these questions will help you to establish a firm foundation to move you from passion, to plan, and then on to profit.
#1: Know your passion. Many entrepreneurs launch before they take the time to clearly define who they are and what they really want to achieve with their big business idea. Ask yourself what it is that really jazzes you before you launch your business. What did you love doing while you were growing up? What did you want to be? What attracts your attention or takes up your free time? What do you do best, your strengths, gifts, and talents? And what are your weaknesses or limitations?
People work a job that they may or may not love, but why start a business that gives you no joy? To stick with the ups, downs, and challenges to launch your business, it’s smart to know exactly what it is that will motivate you to see it through.
#2: Know your purpose. If you’re going to launch your business out of a personal passion, the foundation starts with developing your purpose/ vision statement. We are not talking just about “what” you are offering, but more about “why” you plan to offer it. You will likely launch your business to make a difference, meet a need, provide a solution, and make a profit. So take the time to identify exactly what you want to accomplish. Does it align with your values, and personal mission? Does it spark emotion and motivate you to make a commitment to the work ahead of you?
It’s difficult to develop a strategic plan for your future if you’re unsure of where you’re headed and why. Once you’re clear about it write it down and use it as the compass for making major business decisions as you move into the planning stage.
#3: Know your business objectives What do you envision your business looking like in 10 years? Get specific! How much do you see yourself working? What sort of team do you want to work with? Who are your perfect customers or clients?
Define your core objective. Once you launch your business, what will it provide? Are you creating an asset to sell, or projecting long term residual income for retirement? Do you intend to work part time as a hobby, supplement your income in addition to an existing career, make a comfortable living, or shoot for the stars and become a 6-7 figure entrepreneur with a deep passion to make a huge difference.
#4: Know your industry. Research may not be the most exciting part of preparation, but it can be one of the most critical steps to successfully launch your business. One of the biggest mistakes start-ups make is not identifying a viable market, especially with the changes in the economy. What may have been a big hit a few years back may be a dud today. Real estate in the US is a prime example. Flipping houses was a terrific opportunity just a few years ago, and now with all the homes on the market, it’s a bigger risk. A “how to” product on that subject would probably not be viable. But, other opportunities exist even in that market, you just have to do the research to find out what’s changed and where the opportunities are now. Asking some key questions can eliminate future mistakes and minimize the risks of a start- up.
1) Has there been recent growth in the market you’re considering? If so, why?
2) If there is growth, has it peaked, plateaued, or is it on the verge of trending downward?
3) Is there a possibility for a fresh, innovative perspective or product that could stimulate that growth?
4) Have the tastes or buying habits of your potential customers shifted in your market?
5) Have consumers changed the way they see or perceive the need for your particular product or service? Is the compelling desire still there to purchase?
Take a look at recent trends in your industry? Are there new developments that make entering this particular market a good risk? Are there incentives or opportunities created by the government, the industry itself, consumer demand, or lack of competition that could give you an edge? Is it an emerging trend that could place you among the first to market for an advantage?
#5: Know your niche market. Understand the demographic, where they hang out, what they spend money on, how much discretionary income they have, and, most importantly, what their needs and frustrations are. The goal is to find the perfect customer or client that needs and wants what you are best at offering. Eliminate the tire kickers by getting specific about who you want to market to. Ask yourself these questions.
1) Are people looking for what I’m offering?
2) Is there a genuine and sustainable need or desire for what I’m offering?
3) Where are they going to find answers to their needs?
4) Are there gaps in the marketplace I can fill to meet those needs?
Again, do your research online and offline through keyword research, surveys, and asking questions of potential consumers. Once you’re clear about whom that person is, you can more effectively target your message, and efficiently budget your resources, time, and money to reach them.
#6: Know your solution. Start thinking about what it is that you can offer that is unique. Will it meet the current needs of your niche market? Could it create a need that is not being resolved in the marketplace or by your competitors? Are consumers satisfied with what is provided or is there a solution you could offer more efficiently, effectively, or economically?
#7: Know your competition. Who are the leaders in your market? Are there ways to collaborate to create a win/win and reach the same niche market but in a complementary way? Do they offer the same product or service, with a similar message, and reaching the demographic you’ve chosen? What are they doing that is working and what could you do to stand out as exceptional? Is there a broader spectrum of competitors that may not offer exactly what you plan to, but are competing in the same market? Do you see and feel that there is room for you to compete or is the marketplace overwhelmed?
#8: Know your message. Brand yourself right from the start. In this information economy, people are seeking transformational solutions to their problems and products that will provide a better quality of life. As we begin seriously planning our marketing funnels, it’s critical to know ourselves so we can be authentic in our marketing messages and clear about what we need to do. Think about what sets you apart. Those who brand themselves uniquely and consistently will create a better first, and lasting, impression, which may result in more conversions.
#9: Know your budget. Let’s face it. For the creative, passion driven entrepreneur crunching the numbers is not that much fun! You can certainly hand over the reins of bookkeeping and accounting to a professional, but you should act in a finance manager role when it comes to putting your plans in place. Once you launch your business be sure to keep tabs on your cash flow. The key financial statements you should start with are:
A start-up budget is a projection of what it’s going to cost to take your passion to profit. My suggestion is to draw up the initial budget and add 10-20%…or at least plan for a contingency fund so you don’t run out of money short of launching.
An operating budget is what you’ll need to cover the expenses during the planning and growth of your business that are repeated on a monthly or quarterly basis. Be cautious in over committing to operational expenses that you don’t have cash flow to cover. The main reason businesses fail is because they run out of cash.
A personal budget allows you to realistically project what you need to live on while your business is in the planning and launching phase without profit. It shows you where you may need to cut back to make this endeavor work, or how much time you can invest to start. It also reflects how much you may be able, or unable, to invest in your start-up business.
A sales forecast worksheet will help you set realistic sales projections and review whether your conversion systems are successful. Once you see stable growth, you will be able to more accurately forecast a long term budget according to cash flow patterns!
The critical statements you should review as you grow your business are:
Cash flow statements show you how much operating capital you have to pay the monthly expenses, as well as invest in future growth. They also alert you to inefficiencies that may be slowing down profit and growth.
Profit and loss statements keep tabs on revenue in and expenses out. The goal here is to maximize the revenue coming in while keeping expenses down. Monitoring reflects your success in producing profits. Keeping a tab on how much it’s costing you to acquire and maintain sales, while covering operational expenses is crucial to sustainability.
Balance sheets should be checked monthly to start and weekly once the cash flow starts growing so you know what you have to work with in your bank account.
If this seems mind boggling to you, get your banker, accountant, or bookkeeper to explain it, but don’t ignore it like so many start-up entrepreneurs do. You’ll find the financial experts in your life want you to succeed, so find people you trust and add them to your team. This is a fundamental part of protecting your business.
#10: Know your support. In the end, you need community to really make this work. Finding a team to support you to launch your business may be the critical factor in creating a business that lasts. I dreamed of launching this business for several years, but doing it on my own felt overwhelming. Finding mentors, a mastermind, coaches, peers, friends, and family to hold me accountable, give me help, motivate me, and collaborate with me, has made my dream a reality. It can do the same thing for you. The great thing about joining a mastermind, is that you have an instant community of peers with like-minded objectives. Connecting with a mentor means you become a part of their community, too. Strategically building that support is critical to business success, so know who supports you and ask for help when you need it. And, just as important, minimize time with the people who want to kill your dream of taking your passion to profit.
It comes back to doing what you love and loving what you do. Launching a business can be the most rewarding experience when the foundation is there to achieve success. When you’re passionate, have clarity, and know what it takes to make it happen, you’re more likely to commit to your dream.
God bless your transformational journey of launching your passion for profit!