As we go through these new year musings many people have written to me asking me how to start a business. It’s not that they don’t know what product/service they want to offer but they just don’t know how to move it forward. They are stuck. Well, the only way to start a business is to just start but maybe we need to break this down a little. Other people have even registered companies and written lofty business plans but they still haven’t actually started. It’s like being at the bus stop with a bus ticket, packed bags, pocket money, lunch bag goodbyes said but not actually getting on the bus. Consider this article the road from the bus stop into the bus.
There’s nothing that jump starts this journey more than a real client. It is easy to come up with projections but there is a reason why these initial business plans do not work. That is paper but in the real world, you are dealing with people. People who do not act as you would like them to. People who may not see your product/service in the same way you do. Your first clients are your teachers. Accept that you are out to learn, not just sell, and go find them. They may come from your network of people but you need a different mindset. Say you were employed as an accountant and now you have started a business selling shoes. Remember your old network related to you as the accountant and now you are approaching them as the shoe salesperson.
Be prepared that some of them are not willing to adopt your new identity and may not even help you. Some will but you also have to be prepared to let go of the accountant mentality/identity and courageously sell your shoes. Your network doesn’t just mean the people closest to you. It could be a more distant friend, a teacher, friend of a friend, client in a previous job, the person you met yesterday, ex-boss etc. I got a key partnership in my first business from someone I met at a company I was interning about ten years earlier. So don’t limit who you think your network is. Put yourself out there. The business will not come looking for you (even though you think you have the worlds’ best product or service), you have to look for it.
Businesses do not thrive in disorder. Be organized. Most people mistake this for having an equipped office. Create a workspace even if it is in your house. A clear table and a chair is just fine. The beginnings of your office. If you don’t treat this business seriously, it will not produce serious results. Having somewhere to go work on and think about your business is important. Sit here and make phone calls, send a proposal out, update your business social media pages, make a list of your possible network, schedule meetings, call potential suppliers etc.
In any successful venture there are consistent actions so start yours. Challenge yourself every day to do something that is growing your business. Being idle makes you think that what you are doing is not working. It is very easy in the early stages of a business because you do not have many customers (or any at all) to think you don’t have anything to do, and that’s why nothing ever gets done. Preparation meets opportunity and not the other way round. Schedule time daily to do these tasks. It will create much-needed discipline, give you a sense of progression and these small steps make a difference. Last but in no way least, is company. Find people who understand what you are going through and can either experience this with you or hold you accountable. You may know someone who is also just starting. Sit down and have tea with them. It will be so encouraging to know you are not alone and have those ‘Me Too’ moments. I have created some really great friendships this way. It is also important and inspiring to take time to talk to those who are ahead of you in this journey.
Take the attitude of a student and you will get through this. Not everything will work out as planned and that is the school fees you have to pay. Fear is very normal and it is usually the glue that keeps you stuck. You get unstuck by beginning and entering the bus.
Waceke runs a course on Entrepreneurship. For details get in touch with her on email@example.com|Facebook/WacekeNduati| Twitter@cekenduati