Ask yourself a lot of hard questions about what your potential customers want, and why they should want it from you.
Q: I was laid off recently after about 15 years in my job. I liked my old career, but am taking advantage of this opportunity to start my own business. What should I consider to increase my chances of success?
A: That’s a lot of change to go through, so make sure you’re giving yourself chances to process everything that’s transpired, even as you move forward.
On to the future. First, I’m assuming you have a business concept in mind. If not, it’s time to move beyond vague to specific. What will you offer? To whom? For how much? In short, develop a strong business plan.
Ask yourself a lot of hard questions about what your potential customers want, and why they should want it from you. This is no time for magical thinking, so find the pitfalls in your vision so you can fix them before they get in your way.
Take a view from the other side: What are you not going to offer? If you try to have something for everyone, you will confuse the people you’re most trying to attract.
This isn’t an easy process; I know that firsthand. It’s worth it to work through the planning stages, even though it may feel like more fun (and more productive) to just get out there and get started.
Reach out to experts for advice. The Small Business Administration has resources, and check with business schools in your area. Many have programs to help new entrepreneurs, giving you the chance to learn from faculty, MBA students and even retired business people.
Create networks to get business-oriented support. Find people in similar situations and set up a regular coffee get-together, or tap into already existing organizations in your community. Don’t always put on a happy face. If you have challenges, talk about them to find out how others have solved them.
Focus on the money. Going into this, be very clear about your assumptions for what you need each month — even each week — to keep the lights on. Also have a solid family financial plan in place so that there are no surprises on that front, and you are taking on a known level of risk.
Planning is part one; day-to-day discipline is part two. Follow through on the action steps you have identified in your plan. Watch out for the human tendency to focus on the parts you like best. You may love the marketing and be weak on administration (or vice versa). If you are a one-person show, you can’t afford to let anything slip or to get out of balance between sales and delivery of service.
Know your exit strategy, too. There is no shame in deciding that this career direction is not for you.
Think about the other things that will sustain you, like having a life outside of your new business. It will feel all encompassing, and it could be if you let it. Take care of your health, your family and friendships, too. This will keep you off the path to burnout and increase chances of long-term success.
Submit questions to Liz Reyer at firstname.lastname@example.org.