There are no limits on who can become a great entrepreneur. You definitely don’t need a college degree. I personally don’t have one and don’t suggest it. In my opinion, information should be shared freely, so I’m not a fan of going into debt for a degree than my customers couldn’t care less about. My customers just want quality product and a unique experience. I think I can figure out how to deliver that to them without an expensive degree. Here’s what you do need. You do need a vision of what success looks like (for you) and a strong work ethic. If you’ve got those, you may proceed.
If you’ve discovered Power Circle or myself, odds are you already have the drive, but you might not know how to start building your empire. So, here’s the details. Follow this guide step-by-step, and I promise you’ll be on your way.
Let’s get started.
1. Evaluate yourself.
Let’s start with the most basic question: Why do you want to start a business? I hope it’s just not to be rich, because that’s really corny. If you just want to be rich, stop reading now and do something else.
Use this question to guide what kind of business you want to start. If you want extra money, consider a side hustle. If you want more freedom, maybe it’s time to leave your 9-to-5 job and start something new. Whichever option fits your desires, cool, let’s roll with it!
Once you have the reason, start asking yourself even more questions to help you figure out the type of business you should start, and if you have what it takes. There’s one thing I can guarantee you, not matter which type of business you decide, they’ll all be require patience and perseverance. Here’s some questions to ask yourself:
- What skills do I have?
- Where does my passion lie?
- What is my area of expertise?
- How much can I afford to spend?
- How much capital will I need?
- What sort of lifestyle can I afford to live?
- Am I even ready to be an entrepreneur?
Be brutally honest with your answers. This will create a foundation for everything you do moving forward, so it’s better to know the truth now than later. Many people lie to themselves, don’t be that person, please!
2. Think of a business idea.
Do you already have a dope business concept in mind? If so, congratulations! You can proceed to the next section. If not, I suggest not forcing it. Oftentimes, just living life and seeing the challenges people encounter, you’ll eventually be handed some inspiration. Just keep you eyes open, stay woke.
Also, go out and meet people and ask them questions, seek advice from other entrepreneurs, research ideas online. Being a successful entrepreneur has everything to do constantly educating yourself and being conscious of your surroundings, brilliance can appear out of thin air.
3. Do market research.
Is anyone else already doing what you want to start doing? If not, is there a good reason why? Someone may have tried and failed. This is definitely something you want to be aware of. It’ll save you tons of time and money.
Start researching your potential rivals or potential partners within the market. Most often, through research I find out whose operating at the highest level. Then I just copy them. Trust me, everybody copies.
4. Get feedback.
Let people interact with your product or service (or idea) and see what their take is on it. A fresh set of eyes can help point out a problem you might have missed. Plus, these people will become your first brand advocates, especially if you listen to their input and take their suggestions. People appreciate being apart of the process.
One of the easiest ways to utilize feedback is to focus on “The Lean Startup” approach. It involves three basic pillars: prototyping, experimenting and pivoting. By pushing out a product, getting feedback and then adapting before you push out the next product, you can constantly improve and make sure you stay relevant.
Depending on on who you have access to, solicited or not, most feedback will be useful. Some of it won’t be. No matter what, always listen. A fool just might share some useful wisdom by mistake.
5. Make it official.
Get all of the legal aspects out of the way early. That way, you don’t have to worry about someone taking your big idea, screwing you over in a partnership or suing you for something you never saw coming. A quick checklist of things to shore up might include:
- Business structure (LLC, corporation or a partnership, to name a few.)
- Business name
- Register your business
- Federal tax ID
- State tax ID
- Permits (if necessary)
- License (if necessary)
- Bank account
- Trademarks, copyrights or patents (I wouldn’t wait for these to get started, but I figured I’d still list them)
6. Create your business plan.
A business plan is a description of how your business will evolve from when it starts to the finish product.
If you enjoy writing, then I think you should write out your plan. If you’re more of a visionary, record yourself talking into phone about your plans. That’s what I do. Who still writes anyway?
Here’s some items you want to think about in your business plan:
Business description. What kind of business do you want to start? What does your industry look like? What will it look like in the future?
Market strategies. What is your target market, and how can you best sell to that market?
Competitive analysis. What are the strengths and weakness of your competitors? How will you beat them?
Design and development plan. What is your product or service and how will it develop?
Operations and management plan. How does the business function on a daily basis?
Finance factors. Where is the money coming from? When? How?
7. Finance your business.
There are a ton of different ways to get the financial resources you need to start your business. If this is your first business, I’m only suggestion one option, bootstrapping i.e. put your own money up. If you have friends and family that want to donate, great. But, do not (and I repeat, do not) promise them anything. You will likely lose their money and give them nothing to show for it. That has to be communicated upfront so they stay loving friends and family. Can you tell I’ve been through some things?
Here’s a full list of options that make sense once you know what you’re doing:
- Request a small-business grant. Head over to Grants.gov, it is a searchable, online directory of more than 1,000 federal grant programs. It might be a long process, but it doesn’t cost you any equity.
- Start a crowdfunding campaign online. Sometimes power is in numbers, and a bunch of small investments can add up to something major. If you think your business might be a fit for something like Kickstarter or Indiegogo, check out the most popular crowdfunding websites.
- Apply to local angel investor groups. Online platforms such as Gust and AngelList and local networking can help you find potential investors who relate to your industry and passion.
- Solicit venture capital investors. VCs typically look for big opportunities from proven teams that need a million dollars or more, so you should have some traction before approaching them.
- Join a startup incubator or accelerator. These companies are designed to help new or startup businesses get to the next level. Most provide free resources, including office facilities and consulting, along with networking opportunities and pitch events. Some, also provide seed funding as well.
- Negotiate an advance from a strategic partner or customer. If someone wants your product or service bad enough to pay for it, there’s a chance they’ll want it bad enough to fund it, too. Variations on this theme include early licensing or white-labeling agreements.
- Trade equity or services for startup help. For example, you could support a computer system for office tenants in exchange for free office space. You might not get paid for this, but you won’t have to pay for an office, either, and a penny saved is a penny earned.
- Seek a bank loan or line of credit. If you meet their requirements, it’s likely because you have strong personal credit to leverage, a good place to start for loan opportunities is the Small Business Administration.
8. Develop your product or service.
After all the work you’ve put into starting your business, it’s going to feel awesome to actually see your idea come to life. But keep in mind, it takes a village to create a product. If you want to make an app and you’re not an engineer, you will need to reach out to a technical person. Or if you need to mass-produce an item, you will have to team up with a manufacturer.
When you are ready to do product development and outsource some of the tasks make sure you:
- Retain control of your product and learn constantly. If you leave the development up to someone else or another firm without supervising, you might not get the thing you envisioned.
- Implement checks and balances to reduce your risk. If you only hire one freelance engineer, there’s a chance that no one will be able to check their work. If you go the freelance route, use multiple engineers so you don’t have to just take someone at their word.
- Hire specialists, not generalists. Get people who are awesome at the exact thing you want, not a jack-of-all-trades type.
- Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. Make sure you don’t lose all of your progress if one freelancer leaves or if a contract falls through.
- Manage product development to save money. Rates can vary for engineers depending on their specialties, so make sure you’re not paying an overqualified engineer when you could get the same end result for a much lower price.
To help you have peace of mind, start learning as much as you can about the production process, so you can improve the process and your hiring decisions as time goes along. Don’t be lazy!
9. Start Building your team
To scale your business, you are going to need to hand off responsibilities to other people. You need a team.
Whether you need a partner, employee or freelancer, these three tips can help you find a good fit:
State your goals clearly. Make sure everyone understands the vision and their role within that mission at the very start.
Follow hiring protocols. When starting the hiring process you need to take a lot of things into consideration, from screening people to asking the right questions and having the proper forms. Start out by hiring friends and family willing to assist. They likely won’t last forever, but they’ll help you get started.
Establish a strong company culture. What makes a great culture? What are some of the building blocks? A great culture is more about respecting and empowering team members through multiple channels, including training and mentorship. Treat people right. They’ll appreciate that.
10. Find a location.
This could mean an office or a store. Nowadays, many businesses operate from home:
- Style of operation. Make sure your location is consistent with your particular style and image.
- Demographics. Start by considering who your customers are. How important is their proximity to your location? If you’re a retail store that relies on the local community, this is vital. For other business models, it might not be.
- Foot traffic. If you need people to come into your store, make sure that store is easy to find. Remember: even the best retail areas have dead spots.
- Accessibility and parking. Is your building accessible? Don’t give customers a reason to go somewhere else because they don’t know where to park.
- Competition. Sometimes having competitors nearby is a good thing. Other times, it’s not. You’ve done the market research, so you know which is best for your business.
- Proximity to other businesses and services. This is more than just about foot traffic. Look at how nearby businesses can enrich the quality of your business as a workplace, too.
- Image and history of the site. What does this address state about your business? Have other businesses failed there? Does the location reflect the image you want to project?
- Ordinances. Depending on your business, these could help or hinder you. For example, if you’re starting a daycare center, ordinances that state no one can build a liquor store nearby might add a level of safety for you. Just make sure you’re not the one trying to build the liquor store.
- The building’s infrastructure. Especially if you’re looking at an older building or if you’re starting an online business, make sure the space can support your high-tech needs. If you’re getting serious about a building, you might want to hire an engineer to check out the state of the place to get an objective evaluation.
- Rent, utilities and other costs. Rent is the biggest facilities expense, but check out the utilities, as well, and whether they’re included in the lease or not. You don’t want to start out with one price and find out it’s going to be more later.
Once you know what to look for and it’s time to start searching for a place that fits all of your qualifications, these four tips can help.
- Think on your own timeframe. Landlords are starting to offer shorter-term office rentals. Don’t get stuck in a long-term lease if it doesn’t make sense for your business.
- Play the whole field. There are all sorts of places to use — co-working spaces, office business centers, sublets and more. Keep your options open.
- Click around town. You might be able to find the perfect place by using online resources.
- Do the deal on your terms. Again, you have options. Don’t get roped into something that makes you uncomfortable.
11. Start getting some sales.
No matter your product or industry, your business’s future is going to depend on revenue and sales.
There are a ton of different sales strategies and techniques you can employ, but here are four tenets to live by:
- Listen. “When you listen to your clients/customers, you find out what they want and need, and how to make that happen,” says investor and entrepreneur John Rampton.
- Ask for a commitment, but don’t be pushy about it. You can’t be too shy to ask for a next step or to close a sale, but you also shouldn’t make customers feel as though you’re forcing them into a sale.
- Don’t be afraid of hearing “no.” Hearing “no” will be more common than hearing “yes”, so don’t allow yourself to be discouraged. Have an “abundance” mentality. Meaning, if someone says no, keep in mind that there’s a hundred people who will say yes, so just continue on your search for them.
- Make it a priority. As Gary Vaynerchuk said, “Actually creating revenue, and running a profitable business, is a good strategy for business. Where are we that people think users or visits or time on site is the proxy to a successful business?”
But how do you actually make those sales? Start by identifying targets who want your product or service. Find early adopters of your business, grow your customer base or put out ads to find people who fit your business. Then, figure out the right strategy to convert those leads into revenue. It’s really simple, love those who love you!
12. Grow your business.
There are a million different ways to grow. You could acquire another business, start targeting a new market, expand your offerings and more. But, no growth plan will matter if you don’t have the two key attributes that all growing companies have in common.
First, they have a plan to market themselves. They use social media effectively through organic, influencer or paid campaigns. They have an email list and know how to use it. They understand exactly who they need to target — either online or off — with their marketing campaigns.
Then, once they have a new customer, they understand how to retain them. You’ve probably heard many people state that the easiest customer to sell to is the one you already have. Your existing customers have already signed up for your email list, added their credit card information to your website and tested what you have to offer. In doing so, they’re starting a relationship with you and your brand. Help them feel as good about that relationship as possible.
Start by utilizing these strategies, which include investing in your customer service and getting personal, but realize your work will never be done. You’ll constantly be competing for these customers in the marketplace, and you can never simply rest on your laurels. Keep researching the market, hiring good people and making a superior product and you’ll be on your way to building the empire you always dreamed about.