Getting Started: Where To Start

I want to start a business, but I don’t know where to start. Should I draft the business plan first? Or maybe I should come up with a good product to place on the market. Wait, but does that make sense? Should I start there? These are the some of the common things that run through the minds of a budding entrepreneur.

Since starting my law practice, I have been approached by several individuals with questions just like these. Many want to know what best practices are for starting up and what steps would they be taking first to open their own businesses. Quite naturally, it would make sense to start with selecting the product or service because knowing what you want to place on the market is the cornerstone of the business, right?  It’s the commonsense thing to do. Step 1, pick the product or service. Step 2, everything else.

But what if we worked backwards, determining the audience and purpose for the business before we design a single product or service? When approached with the question a few days ago on where to start, I shared a different, unnatural approach to the process – to start with answering who and why you want to serve/sell first -- and here’s why:

Knowing your target audience, or the “who”, that your business plans to serve helps to shape how you speak to your audience, what services or products your audience will actually use, what your audience actually needs, and where to actually spend your time marketing. Being able to identify and speak to your audience with clarity is actually something that a lot of startup businesses miss in marketing but starting with this approach could actually save you a lot of resources. As we’ve stated above, the most sensical thing to do is start with the product first. But without a specific consumer in mind, we build businesses that are intended to be consumer focused yet void of any input from the actual consumer. Thus, we are left with merchandise and cool services and an undefined market. Kind of backwards, huh?

The second steps, which is probably the most important, is to know your “why.” Whether your motivation for getting your business up and running is to create additional sources of income or to help make the world a better place, knowing your answer to this question will serve as your compass to other likeminded individuals who actually care about, yearn for and want to support ventures like yours.

Think about it from this angle: you are a frequent traveler. In the midst of your travels, long layovers and transfers, you realize that your phone often dies at the most inopportune times. You have a trip scheduled in a few weeks and remember your phone struggles during the last trip. You go online to look for portable charging solutions and discover a company designed specifically for travelers just like you offering a suitcase with a built-in charger that can be used for up to 12 hours, Yay! Now you’re excited and so is that business, because you’ve found that needle-in-a-haystack solution you didn’t even know you needed, and they were able to get their product in front of you. How? Because they figured out their audience, why the product needed to be developed and were ultimately able to be right where you needed when you needed them.

Of course, there’s no one way to skin a cat, but it is my opinion that starting with your “who” and “why” first will save you a lot of time on the backend.

Charis DorseyComment