In these exciting times it is fairly easy to start your own business. Of course you need to take care of the necessary administrative stuff. But before you really go and register your business you are better off to have done your homework. The registering of your business can be considered as the icing on the cake when you have already made the biggest efforts and your first steps towards success in business life. There are 4 important questions that you should be able to answer without hesitating. How do you do achieve that? By doing enough investigation in all the possible answers that come up.
1. What are you going to do?
Make sure that it is super clear to you what you are going to do for someone or some company. That might seem obvious to you right now, but it isn’t always the case. I see many starting entrepreneurs along my path and when I ask them what it is that they are doing, I notice it is really difficult to say it out loud.
‘I am a coach or I am a lifeguard’. Well that’s fine, but what does that really mean? Like most people, the words you and I hear come along with a certain personal meaning. I already get the shivers when somebody uses the word coach. Why? Because that word has been used, overused, abused and is linked with several persons or occupations in my head. When you describe yourself as coach I might have a total different picture of a coach in my head already. Try to avoid those standard words. How do you that?
All businesses solve some kind of problem or situation for a specific environment. So instead of using a standard explanation, describe the problem or the environment in which you are active. ‘I help people dealing with stressful situations’. If you don’t already get another question here asking what that precisely is, you can add: ‘to be more specific, I help management people who face high pressure in their business environment so that they can still enjoy family life when arriving home after work and live a healthy life.’ This description is an invitation for the one who hears it to ask about more details.
This means that you must get your ‘what’ crystal clear and know exactly the answers to these questions:
- What is the beginning situation that your business will transform? I call this the main flow of your business. This is ultimately what you are going to do to help change an existing situation into a better situation or environment.
- Who are the parties involved and what is their role? (people, businesses, manufacturers, …)
- What is the end result for each party involved?
2. How are you going to help your clients?
So if you decided on transforming situation A into another outcome (= situation B), then you can lay out exactly the steps that are involved in order to doing so. If you haven’t figured this one out, then do so. It is your roadmap and you must be able to explain every step of the way in order to take your client on that journey.
Why is it so important to make a roadmap with all the steps in between? Because this will show you where you are strong and how you will differentiate from another, and even more importantly, it will show you where there might be some obstacles hiding. Most businesses do not fail because of things they know, but because of things they don’t know, even though they might have been clearly visible all along. If only somebody had taken a closer look.
Making a roadmap of your main flow will show you where you are dependent on some other parties, or on circumstances that you can’t control yourself. Knowing this, you might be extra careful in making certain promises to clients. You might even want to reconsider other options as a plan B in order to avoid future problems even though chances are low it might happen.
So what are the questions you need to be asking yourself:
- How do I go from situation A to situation B? Step by step – do not skip any steps where there is either an action involved or a choice to be made.
- If there is an action involved, write down everything you need to make this action successful. Write down what the trigger is of the action, and what the desired result is. What are the possible outcomes of this action?
- If there is a decision to be made (not necessary an action), then write down the decision parameters. Where do you base yourself upon to make a certain choice? What are the options to choose from and how will this affect the further process?
3. How are you going to communicate?
Now that you have laid out a plan in order to get your business going, it is time to see some connections. First there is the internal communication. Your roadmap shows you how to get from situation A to situation B and will also show you which different side flows there are.
Labelling those flows make it possible to check if your business is capable of existing. See the flows of a business as the subsystems (and very vital parts) of the human body, like blood system, food processing system, brains, … If these subsystems miss or do not function optimally, the chances of survival are very low. So, what are the vital flows of a business?
- Financial flow
- Where is your money coming from and how will it be obtained and be redistributed?
- Administrative flow
- How are you going to deal with the paperwork (email, accountancy, taxes, customer questions, …)?
- Strategic flow
- How are you going to investigate and notice the subtle changes in the market?
- How are you going to reach new and existing clients?
These are the main side flows that are critical for any business. The financial flow is the oxygen for your business. Without this, you will only last a certain time. Make sure you are not dependent on others for this. There are many ways to start a company without being controlled by circumstances. The administrative flow is something most entrepreneurs dislike or want to stay away from as far as possible. As most of the administrative flow can be handled or automated, there are critical administrations that will teach you so much more about your business that you shouldn’t underestimate this. Administration forces you to simplicity and transparency. And lastly, the strategic component is the one that will make sure you will adapt when necessary. Too many business grow (fast) because of strategy but do not take in account that everything changes over time. How are you going to deal with change so that your business can foresee events happening and taking opportunities where others miss it?
The second communication is the external communication. This is where the interaction happens between your business and mainly your clients, but also the complete environment that is affected by the transformation from the beginning situation into a preferred end result. This communication is highly noticeable by two main factors:
- Verbal communication
- Non-verbal communication
The first communication is your message that you spread towards your customers, saying exactly that you might help them overcome a situation and transform it into a better situation so they can profit from those changes. This is clear and can be easily checked if it’s true or not. Each customer will experience your changes and will compare this with the expectation they had on forehand. Managing not only your message, but also the customer’s expectations is crucial here.
The second part, the non-verbal communication is more subtle, but can have even a bigger impact. It is how you perform your actions. You can change a situation in many ways, going from A to B, but your actions to get there, will say a lot about you and your business. Do you take a shortcut, while cutting down everything that is in your way? Or do you do exactly the opposite, while letting your customers wait unnecessarily? Whatever your actions are, the way how you do them, will leave an impression and will say more in the end about your service and your attitude. This doesn’t mean something is better or worse, but if questions arise somewhere along the process or at the end that you didn’t expect, then you might need to get a closer look at your message spread and your message shown by your actions. Are they aligned?
4. Why are you starting a business?
This is an important question to ask yourself, because your reasons to set up a business, tell a lot about you and the situation that you are in to make certain decisions.
What you need to understand about your why, is that it will have an influence on how you see certain stuff and therefore also how you will act. The why is asking more about your internal state (of mind). Imagine that you are starting a business because you want to gain more money. This will affect your decision process when it comes to choosing between different suppliers. Who knows if ‘money’ is the right decision parameter for that specific choice. There might be other and more important parameters such as quality, delivery time,… .
Asking to investigate your reasoning takes a lot of courage. The easiest way to start with investigating your motivation is to begin with the beginning, so with the question ‘why did you (want to) start to your business. When you have figured that one out and know precisely why, it is time to take it a step further. If you did your homework for the ‘how’ part as mentioned above, than you have a very good roadmap which you can see with a fresh look. Examine every step of the way and see where choices are made or have been made, and see which parameters you are using in order to make a decision.
Investigating your own reasoning is one of the most difficult tasks there is in running a business. It demands total honesty and transparency from your side. This can only be done, when you know that a reason to make a decision is never ‘good or bad’. It is just a reason and it might be or not be the best reason. That is your job to find out, and make corrections while going along the way. But because you are setting up a business, it is a good starting point to already know ‘why’ you are making certain reasonings.
In conclusion for this little chapter, make sure you answer the following questions:
- Why do you want to start this business?
- Why do you make certain choices in your roadmap?
Hurry up but slowly
As a conclusion for this article I would like to conclude with some practical advice. Starting a business is easy and too many people take the leap unprepared and without knowing what is coming at them. Once you are convinced that you should start a business, do not hesitate long to make the first steps towards it. But this doesn’t mean you should immediately run to the administration office to get registered.
Taking the first steps is thinking and writing down all the stuff mentioned here before. If you do this, you will stand a good chance to not only survive but to thrive and enjoy the process and the benefits that your own business definitely has to offer.
I’ve created an online course, which is a roadmap to help you find the personal answers you need. It will make clear how and why your business stands a chance to not only survive, but also to grow.