How to Start a Business: #1 Generating Ideas

Man! Know thyself; then thou shalt know the Universe and God.” – Pythagoras

To start an entrepreneurial journey, a critical step, which most people fail to take, is personal evaluation. We are all too quick to join the bandwagon and follow the trend. “My friend is doing this successfully, so I can” and many more such scenarios. This, I believe, is a major reason why over 50% of small businesses close shop in the first 5 years.

So, what is personal evaluation and how do I evaluate myself?

To guide you, you can ask yourself these questions. It will help you take stock of yourself and your current environment:

•   Why am I looking to start a business? Freedom? Money? Creativity? “It’s the trend”? Envy or because all your friends have started one? Do you REALLY want to start a business?

•   What skills, training or talents do you have?

•   What industries/sectors do you know about or have you worked in previously?

•   Would you want to provide a service or sell a product?

•   What are your hobbies? What do you like to do?

•   How much capital do you have? How much can you afford to lose and at what time?

•   Will it be a full-time or a part-time venture? Is this a side hustle or main job?

Your answers to these types of questions will help you narrow your focus and serve as a guide to what business to do. Feel free to involve a close friend who knows you and can give you honest feedback in answering or reviewing these questions.

This step is not supposed to dissuade you from starting your own business. Rather, it’s to get you thinking and planning according to your ability. You need to plan, set goals and above all, know yourself. What are your strengths? What are your weaknesses? How will these affect day-to-day operations? You should conduct a SWOT (Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat) Analysis on yourself to figure this out.

Strength: Abilities, skills, connections, contacts and things in you or that you have that is positive to you. Money, networks, intelligence, people management, marketing, creativity, etc. are examples of things that could be strengths.

Weakness: These are the things about yourself that may hinder or affect your goal. It could be laziness, procrastination, lack of network, money, inability to take risk etc.

Opportunity: These are external factors that may have a positive impact on you or your ideas. It could be the fact that you are an active member of a religious body with huge attendance and top executives.

Threats: These are external factors that could hinder or cause your business idea to fail or not function optimally. It could be a lack of trustworthy personnel, government policies, FX issues, changing customer preference etc.

This analysis will help you to know what is working for you so you can work to improve it and what is against you, so you can reduce or manage it.

Please note that to start and run a successful business, passion alone isn’t enough.

It is best if you can enter a market you like and that you know well. As you get started, your business will likely dominate your life. So, make sure that what you’re doing is enjoyable and not dull. You’re going to be in it for the long haul.

Other questions you may wish to ask yourself include:

What would you do if money wasn’t the problem?

Is money really important i.e. is making a LOT OF MONEY important? If it is, then you are going to be cutting out several options fast. This could also mean you will require technology in your business because that helps in scaling up fast.

What things matter to you?

Do you have the support of your family, especially your Husband or immediate family? They most likely will have to make sacrifices for you at the beginning, so it’s important to have them behind you.

Who do you admire in business, perhaps in the industry you’d like to go into? Why do you admire them? What are their likeable traits? What can you learn from them? Can you reach out to them for mentorship?

Answering these questions and asking many more about yourself and your abilities isn’t necessarily going to ensure you’re successful but it will get you thinking about your goals and about what motivates and inspires you. Use this time to make sure that you are matching the business you want to start to your aspirations.

As an addition, get an independent third party that knows you and has influence over you to review some of your answers to these question to ensure you have truthfully assessed yourself.

We will round up the this series here. At the next edition, we will be discussing reviewing and analysing the your idea and industry of your choice.

Are you in business and you have found this helpful or do you have other advice on personal evaluation? Please feel free to share in the comments section.

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