Want to know how to start a startup? Perhaps you've sat at your desk and thought to yourself "I should do my own thing and be shot of these clowns!" but just didn't know where to begin. Start right here to unearth the best business idea for you in six easy steps.
What's covered in this blog post?
You'll get a handle on your values, preferences, skills and talents. You'll get clear on your primary objective for starting a business, some of your reasons may surprise you. Start a business, yes, but start the right one so that the business serves you, not the other way around.
Relax: I suspect your inner critic will have a field day with this exercise. Have a soft word with your Inner Critic and tell them to go on a five star vacation for a bit (send them to the swim up bar) for the remainder of this business fathoming exercise.
Step #1: Define your primary objective for your business
Start a business yes, but start the right one. So, how do you know which is the right business idea and strategy for you? Perhaps you've a business idea in mind already and you're waiting for me to cut to the chase - well you're going to be disappointed. I'm going to suggest that your idea may be way off course. You see, I'm guessing that you haven’t asked yourself: What do I want a business to do for me?
A business is the vehicle for your objectives. Your first priority is to get clear on what you want the business to do for you.
Don't start a coaching or keynote speaking business if you want lots of free time and you don't like people. You want the business to be your servant, not the other way around. Where and how you sell, your niche, your products and services all hinge on your answer to the question: What do I want a business to do for me?
Don’t confuse the question with what will I do for others, or what'll I make, or what market I will serve. The only question you're answering here is: What do I want a business to do for me?
If your primary objective is to be mentored by the CEO of the luxury boutique hotel in your country then don't make children’s audio books, but instead focus on executive leadership in luxury hospitality.
If your primary objective is to get PR, become famous or be the founder of a movement then research key trends and find a business vehicle that puts you in the box seat to take advantage of the next big thing. For example, if you want to be a leader in the SLOW food movement create a website where farmers and organic markets can list their produce for sale and people can buy items from their local area.
Perhaps you've seen the trend towards reducing food waste and suspect an opportunity for publicity - you could start a website where cafes can upload photos of any remaining fresh food near the end of the day at discounted prices. People can search and get alerts for discounted food in their area. Result: you're on the wave of publicity surrounding reducing food waste - and of course the downstream result is that cafes can sell more of their products and people can get a cheap meal.
Your starting point for the business you create is the answer to the question: What do I want this business to do for me? Not your business idea. It’s time to determine the primary objective for your business.
Have a document open, notebook or your favourite note taking software, such as Evernote, handy where you can collect results and ideas.
I’ve given you a few thoughts below to get your mind ticking over, now start making your own list, be brutally honest with yourself. Pressure test all your assumptions about what you want and why you want it. Don’t be noble - be honest, get real, you may surprise yourself:
- influence your industry
- lay the ground work to get a board position or become an angel investor
- get consulting contacts
- be an expert panelist at industry events
- top up your household income
- create multiple streams of income
- become an expert and be known as such
- travel around the world
- get free products from your favourite brands to review
- be taken more seriously
- build your personal brand
- replace your 9-5 income
- meet famous people or a particular famous person
- become famous yourself
- work from home
- have a huge office in a shiny glass building
- get you a trade or business deal in an emerging market
- work with a specific industry or group of skilled/talented people
- create more free time
- do TV and radio interviews
- open doors to accelerate your career
- raise awareness of an issue or causes you are passionate about
- become a speaker
- become a business and civic leader and fixture in your local community
- work anywhere in the world with just a laptop and internet connection
- to be a business and joint venture partner with companies and business leaders you admire
- to be mentored by a specific individual
- create long term financial security for your family
Write out each objective your business has to deliver, then rank them in order of most to least important. Your number one objective will now be the driving force for what you create and how you structure your business. You now have a simple way of assessing how to progress based on your number one objective.
On a clean page write your number one objective. On this page you will add in the best bits from each task that follows to form a picture of the best business idea for you.
Step #2: Take the free character strengths survey
You need to start gathering insights to get a handle on the best type of business, niche and products for you. You want your business to fit you like a glove.
Start with getting a sense of your character strengths (this is not about poking around in your soul), you just want to make sure that when it comes to bubbling up ideas you're working with your strengths. It’s as easy as answering a few questions from the VIA Institute on Character. It’s FREE to register, start your registration on the home page and follow the prompts. Complete the questionnaire in a relaxed state then save and download the results.
It’s not necessary that you agree with all the results, just mark up those qualities that resonate with you, drop them into your notes. These go into the mix.
Step #3: Take the free personality test
Yes, a personality test. This is not about putting you in a box or labelling you - you are spectacular and unique - this is just another tool to help you identify a business idea and activities what would be suited to you. Perhaps you've taken this type of test before, many times even, but that was 10 months ago or 10 years ago. Let’s get going.
It’s FREE to register, just relax and answer the questions honestly. This survey just gives you some extra ideas or pointers. If you don’t agree with the results, be easy, just pick out those elements you feel are relevant and add those to your notes about your values. Any patterns emerging? Reflect for a moment on your results so far, note impressions or ideas that come to you.
Step #4: Get clear on your 10,000 hour skills
Let’s get a handle on where your awesome truly lies by working out your 10,000 hour skills.
The study of human potential was given form in Malcolm Gladwell's excellent book, Outliers. Personally, I believe that the mind is highly plastic and accelerated learning is a natural evolutionary human skill, I would side more with Tim Ferriss when it comes to brain stuff. But, you don't want to start a business in six-months when you've acquired your new handy-dandy skill, you want to start one now. So for the moment you'll be focusing on what you already know. It's always easy and best to start with what you know.
Your 10,000 hour skills are those you've deep-practise experience of over time. This equates to six hours a day for five years, or three hours a day for ten years or an hour and a half a day for twenty years. Don’t confuse your 10,000 hour skills with things or activities you like to do or want to do. We are only interested in deep practise experience.
Create your list of 10,000 hour skills. Set a timer and spend ten minutes writing your list furiously, keep you pen or fingers on the keyboard moving, don’t stop.
Some of you will now be writing furiously all of your deep-practise skills be it playing piano, public speaking, carpentry, driving, hairdressing or using your mobile phone; bravo. Perhaps others of you will be slumped in your chair, utterly despondent contemplating that you have zip to offer the world. Cheer up, let’s wrangle your 10,000 hour skills together - no skill is too trivial to write down, people have made vast fortunes time and again in the mundane (toothpaste, shoe liners, razors, soap, maps, paper, candles, gossip) - so let’s start with some everyday tasks to get the ball rolling:
- brushing your teeth
- reading crime novels
- exercising in the gym
- watching reality tv
- surfing the internet
- using a smartphone
- preparing food
- styling your hair
- grocery shopping
- writing and sending email
- driving a car
- caring for a sick or elderly member of the family
- raising children
- telling and reading stories aloud
- riding a bicycle
- caring for a pet
- counselling friends and family
- studying subjects at school and university
- creating Powerpoint slides
- selling products
- handling money
- playing the trumpet
- flying a glider
- Ruby on Rails
Once you are all out of ideas go back through your list with fresh eyes. See if you can pick out any patterns (volunteering at the botanical garden, growing vegetables can be lumped together as a pattern of “gardening" and "volunteering" so we are onto something there) and any specifics in your nature (speaking, presenting, gossiping, public speaking can all go under “communicating in person”).
Then, circle your favourite ten, or five if you can’t muster ten, those that feel best.
So now you have a short list of deep-practise skills. There are very few people in the world who have your exact combination of 10,000 hour skills, and absolutely no one in the world who gained the experience in the circumstances and exact situation you did. Drop those five onto your page with all the other best of you bits.
Step #5: 5 Life affirming moments of success
I want you to recall five times in your life - five moments when you felt vital, alive, happy, healthy, well and strong and self assured. You were in the flow, on target and loving every moment. It can be any moment of accomplishment or joy from anytime in your life, young or present day.
In your notes divide the page into two. On the left note the moment (for example, when I was 22 years old living in New Zealand I was given a job in London it was a dream come true) on the right of the page recall with as much detail as you can - where were you, who were you with, were you alone, what were you doing, wearing, what had lead up to this success, what actions had you taken, who helped you or who had you helped, and what were you feeling. Uncover the whole event. Do this for each of the five events.
Now scan across all of these events, look for patterns, what do you notice:
- what, if anything, do they have in common?
- what themes emerge?
- who are you being?
- what are you doing?
- who are you with?
- who are you helping or being helped by?
- what actions were successful?
- are there similar activities, thoughts or feeling leading up to the events?
- were you moving towards something (a goal or ambition) or were you moving away from something (a undesirable person or situation)
Are you working with your hands, in a large group of people, exercising, are you fiddling around with plants or fabric or coding, in a temple, playing with pets, helping people, are you watching a movie, in a shop, singing, online, playing games, are you on a mission or telling other people what to do. What is the essence behind it all that is bringing you joy?
You want your business to be life affirming for you. So choose the elements that really stand out for you and add that to the other best bits.
Step #6: Write a short vision for your business
You're going to write a story for your business. This is where your investment in the steps above all comes together. It's very easy it goes as follows:
As a (personality type) who values (your values) I want my business to deliver (this primary objective) while leveraging my (10,000 hour) skills with an emphasis on (life affirming moments of success qualities).
So now simply take those pieces of the puzzle your worked through above and pop them into this sentence. Write it all out.
It may have contradictions and clumsy elements at first, zero in on the bits that feel the best and weed out the rest. You may want to tweak the wording so it feels natural to you, fine tune until it feels just right.
And there you have it, a vision for your business and a way forward.
Knowing yourself and self honesty are critical success factors for your business. With a vision for your business you've become part of the 1% - you have applied critical thought to what the business must to do for you. You can create a business that is aligned with your preferences, talents and traits - the learning curve is reduced which means your time to market is reduced. You're already streets ahead of the majority of people who start a business. If you need a next step start researching the market and what real customer problems exisit that you could solve.
You’re on your way baby. You've got this!
What tools or apps lead you to the best business idea for you?
I would love to know what tools or apps you use to find the right business for you and drum up business ideas. Let me know @CreateAllThings so I can collate and credit your suggestions into a new post. Let's make it better together.
Want to know how to start a startup? Get your hands on The 10-Day Entrepreneur. Let's find the business idea that is fastest path to the biggest cash for you.