Let’s start with the most overused quote of everyone’s favourite Chinese philosopher, Confucius: “Even the longest journey starts with a single step.” The reason this quote is used so much, is that it’s true. Getting things going is a good way to reach your goals.
What Confucius failed to mention is that the longest journey requires some preparation. Going in head first and unprepared is a good way to falter along the way. This applies especially when you are planning to start a business.
To stay with the metaphor, we compiled a list of things you are going to need on your journey:
Very obvious, I know. I’m not talking about general ideas like “I want to sell X”. Instead, you need to have a clear objective: “I want to sell X to Y because Z”. A lot of entrepreneurs neglect this item, although it is the foundation you are going to build your success on. Be aware that your idea is flexible and should adjust to new information. The idea at the beginning of your journey will not be the same as the one at the end. It will be refined, redesigned and streamlined. It is a living thing that needs care and attention or it will wither and die. Be sure to tend to it on the way. It is your most precious possession.
A good way to prepare your idea for the journey is pitching it to other people. These people can be friends, family or total strangers. If you have one, ask your mentor. Just make sure that people are honest with you. Sugar coating will gain you nothing. If you feel comfortable enough, you can pitch your idea to a stranger. They are always the most honest.
Who likes to travel alone? The journey is going to be a hard one. If you take it on solo and something goes wrong, there will be no one to help you out. Your team can be, as per general definition, your employees. On the other hand, it can also be a business partner or even your family and friends. Regardless of the shape and size of your team, it will help you reach your destination by evaluating your steps, giving input and sharing the workload. A simple talk can help you regain perspective. Be sure that your traveling companions are positive and supportive, but will tell you when you are on the wrong path.
You don’t have to be the operational leader of your team. If you tend to be a more introverted entrepreneur, a team can also help you by keeping tiresome tasks like accounting and office management of your back.
As an entrepreneur, you have to understand you don’t know everything. You never will. That’s ok. Understanding that simple fact already puts you ahead of a good portion of your competition. Entrepreneurship is a process of constant learning. Markets shift, best practice changes and your idea evolves. Keep up with those changes by learning as much as you can. No minute spent learning something new about your business is a minute wasted. It will allow you to stay on the true path to success. The ever-changing world of business can offer great opportunities for the informed entrepreneur.
Make sure you prioritize what you learn. Decide if the field you want to study in will be of advantage to your business. Procrastination by learning useless information is a trap we all fall into, from time to time. Once your business is up and running you can indulge in this luxury.
Don’t pack anything dangerous, please. Rather, pack for those dangerous things. You are going to face countless dangers on your way to your own business. The knowledge of those dangers will allow you to plan accordingly. Will your finances carry you all the way, do you have emergency reserves and did you think about everything? It is a good idea to seek the advice of someone who already successfully walked this path. Learning from experience will help you avoid most of the common hazards, but stay aware that you will have to face some uncommon ones.
Having a detailed plan of action will help you gain the flexibility to turn possibly dangerous events into valuable opportunities.
Again, not a thing one could actually put in a bag. Nonetheless, it is as important as the physical preparation. Take your time to think through what you are about to do. The path is going to be long and you will need to make a lot of sacrifices on the way. Starting your own business is a game of endurance. If you are in it for a quick win, you should consider investing your energy into more fitting ventures.
Are you willing to make these sacrifices? Are you ready to invest a good part of your life into your dream? Will you be able to handle challenges along the way? If you can answer these questions with a confident, yes, you are good to go.
The metaphorical bag is packed. A backpack makes the whole process easier and faster. Imagine a backpack with clearly labeled pockets. That is what a business plan will do for you. It will tell you what you need to start your business and make sure you don’t forget anything before walking off.
You know what you will be facing. You are prepared. Take that first step!