(NNPA)—A business plan. A website. A means to track spending and profits. An office space, retail space or home-based business. Time. Money. Sweat equity. None of these, however, means anything if you don’t know what kind of business you want to run.
Starting a business sounds scary, but before you can even do that you have to get past the first step, which is often the hardest (yet doesn’t require a single penny): figuring out exactly what you will found. The good news is two simple questions can provide you some answers right away or at least give you a launch pad.
The first is asking yourself—What comes easy to you but harder to others? Take a moment to think about all the things you do well—better than most others. Certainly you have at least one or two things that you do particularly well, and which get other people to notice (and perhaps compliment you). What natural abilities do you have that you may be able to make a living doing?
We typically underestimate the power of what comes easy to us, and we are usually blind to those innate skills that could shepherd profit. It doesn’t have to be a profound skill; it can be based on an everyday activity like writing (poetic) e-mails, cooking (amazing) meals, or creating (beautiful) spatial layouts in your home’s rooms.
Now take money out of the equation entirely and ask yourself what you would do nonstop and never get paid for it. Financial security aside, think about things you absolutely love to do regardless of the money.
Keep in mind that you can be adding value to society just by filling a need or enriching it with your talents through a product for sale, advice or the fact you make other people’s jobs and lives easier. As your business grows, you will likely need employees and/or temporary workers, so to that extent you are providing jobs and giving opportunities to others. Whatever you come up with using these questions are the things you need to start paying attention to. You will find out if you’re truly meant to be a doctor, lawyer, accountant, writer, scientist, singer, artist, teacher, project manager, software developer, and so on. You will begin to explore ways of turning your natural capabilities into businesses or higher versions of your current self.
As you evaluate your answers, make a realistic distinction between skills and desires. Desires tend to be lofty and vague goals: I want to be a millionaire. I want to go to the moon. I want to be a movie star. I want to play in the Super Bowl. I want to sit in the front row at the Grammy’s. While it’s perfectly natural to have our own version of these types of desires, it’s important to realize they usually are not tied to any specific skills. See if you can get more explicit with your desires based on your skills. For example, if you want to become a celebrated interior designer, identify a skill set already in place to match that desire—a keen eye for design and a notable talent for decorating.
Naturally, you’ll learn new skills as you go forward, but at the start it helps to take concrete steps based on real skills. Remember, your skills are the things that you are capable of doing. They reflect more than a general interest or fascination. Look at the subjects you were good at in school or outside in life. Are those things solid enough to build a life around? Are those things strong enough to turn into a career?
Once you’ve identified a possibility, your next step will be to research and analyze that specific market. Don’t forget to study the competition, either. Industry associations, publications, media coverage, information from the financial community, and the competition’s own marketing materials and websites are all excellent resources. The more information you gather, the greater your chances of capturing a segment of the market.
Keep expectations in check, too. Once born, a startup business is developed over time. Be ready to deal with setbacks along the way, but understand that behind each disappointment is a lesson you can take to move forward-closer to success.
(Dr. Farrah Gray is author of “The Truth Shall Make You Rich: The New Road Map to Radical Prosperity”, “Get Real, Get Rich: Conquer the 7 Lies Blocking You from Success” and the international best-seller “Reallionaire: Nine Steps to Becoming Rich from the Inside Out.” He is chairman of the Farrah Gray Foundation. Dr. Gray can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or his website at www.drfarrahgray.com.)