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Ask These 3 Questions Before You Launch

Don't get so caught up in the idea for your start-up that you fail to think about the basics.
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Starting a business is a daunting task. As a serial entrepreneur, I can relate with the late-night number crunching, garage-based shoestringing and general uncertainty that comes with launching a new venture.

A 2012 study from Statistic Brain puts the first year failure rate for businesses at 25 percent, with more than 44 percent failing by year three. I've had my share of successes and failures, the latter of which provided the best opportunity for learning. I've found that there are a few basic things to ask yourself before you launch a new business that can provide a bit of clarity and set you up with a better chance for success:

1. What do you want?

The answer shouldn't be business-centric. Think about what you really want out of life--your personal ambitions--then decide how your business venture can facilitate that. Do you actually want to start and grow a company or do you just have a product or idea to sell for someone else to develop and market? Maybe your goal in life is to make $1 billion--that's okay. I think about what I would want people to say about me after I'm gone. That becomes my "center line."

2. What are the fundamentals needed to get started?

I refer to E-Myth to answer this one. There is fundamental blocking-and-tackling needed for business success. A garage start-up won't have all of these fine tuned or even in place, but awareness of the these elements (leadership, marketing fundamentals, fulfillment, lead conversion, etc.) will make for a smooth transition from start-up to small business.

3. Where do I fit in?

At the beginning, you'll be wearing all of the hats--entrepreneur, manager, and technician--but eventually you'll be able to bring in experts to develop and grow your business. Going back to question No. 1, knowing who you are as a person will tell you where you should focus your efforts in the company as it grows and what types of people you need to bring into the company first. An entrepreneurial type that is spending more time in operations is probably starting as many fires as he or she is putting out. Know your strengths and own them.

If there was a tried-and-true recipe for success, we would never have failures. Every venture will have its own tribulations to overcome, but having a clear idea of why you're doing it, what you need to do and how you can best facilitate that will at least lessen the roadblocks and speed bumps you're sure to face.

Last updated: May 10, 2013

CURT RICHARDSON | Columnist | Founder and CEO of OtterBox

OtterBox founder and CEO Curt Richardson created the first prototype of a waterproof case in his garage in the early '90s. OtterBox evolved into a leader in protective cases for mobile technology.

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.



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