So you have a great idea that you think can make a lot of money.
If you want to get into business, that can be a good first step. But there a lot of things to consider before leaping into the world of entrepreneurship. Maybe you like your idea, but is it your passion? Do you know how much people are actually going to buy the product or engage with it? What do the hard numbers tell you about this idea?
Obviously there are a lot of key things to consider when you're going into business. But some are more crucial than others. I've laid out the seven most important ones for you here.
1. Play to win--and don't ever stop improving.
The head coach of the New England Patriots, Bill Belichick, has a way of motivating players, of raising their expectations so they believe that they will win. It's the same in the business world as it is on the football field. You've got to expect big things for yourself.
You've got to expect that you'll win.
Don't go into any venture believing that you'll fail, because then you will. Expect the best for yourself and for your company. Dress the part. Say what you want, what you expect to happen, and then take action and get moving.
The life of an entrepreneur isn't for everyone, but if you're passionate, committed and willing to risk big to win, you'll make it.
2. Make sure the market makes sense.
Once you've landed on what it is you're passionate about, you need to take a step back and evaluate the market size. What's the potential? Let's say you build this business idea into something best-in-class. What's the ceiling? And more importantly, is that ceiling high enough for you?
This is something I stress heavily in my book for entrepreneurs, All In. Too many ideas launch without a clear understanding of the actual room for opportunity--and those are the ideas that fail.
I don't want to squash your spirit, but you need to think long and hard about any idea you have before you risk your livelihood on it. Building a business isn't like finding a job. In fact, it should never "feel like a job." It should be something you're willing to work tirelessly to build--for yourself, and those around you.
3. Question your commitment from the very beginning.
Too often I hear startup entrepreneurs say how hard they're working and that they are "all in," when in all honesty, they don't dedicate enough time to be an employee--let alone a founder or CEO.
If you want to find a sure-fire way to irritate and discourage all of your teammates and employees, be the type of founder who's never around. A discouraged, unengaged team is the first sign that a business is doomed to fail.
If you are not willing to dedicate the time and obsess over your business in the early years, you are not cut out for this kind of life. And that's okay--it's not for everyone.
4. Prioritize building processes over everything else.
In the beginning stages of your business, creating written processes for how you do things--from recruiting, basic tasks, etc.--will be the thing that defines your long-term success.
I can't stress this enough.
Not only will it help you delegate the day-to-day tasks you do as founder, it will make training, re-training, and process improvement that much more streamlined. It's ok that processes change as you grow. But having clearly defined manuals early on will pay huge dividends, and give you something concrete to look back on as proof of your company's growth and improvement.
5. Don't get married to every one of your ideas. Stay ready to pivot.
Because your company will change rapidly in its startup phase, you have to be able to pivot and adjust to those new developments. Just because it starts as one thing, does not mean that thing will be the only purpose your business ever serves.
Look at Amazon. It started as an online bookseller and has since expanded to be the largest full-line retailer in the world. A large part of their success is due to their ability to adapt when new streams of cash flow are introduced.
Find ways to diversify your business assets, and then be ready to make changes as those streams develop.
6. Customer service is king.
How you treat your customers is vital to your future success. You have to really listen to what your customers needs are, instead of assuming you already know what they want.
To be a successful entrepreneur, you have to have an connection to your clients. You can't build a trusting bond with cold impersonal transactions.
So, get out of your office, hit the streets, and talk to your clients face-to-face. No matter how big you get, be humble and get real with your customers so you can collect raw, useful information on how to make their experience even better. James Sinegal, one of the founders of Costco, toured hundreds of stores a year until he retired at 77. That's how he kept his ear to the ground and understood his customers' needs.
7. Follow your passion--not what you think is going to be easy to make profitable.
Think about a big business idea you have. Are you in love with it? Is it something you'd be ecstatic to eat, sleep and breathe every day for a few years? If it pumps you up just thinking about doing it for a living, that's a really good sign. If not, throw the idea out and find something else.
But that doesn't mean you have to turn all of your hobbies into your career. You can love your work too.
Let me tell you, when I was running my first company, Wilmar, I was a plumbing savant. But it wasn't plumbing that had me so excited--my real passion was everything that went into building a successful, profitable business. Hardware just happened to be the thing I was selling.
That said, I'm passionate about a lot of things. Always have been. And turning my passions into businesses in some way, shape, or form hasn't steered me wrong yet.