Key Questions to Answer Before Starting a Business
Guest contributor Kayleigh is a writer on startups, and in this blog, she points out key questions to consider before starting a business.
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash
The time has come; you’ve decided to put that great idea into practice and start your business. But are you fully prepared? Have you done all the necessary preparatory work? There are some key questions that must be answered if you’re to make your venture a success.
However eager you may be to get started, the practical move is to do your due diligence and cover your bases before you proceed. Here are four core queries that you should answer (and in detail). If the answer to any one of them is anything other than a confident ‘Yes’, then further planning is required.
Are you fulfilling a need?
This is the number one question before you move ahead with your business launch. There are certain business types that simply aren’t viable at this point in time: high streets were tanking well before the pandemic struck, for instance, and could not avoid suffering further damage due to the lockdown measures.
Depending on the intended scope of your business, you may need a huge audience or merely an enthusiastic niche audience. If you intend to develop an app to help people monitor their spending habits, for instance, you have a massive audience in prospect. If your plan is to produce earphones for use underwater, however, you’ll need to be absolutely certain that there are enough swimmers passionate about underwater music to make your brand viable in the long term.
If you can’t see a satisfactory level of consumer desire with a clear pipeline to conversion, then your business idea isn’t workable. The core idea may still have potential, though. Make an effort to clarify it and break it down to whatever extent you can — this process may reveal that you’ve been targeting the wrong audience thus far.
Once you’re able to confidently answer this question in the affirmative, you can look at your idea more seriously as a viable business.
Do you have the tools to succeed?
Any modern business owner knows the importance of tools or equipment. A great idea can only get you so far — you eventually need tools to build your business. Now, there isn’t currently much value in putting money towards conventional office space, but you should invest in home office equipment to ensure that your workers are comfortable and productive.
And digital tools are just as important. Operating in the cloud is standard practice at this point, but there are so many viable SaaS (software as a service) tools available that it can be challenging simply to choose the best fits for your business. At a minimum, you should invest in an overall business suite to cover your file storage and content creation.
Of course, that’s all without mentioning the greatest utilities of all: your employees. Establishing a strong team of talented professionals with diverse perspectives will help you refine your core ideas and avoid the typical pitfalls into which startups can tumble — and investing in candidates with potential at an early stage will benefit you in the long term.
When you’re just starting your business, admittedly, you might not be ready to hire full-time staff. You may still be figuring out which permanent posts you’ll be able to afford, or attempting to build up an emergency fund through working solo until that’s no longer viable. Perhaps you simply intend to run your business from the road, and don’t even want to be tied down by steady remote employees. If so, you can source some suitable freelancers to cover your needs until you decide.
Is your business adaptable?
Pre-pandemic, the question of how adaptable your business idea was largely concerned how you could break into other markets or upscale your operation. Now, that question has shifted slightly to concern your ability to deal with a crisis and keep your brand essential.
It’s important to consider whether your business could survive modern challenges. A brick-and-mortar store catering to a specialist market isn’t the best investment right now with footfall at a minimum, but an e-commerce store that ships those same products worldwide with a creative USP (Unique Selling Point) could prove successful.
We’ve already spoken about the importance of digital tools, but your dependency on them will play a huge role in determining your adaptability. After all, the IT world moves at a fast clip: if you’re not semi-frequently reviewing your software foundation to identify room for improvement, you’ll be overtaken by smarter and more economical rivals.
There are so many things that can come along to upend how you do business, such as foundational changes to social media platforms or massive shifts in online legislation (such as GDPR, data protection legislation that came into effect at the start of 2018). You can’t anticipate every significant change, but you can stay ready to adapt when necessary.
Does it fit your lifestyle?
No matter how carefully you’ve planned it out, starting a business is a huge commitment. In the event that it’s a huge success, it may grow to take up decades of your life. How do you feel about that prospect? It’s far from uncommon for an entrepreneur to be more excited about the idea of their business than anything else (and soon tire of the practical reality).
And that’s if things go well. Even with a solid business model and a cautious plan of action, your venture can suffer major damage through sheer misfortune. Many of the companies that had to shut down due to COVID-19 would have otherwise achieved great things. They didn’t make any mistakes. They simply fell victim to a global calamity.
Either way, whether your business flourishes or fails, it’s going to play a big part in your life for quite some time — so if you’re not absolutely certain you want that, you should seriously rethink your determination to continue. Think of amateur writers who see only the glory in professional authorship (the fame, the money, the signings) but haven’t truly thought about what it might be like to hammer out thousands of words every day.
You also need to think about how well the business will gel with everything else in your life. Do you have any contacts in the industry? Friends who would be able and willing to help you get things configured? You can find opportunities to network as you go, but being able to gather valuable advice from a friend (knowing an engineer if you’re intending to manufacture something, for instance) can make it so much easier to endure the launch period.
Posing these questions isn’t about doubting your core idea, nor is it intended to prevent you from getting excited about where your business could go. Instead, it’s meant to keep you from getting carried away — from letting that excitement keep you from noticing flaws in your plan. Consider everything we’ve looked at here, and work on your plan until you’re absolutely confident you’re ready to proceed. Good luck!
Find out more about self-employment
Pros and cons of working for yourself plus tips and tools for starting a business
Read more from Kayleigh
About Kayleigh Alexandra
Kayleigh is a writer for Micro Startups – an online destination for everything startup. She’s passionate about SMEs (small and medium-size enterprises) and hard-working solopreneurs making waves in the business world. Find out more about starting a business from experts around the globe @getmicrostarted.