Every now and then people ask me what my thoughts are on starting and working on building a (small) business.
My answer is based not only on things I have come to realise over the last few years, due to having done or not done certain things, but it is also informed by listening to others and reading up on what has worked for others.
In no definite order of importance, and although some points may be more much more important for you than others, here are a couple of things – some high-level macro, some more specific – that I feel are relevant for anyone wanting to start, or busy with building, their own business:
- Do what you believe in - not just in business. Moreover, do what is right, don't do that which is the opposite. Next, find others with the same or similar beliefs.
- Don't try to sell something you wouldn't pay good money for, yourself.
- Do not fear being criticised (you will be). Some of the criticism may be based in misplaced jealousy (at times, without the critic realising that the criticism is fed by that).
- Time is your biggest enemy or factor truly beyond much of your control: you need to find a marriage between patience and a sense of urgency. Tenacity whilst having clear and timed targets.
- Decide on what is, kind of, unique about your product. Not being unique is not a reason to not believe in what you (want to) do. Or, put much more simply: the fact others are offering something quite similar should not stop you (and it doesn't stop others, either...).
- Look up and do not forget what your product means if you did not yet know what it stands for in this context of value-creation and service-delivery.
- Content is king.
- Be clear on what problem your service or product solves. Customers are less interested in 'the rest'.
- Create a systemised offering.
- Bring the offer online.
- Build your own audience that you have access to. Nurture that audience.
- Capture your audience - mostly this means you should, for one, manage an email list.
- Do not undersell yourself. Understand the value you add.
- Ask clients what value you have added. Use their answers wisely.
- Do not be too quick to partner up and, as a consequence, share your equity or business idea.
- Make your proposition simple to understand from the customer's point of view and easy on the eye.
- Know about, or familiarise yourself with, marketing and promoting your services and "telling a story".
- Build, build, build a network.
- If – a big if – you believe enough in your idea, then invest in it financially if you want it to grow and potentially scale to greater heights. Hence: know what you're aiming for: a lifestyle business, just doing okay, or 'boldly building something big. Make the choice and focus enough on it.
- Put yourself to the test, as well as your work. Test, adapt, and test again. This will result in incremental gains and (self-)development. Don't fall for perfection, but always improve on 'that which was' previously.
These points I know apply to me and our business-psychology business and I still work on most of them.
Jan P. de Jonge is founder of People Business Psychology Ltd. His consultancy helps client organisations to assess and develop their people and their business, informed by a business-psychological approach.