Week two idea to build and sustain your own business

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Start! where you are

You are touring around a foreign country in a hire car and get lost. Which country you are in depends on which particular culture you want to make the joke about! You stop alongside the road and ask a local how to get to a particular place e.g. Dublin. After a long pause the local says “If I were you I wouldn’t start from here”.

In this idea we talk about the importance of starting from here. I have a business broking business –we assist people to sell or buy businesses. The number of people who respond when we advertise a coffee shop or petrol service station would surprise you. For some reason many/most people think they can run one of these businesses.

The reality is that running either of these types of business is challenging. If you want to know how challenging speak to someone who owns one – but preferably not when they’re trying to sell it to you! Often people who respond to these opportunities are not starting from where they are (physically, mentally, and skills-wise).

The Start! model which I developed some years ago (thanks to Rudyard Kipling and his honest serving men) suggests that you:

Start!     –    where you are

Start!     –    with what you have

Start!     –    with what you know

Start!     –    with who you know

Start!     –    when you are ready

Start!    –    (ask) why are you starting

Start!    –    how are you starting

How does this framework operate? It aims to provide you with provisional answers to a number of key questions. We can see some (but not all) of these in the table below:

Question Things to explore
Where you are (physically and mentally)
  • Do you have local knowledge you can exploit?
  • Are you psychologically ready to tackle your own business?
What you have
  • Do a full list of your resource base – equipment (don’t forget cellphone, computer, printer, internet access, voip access e.g. Skype), access to influential people, resources (e.g. a spare room, transport, tools)
What you know
  • Review what types of business you have a working knowledge of. Link this to your transferable skills. Going into a business you are not familiar with will probably result in your having to pay high school fees
Who you know
  • Who you know can access you to introductions, resources, funding, advice, support, workplace experience.
  • Is there anyone you can barter services/goods with? This can give you access to resources at low/no cost – essentially the value of your time
When you are ready
  • Review your current competence – knowledge, skills, and attitudes
  • How much serious research have you done on business opportunities or a particular opportunity?
  • Research, research, research. This includes web research, personal interviews (phone or face-to-face), direct experience of working in the type of business you plan to start, etc
Why you are starting
  • Are you running from something or to something?
  • Do you feel a strong attraction to the type of business you plan to run? Will you still be happy doing it in 10 years time?
How you are starting
  • Are you dipping your toes in or going for full immersion?
  • Have you got a contingency or fallback plan? Do a PPA exercise – potential problem analysis – and then describe what you will do to counter each potential problem
  • Remember the golden rule – if you can describe your customer very accurately and identify exactly why they will buy your product or service – you have a potentially viable business
  • Have you kept as flexible as possible? Carefully assess the downside of leases and suspensive purchase agreements that you have had to personally guarantee.

You can probably think of other questions you should answer before you start.

Week one idea to build and sustain your own business

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Idea one: In India we don’t think who we are …

In the film “The Party” Peter Sellers is in discussion with someone who says “Who do you think you are!?” His reply? ” In India we don’t think who we are – we know who we are”. All spoken in a Peter Sellers accent.

Your own business is not a good place to learn who you are. Knowing who you are will save you a good deal of anguish and reduce the frequency of 02h00 panic attacks.

Your own business will test you and your relationships in ways which working for other people doesn’t. If you are very successful your relationships and status will change dramatically, generally for the better. If you crash and burn, or even just fizzle out, some of your key relationships will be severely tested or come to an end.

So, how do you find out who you are? Competence is usually seen as comprising knowledge (what you know), skills (what you can do), and attitudes (how you feel about yourself, others, and life/work).

Some of this information on yourself is readily accessible to you. Some of it will probably require a little digging. You can quickly compile a list of what you know (based on your formal learning, supplemented by informal learning) and what skills you have acquired.

In looking at your skills it’s important that you look at transferable skills. These include skills like:

  • Planning and arranging events and activities
  • Managing and/or motivating others
  • Dealing with obstacles and crises
  • Presenting written material
  • Persuading through verbal interaction
  • Repairing things (e.g. equipment or machinery)
  • Coaching or training people
  • Researching or interviewing
  • Building or constructing things or concepts
  • Designing (e.g. systems, buildings, furniture)
  • Managing finances
  • Speaking a foreign language
  • Utilising computer software (e.g. accounting, databases, spreadsheets, etc)

Transferable skills go with us from place to place and job to job. We can turn our hand to various things through effectively mobilizing our transferable skills (Margaret Thatcher was a grocer’s daughter).

When we get into measuring our own attitudes it’s often difficult to get an accurate measure of ourselves – we’re too close to ourselves! Some of the tools you can use:

 

  • Buy the book “Now discover your strengths” by Buckingham and Clifton. This R150.00 investment will enable you to do an online test to identify your five key or signature strengths (out of 34). The most extensive research yet done on people and performance has established that identifying and applying your strengths forms the foundation of personal and work effectiveness.
  • Go to www.humanmetrics.com and do the free “Jung typology”. This is a non-proprietary version of the famous MBTI®. This quiz will enable you to identify which of 16 profiles you most closely fit. With a little additional Internet browsing on the MBTI® you will be able to get a clear sense of how you prefer to deal with the world.
  • Go to www.thetimeparadox.com and do the Zimbardo Time Perspective Inventory (ZTPI) and the Transcendental-future Time Perspective Inventory (TTPI). These free profiles tell you how you manage and feel about time. Are you living in the past, present, or future? Your time-orientation has a significant impact on your personal effectiveness. If you have a less than effective attitude to time these quizzes will enable you to review your time models.
  • Finally, go to:

http://www.authentichappiness.sas.upenn.edu . There you will find several free quizzes. You do need to register at this site as Dr. Seligman uses your quiz information (anonymously) to enhance the effectiveness of the various quizzes he has designed. The one to start with perhaps is the Authentic Happiness Inventory Questionnaire.

Once you have made your investment of several hours of your time in doing these various profiles and quizzes review what they have told you about yourself. If possible discuss the results with someone you trust. Better still get them to do the quizzes as well so you can offer each other some mutual support.

At the beginning of this idea we noted that Your own business is not a good place to learn who you are. Doing these various quizzes, profiles, and inventories will have helped you to identify how to enhance your personal effectiveness and get a sense of what you should be investing your life in.

Is owning your own business for you?