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.