Kerry Start Up 101: “Fail to Prepare…”

Thinking of starting a business? Let’s just call it out…it’s unlikely that success will come easily to you. It’s far more likely that you will have a tough start, a tough middle and a tough end.

A tough time and a successful outcome are, however, far from mutually exclusive, in fact they are mutually inclusive! The ability to survive challenges will become personally empowering and will harden both you and your business and act as an enabler of future growth and success.

Start by accepting that it’s going to be a tough journey and like any journey, prepare for it before setting off. Prepare by first thinking deeply about whether starting a business is right for you.

Without pre-empting our downstream blog posts about topics such as unique selling point, customer value proposition, finance etc., it’s fair to say that ambiguity is your greatest enemy. Notwithstanding the fact that the start-up journey is going to lead you down paths you don’t yet know exist, you need to be laser-focussed on what success means to you as of right now and make that early vision a reality.

One thing is for sure, you will have to avoid waste which implies adopting lean principles from the start. From the ‘garage’ start-up to the multi-million start-up, lean principles are now underpinning all successful businesses. Lean principles are simple and have been actioned in business long before companies like Toyota codified them. They are powerful in terms of driving efficiencies in all aspects of business. Let’s apply some lean principles right now. Eliminate waste from your future business from the get-go by making good ‘founding decisions’ (and potentially save yourself from losing a lot of time and money!).

Good founding decisions challenge your thought process (most people can’t do this and consequently happily rock-on towards miserable failure). Most folks ask themselves easy questions or fudge answers to hard questions on their failure journey.

Validate your proposition thoroughly at this point, even in a basic way, as follows.

Write down probing questions about your future business and answer them to the best of your ability. These are questions specific to you so you won’t find them in any book but here are a few examples:

  • Do you have a plan?
  • What does success mean to you/your business?
  • Do you know the basics of business?
  • Can you afford to lose the time and money you invest?
  • Are there others in your life who need to be consulted before you commit?
  • Who loses out if your business fails, and by how much?
  • Are there underlying assumptions for success to happen? If so, can they be validated up-front?
  • Why hasn’t someone already done what you propose? If they have, how are you different/better?

Now print out your questions and answers and hand them to ten people you know, preferably qualified network contacts who know what they are talking about (more about professional relationships next week..).

Ask each of them to add ten more probing questions to the list for you to answer and when you get all the questions back, answer all newly added questions honestly.

If you cannot go through with this, it would seem pre-mature for you to launch a business. If you can’t socialise your plans with your own close network, you will not be able to sell a single unit to a stranger, you’re not ready.

You will require clarity and action-focus throughout your journey so start by being honest with yourself.

 

There is a mandatory read at this point, The Lean Startup by Eric Ries. This is a book which will help you identify more questions which you need to answer in order to harden your business proposal:

Have you read this book? What do you think? I’m interested to hear.

Think deeply, look before you leap, educate yourself, develop a basic plan and … read the book!

Fergal Hynes

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