“So I have this business idea.”
I hear that often. For one reason or another, most people I meet either run their own business already or want to someday. I understand the appeal—I’ve been there myself.
The bad news is most people I talk to about their idea lack the motivation or determination to follow through and give it a real shot at succeeding. When I ask, “So what have you done already to find out if this will work or not?” the answer is usually, “Well, nothing. It’s just an idea.”
The good news is the lack of motivation and action is usually because many people highly overestimate what it takes to start a business, and if you re-prioritize your goals and what success looks like, running your own business is actually quite simple.
Here’s a basic test I like to use to figure out if an idea I have is something I’ll actually follow through on:
Can I get this project started by tomorrow?
If the answer is “yes,” then I’ll almost certainly do it. If it’s “no,” then I’ll probably never make any progress on it.
The trick is in taking an idea that starts out with “no” and figuring out how to scale it down until I can answer “yes.” Rather than trying to figure out everything in the beginning, how can I start with “version 0.1.”
Most people I talk to don’t actually want to run a big business with employees and offices and fax machines and what not. Usually, if you’re like me, you just want a little project to do that makes you happy and helps pay the bills. You want a micro-business.
And you don’t need much to run one of those. Here are the three basic things you’ll need:
- A valid idea: This means your business concept has been tested by more than just you and a few friends or family members. If you can find someone you don’t know to buy something from you, then you have a valid idea.
- Fortitude to see it through: Starting a micro-business will not allow you to quit your job tomorrow. Depending on how much effort you dedicate, it might never get you to that point. The good news is you don’t have to quit your job to run a successful business. If it makes you happy and pays for itself, guess what: you win!
- A realistic goal: To succeed at anything, you’ll need some type of measuring stick that lets you know when you’ve achieved what you wanted. And you get to decide what that measuring stick will be: 1 sale per month? 10 active accounts? Enough profit to pay for your hobby? Without a goal, you’ll miss a lot of opportunities to celebrate.
That’s really all you need. If you can hammer those three things down, you’ll be well on your way to creating something that brings a lot of joy (and hopefully a little money) to your life.
As simple as that sounds, it’s easy to get excited and over-complicate the process. A natural reaction is to try to do too much. It seems like the right thing to do, but usually it makes things worse.
Over thinking things is the biggest killer of any great idea because the tendency is to complicate the idea until it’s too big for you to ever get started on.
When you’re starting your very first business, absolutely do not worry about:
- Whether your business can scale. If you worry about how much work you’ll have to do if the business is successful, you’ll make it awfully difficult to get started. Try worrying about being successful first, then start thinking about how to lighten the load.
- Finding the perfect idea. You don’t need a great idea to start a business. You don’t even need a good one. You just need one that someone, anyone, will pay for. Every year, people with very average ideas work hard and make millions of dollars. Likewise, many more people with incredible, world-changing ideas never get them off of the bar napkin they drew them on.
- Executing your idea perfectly. When you’re just starting, you don’t know what the best way to run your business is yet. This is an advantage, not a limitation. Try thinking of the easiest way to run it, and start there.
- Making lots of money. Maybe you will, maybe you won’t. In the end, it’s really not that important. Most people who start businesses fail miserably their first time. What’s important is that they get that failure out of the way, learn from it, and move onto a better idea.
Basically, you just need to get out of your own way and make things easy on yourself.
If you absolutely must have something to worry about, though, here are a few things you can feel free to focus your energy on:
- Solving problems on the fly. In any business, things go wrong when you don’t expect them to, and being able to find problems early and fix them quickly is an important skill to develop. Become a freak about making tiny changes and testing things.
- Launching as soon as possible. When you draw up your business idea, the longer timeframe you give yourself to launch it, the less likely it is that you’ll actually do it. Do not give yourself a comfortable time cushion. What can you cut out of your plan to get it started by next week?
- Delighting customers. A great micro-business accomplishes two things. 1) It provides the person who runs it with a lifestyle that they enjoy, and 2) it makes its customers really, really happy. #1 is usually a result of #2. Focus first on making people happy.
On Monday, April 23rd, I’ll be launching my latest project, The Bootstrapper Guild for a few days only. If you’ve thought about starting your own micro-business, it’ll help you through the whole start-up process quickly and efficiently.
In the mean time, what can you do to get started on your own micro-business today? Let us know in the comments, and then go do it.
Image by: marc0047
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