The greatest thing about being an entrepreneur is that it gives you the power to choose your path in life. You are no longer working for someone who dictates your career options. You are in complete control, which can be liberating, but also extremely stressful if you are unprepared for the realities of the work.
If you feel fully prepared and are ready to start building your entrepreneurial career, keep reading for 5 different ways people have started their journeys into entrepreneurship.
Make It About You
Budding entrepreneurs should only consider career paths that they are interested in or that they can become passionate about. Finding a career that lights a fire in your belly and makes you excited eases the hard work of being an entrepreneur a little. Your passion can translate into a willingness to work long hours and deal with tedious intricacies of self-employment, which is why loving what you do is the first component of choosing your business direction, strategy, and trajectory wisely.
Choosing wisely also means looking for a business idea where there is opportunity, in an industry where you have, or can gain, knowledge. It would be foolish to dive into a career where you have absolutely zero knowledge and that has no prospect of a future. When determining what you want to do with your career and what kind of business you want to open, your experience and what drives you should be at the forefront of your mission.
Know Your Market
You may love coffee and making it for people, but if you open a coffee shop across the street from a Starbucks, you are likely going to see your business fail. A budding entrepreneur will likely not have as many resources as a corporate entity or established entrepreneur would. This is why extensive research and careful planning is important at the beginning of an entrepreneurial journey.
Proper research means your business will have a much better chance of success. Research doesn’t just mean looking at your local market. It means taking the time to analyze where you should get your funding, what your business processes and structure will be, and the past success and failures in your area of the industry.
We live in the Information Age. There are countless ways to learn about your industry, the market in your area, and much more. Chances are you're going to need funding to launch your business, but even if you don't, having all this information will be vital to drafting a successful business plan.
Supply the Demand
If you decide to open a video store today, it’s unlikely that you will be able to sustain your business, because with the advent of video streaming services, like Netflix, video stores have fallen out of favor.
Timing is very important when it comes to business. Apple Computers is a well-known example of a business that timed itself perfectly; it created innovative products (such as the iPod, iPhone, and iPad) and has continually updated its products with iterative changes to match consumer tastes over time. This is one of the reasons the company releases new updates and products yearly.
New entrepreneurs, who usually have a finite number of resources, need to carefully plan out where and when to invest in their business. Is the timing right for the product or idea? To go back to our earlier video store example, we can see that even giant businesses, like Blockbuster, can be brought down as a result of poor timing – Blockbuster passed on the opportunity to acquire Netflix, and was never able to regain ground lost to video streaming.
Let Customers Be Your Guide
Customers are going to make or break your company. If they like what you sell or provide, they'll provide you support, either by spending money on your enterprise or by spreading the word about your product. Even in an increasingly digital society, word-of-mouth advertising is still a huge driver of revenue and success.
Equally important to your business are customer complaints. Customer concerns give you a better understanding of how you can improve your product, service, or brand, and if dealt with properly, can create greater brand loyalty. Monitoring what your customers want and how they behave in relation to your business can teach you to anticipate their future trends and, therefore, stay ahead of your competitors.
Don’t be afraid to do research with random people (also known as potential customers) to find out what they are looking for in a product like yours. Focus groups are an excellent way to truly understand the customers in your field.
While new entrepreneurs likely learn on the job every day, it doesn’t hurt to also bolster real-world knowledge with traditional college education. You certainly don’t need a formal business degree to get started as an entrepreneur, but business school can give you an edge over similar competitors who haven’t invested time or energy into learning fundamentals of running and maintaining a business.
If you don’t want to spend your time or money getting a full business degree, like an MBA, consider at least taking a few courses in subject areas that will have the biggest impact on your core business. For example, if a lot of your time every month is spent on figuring out where money is allocated in your business, it might help to take an accounting or finance class. If you know there are overseas customers who would be interested in your offering, but don’t know how to approach these consumers, you might consider taking some courses in international trade or international markets.
Starting a business is not easy. Regardless of the area you choose to disrupt, there is a lot of work involved, and you can expect to put in long hours. Success depends on many factors, but by keeping these tips in mind when starting on your entrepreneurial path, you can come closer to a fulfilling and sustainable career.
Craig Baird is a writer and videographer out of Alberta, Canada. When he isn't making videos about Canadian history, along with a podcast, he is writing on a wide variety of topics. Craig has over ten years of experience writing articles through his career in journalism