The Mysterious Business of Entrepreneurship

Many people believe starting a business is a mysterious process. They know they want to start a business, but they don’t know the first steps to take. In this chapter, you’re going to find out how to get an idea for a business—how you figure out exactly what it is you want to do and then how to take action on it. But before we get started, let’s clear up one point: People always wonder if this is a good time to start their business idea. The fact is, there’s really never a bad time to launch a business. It’s obvious why it’s smart to launch in strong economic times. People have money and are looking for ways to spend it. But launching in tough or uncertain economic times can be just as smart. If you do your homework, presumably there’s a need for the business you’re starting. Because many people are reluctant to launch in tough times, your new business has a better chance of getting noticed. And, depending on your idea, in a down economy there is often equipment (or even entire businesses!) for sale at bargain prices.

Everyone has his or her own roadblock, something that prevents them from taking that crucial first step. Most people are afraid to start; they may fear the unknown, or failure, or even success. Others find starting something overwhelming because they think they have to come up with something that no one has ever done before—a new invention, a unique service. In other words, they think they have to reinvent the wheel.

But unless you’re a technological genius—another Bill Gates or Steve Jobs—trying to reinvent the wheel is a big waste of time. For most people starting a business, the issue should not be coming up with something so unique that no one has ever heard of it but instead answering the questions: “How can I improve on this?” or “Can I do this better or differently from the other guy doing it over there?” Or simply, “Is there market share not being served that makes room for another business in this category?” Before you start a business, you have to examine the potential, what your product or service is, and whether the opportunity exists to make a good deal of money. It may be a “hit and run” product, where you’re going to get in, make a lot of money, and then get out. That’s not necessarily a bad thing; fads have made some entrepreneurs incredibly wealthy. Remember the children’s bracelet fad brought on after Silly Bandz became popular? Silly Bandz and others like it are still around, but they’re not all the rage (or as financially successful) that they were the first few years. But remember, once you’re in the fad business, it’s hard to know when it’s time to get out. And if you guess wrong or try to make a classic out of a fad, you’re going to lose all the money you have earned.

One of the best ways to determine whether your idea will succeed in your community is to talk to people you know. If it’s a business idea, talk to co-workers and colleagues. Run personal ideas by your family or neighbors. Don’t be afraid of people stealing your idea. It’s just not likely. Just discuss the general concept; you don’t need to spill all the details. Understand that many people around you won’t encourage you (some will even discourage you) to pursue your entrepreneurial journey. Some will tell you they have your best interests at heart; they just want you to see the reality of the situation. Some will envy your courage; others will resent you for having the guts to actually do something. You can’t allow these naysayers to dissuade you, to stop your journey before it even begins. In fact, once you get an idea for a business, what’s the most important trait you need as an entrepreneur? Perseverance. When you set out to launch your business, you’ll be told “no” more times than you’ve ever been told before. You can’t take it personally; you’ve got to get beyond the “no” and move on to the next person—because eventually, you’re going to get to a “yes.”