Firstly I say the “bad A way” because I just found out my Grandma reads this blog (hi Grandma!) – she is one of people who has pushed me the most to follow the path of extraordinary entrepreneurship – so I owe her a great debt of gratitude & respect. Besides that mushiness this post is going to explain exactly how to start a small business – which the general concept most people get but the down and dirty seems to be the #1 reason those who want to don’t start a small business.
how to start a small business in 7 (Bad A) steps
- Find an under-served niche. Often business gurus tell you “find a niche” or “follow your passion” these little cliches though useful are so undefined that they on confuse the prospective small business starter vs. motivating them. What you really must do to have a hefty advantage over the competition and to stand out in a cut throat world is to find a under-served niche. You do this and you are bound to succeed because the under served niche is always hungry and no one seems to be feeding them enough. So think about your interests, passions or just a big gap you see in the market and define a “niche” within a larger industry. I.e. computers/technology would be the larger market and the niche within would be PC repair, now find the under served niche within the niche and you are in business just like Robert Stephens, founder of Geek Squad which brings in more than $1 billion annually partnered with Best Buy. Robert’s niche was highly branded, funky PC repair that makes it SUPER easy on the frazzled consumer, geek squad pulls up, jumps out of there geek mobile and fixes your computer – presto. This under served market produced a fortune and Robert’s ideas for branding made the Geek Squad a household name.
- Build-a-Brand. A great example of brand building is the mega success Build-a-Bear. No one would know about the chain that allows you to stuff, love and build childhood fantasies from scratch if Build-a-Bear didn’t have such a recognizable brand and “feel”. Each store looks the same, each employees exudes “Fun” and the bear workshop is full of children and adults letting their imaginations run wild. Imagine now if Build-a-Bear had called itself “Toy Builders” and adapted the somewhat sterile look and feel of most major chains? Kids wouldn’t howl when the passed one in the mall and parents wouldn’t indulge in $30 bags of stuffing and fabric that come in cute little bear houses made of cardboard. Branding is vital to the success of any small business and if you want to start a small business the truly bad A way you must (I SAY MUST!) figure out a compelling brand before you move ahead…
- Systemize & innovate. When you first start up, say a dried fruit business, you want to do everything yourself – at least once – so down the line you not only know how it should be done correctly but can produce detailed system charts around the most basic task. Systems are a way to scale your business and a way to keep whatever it is you are producing predictable. The exceptions would be if you are a painter or fiction writer, but if this is the case you probably aren’t starting a small business based around something only you can do – that is called freelancing. So systemize everything that is quantifiable from hand washing rituals in restaurants to social media marketing task lists in my social web business. You’ll thank yourself later when you can scale with ease and when you can cut your work day down by delegating lists A, B and F to your employees while you go home to hit golf balls off your double wide’s faux turf lawn (or whatever). Innovation is another key step after systemization… because once you have systems you can easily see what works and what doesn’t. Every week while you are in start up mode (and even long there after) you’ll sit down look at what is working and what isn’t and then ‘innovate’ how to create different results. Sometimes the light will go on after 15 minutes of brainstorming, often it’ll take days but if you get in this pattern of constantly evaluating your business’ success and making changes where need be you’ll be better off than 90% of the fortune 500 companies are today.
- Create scarcity if at all possible. One day sales, special bonuses, online limited time only offers, whatever you have to do to succeed… creating scarcity is essential to making an impact. If people never feel an urge to buy what it is you offer they won’t. Either make it too hard to resist, make it fill an urgent need or make it scarce… imagine if to boost awful sales Toyota had a 2 day 30% off sale? Or what if it was a 50% off sale? They’d probably lose money but they would move more cars than ever before and generate a huge wad of liquid cash to help get things moving again.
- Networking is crucial. You can’t be a lone ranger or an island in business, especially when spearheading a start up dynamic partnerships, mentors and like minds to connect with are crucial. Check out networking events or just simple hang outs at meetup.com or check google your city and the word “networking”. Remember to think as everyone as equals, whether the person you are talking to is young or old, poor or rich, foreign or alien, treat everyone the same – be jovial, kind and truly interested in them and they will in turn become allies and friends and possibly networking connections that will last a lifetime.
- Sell your sole. I find selling door to door in a kind of “ninja” way works well. So dress nicely and walk around your city to local retailers or whomever would benefit from your product/service/brand… offer them “free consulting” or tell them about a newsletter you are putting out that will in some way benefit them, then give them a business card and ask if you can follow up with them at a later date? This creates no “hard sell” atmosphere and is genuinely friendly. Another thing I do is walk around and introduce myself and give the “target” a business card, I tell them that I have made a resolution (which is true) to connect with at least 2 people a day. Usually we start talking about business or the sunshine and more often than not I am able to slip my ‘pitch’ in there somewhere.
- Be ridiculously persistent but change course often. People always chide business owners to either “Give up” or “Keep going”. These extremes are ridiculous and part of a dated way of thinking, you should always be incredibly persistent in your business- but you should also constantly keep a look out for ways to change course that will improve your product, improve your team or improve other’s lives. So never give up, unless you should and always persist except embrace change easily and often.
I am asked how to start a small business so often from would be entrepreneurs that I have thought about writing an eBook or delivering a course on it, yet what I wait for is to find the ‘under served’ niche within small business start ups before I begin because heaven knows how many “how to start a ________” courses there are out there. I don’t ever like creating a product or business that is just another X. So if you have ideas, suggestions or requests on a way I can niche my “how to start a small business” posts down more to fit your specific needs and questions please holler at me!
- Check out The Risk Takers a book I’ll be reviewing shortly that I drew two examples in today’s post from. It is very inspiring for entrepreneurs and I love it because it contains nothing but modern success stories of how people over came to the odds to build an amazing business.
- Set aside at least 30 minutes each day to read blogs or books on your niche, this is one of the single best ways I know to grow your business by learning from others.