By Irene Ng & Idas Levato | Feb 09, 2017
Once you’ve decided that you are ready to become an entrepreneur and are prepared to put in the necessary effort to implement the great business idea that you have, it’s time to get busy. The problem that many people face though is, ‘where do I start? What should I be doing first?’
We’ve put together this checklist of practical steps that we hope will be useful in helping you get started. This comes from our personal experience as entrepreneurs as well as in providing assistance to others contemplating this same journey.
Step #1: Have a plan
One of the first things to do is to develop a basic plan on the business. This should, at the very least, answer the following questions:
What is the problem that the business is trying to solve? On a scale of 1-10, the pain point your solution is solving has to be motivating enough to get traction. That’s usually an 8/10.
Who wants your solution? It’s key to have a hypothesis of age, gender, socio-economic bracket, education level and more.
Do you have competitors? How do you plan to compete? How will you generate revenue from the service that you plan to provide?
How much money do you need to get started? How will you finance the business? Do you have enough funds of your own to get started? If not, where can you get funding from?
Who can help you organize and manage the business? Who are your team members and what are the skills that each can contribute to the business? How much time can each member contribute?
What do you need in order to get started? An office space? A website? A prototype or working mock-up? Setting up the right social media channels? Do you need to register your business name? Any other legal requirements that you need to comply with?
What are your targets for Years 1 -3 of the business?
Step #2: Talk to family and friends. Find a community
Once you have developed the above basic plan, you should speak to family and friends about it. It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur – there will be lots of stress initially as you work to get the business up and running, and many things may not go as planned. Thus, it’s always a good idea to make sure that you have the support of your family and friends as you start this new business endeavour.
Also, don’t be afraid to ask for help – often times, it will be family and friends who will be your initial support group; some will provide the initial funding that you need whilst others will pitch in time to help you operate the business.
In addition, finding a great entrepreneur community is really important. Family and friends might be too close to show you your blindspots. Having an inclusive and diverse community of friends will reveal some hard truths that you might have missed.
Step #3: Do your own research
There are lots of resources available these days to potential entrepreneurs and you should make good use of them. For example, there are organizations that provide information on how to prepare a business plan and even the initial funding for the business (see Futurpreneur Canada’s website at www.futurpreneur.ca) Also, there are lots of good books on starting a business and being an entrepreneur at the Toronto public library. Do check them out. For those wishing to attend practical workshops and boot camps on the subject, it is worth taking a look at the new ‘Startup Launch Program’, a five-week training course jointly delivered by the City of Toronto, Startup Toronto and Biz Launch.
There are many great podcasts to inspire and inform entrepreneurs. From Freakonomics Radio, The James Altucher Show, to StartupTalk.ca.
Medium.com also has many great articles, tips, strategies. Many entrepreneurs share their hardearned lessons.
When doing your research, you need to ask the hard questions that test your hypothesis and solution – this, together with the data from your research, will help strengthen the foundation of your venture and business plan.
Step #4: Put your team together
Use your passion for what you are doing to help convince others to join your team. Seek out family members, friends or colleagues who are keen to join you on this business venture. Share with them your plans and discuss how best they can help you. Have a clear idea of what skills and help you need and ask potential team members very specific questions regarding skill, passion, values and ability to commit to the venture.
Having a team enables you to focus and stay accountable on the key task and challenging priorities that you need to do i.e. sourcing for new markets, developing new ideas to grow the business and meeting with potential investors.
Step #5: Get the right sort of professional help
Lots of people want to help startups. When you are bootstrapping though, it can be hard to decide what sort of professional advice you might need to help you manage your business. After all, cost is a key factor and appropriate legal, financial, tax and risk management expertise can be expensive. However, delaying getting important professional advice till later can result in more time-consuming (stressful and costly) problems later on. The better approach would be to take a good, objective and hard look at your list of priorities and establish what the important ones are. Once that is done, take the time to find the right sort of help you would need. In terms of legal services for example, you have so many more options today than ever before. There are many large and international law firms here in Toronto as well as smaller boutique firms that offer niche services to clients. Before engaging any professional advisors, it is always best to have a quick chat with them so that you can better understand the services that they offer as well as the costs involved. Getting a referral or reference for trustworthy professional advisors is really key. More importantly, find someone that you are comfortable working with and who understands your business, and is able to provide their expertise as well as offer pragmatic advice at the same time.
*First published in startuptoronto.org – see link at http://startuptoronto.org/2017/02/01/startingthe-entrepreneurial-journey-first-things-first/