OPINION

How to start a business

Once you have identified the problem, you are set

In Summary
  • Engage a search to find a problem that you have the interest and capacity to solve.
  • The first twelve to twenty-four months of a startup should be spent finding the customers
Leadership lessons learnt in 2017 as CEO
Leadership lessons learnt in 2017 as CEO

Now, anyone can start a business. With your smartphone and a simple idea, you can get started. Then, why do some people still find it challenging?

For one, starting can be mentally and emotionally daunting. The inner battle involved in starting a business can stop people from moving beyond the thought. Hence, many great ideas fizzle at the thought stage. Nonetheless, it is possible to start a business in four simple steps. Let me explain.

Solve a Problem: Every business starts here – the desire to solve a problem. To start your business, first, seek a problem to solve. Engage a search to find a problem that you have the interest and capacity to solve. Once you have identified the problem, you are set. To successfully start a business, you need a problem-solving mindset.

Find Your Customers: Once you’ve identified the problem that you wish to solve, the next step is to find a critical mass of people who are willing to pay for the solution that you provide. It is an important step because an idea without customers is not a business. Put your idea out there at a low cost, and see who is attracted to it. Watch how the market responds to it.

In my view, the first twelve to twenty-four months of a startup should be spent finding the customers – and they may not be the people you thought at first. If you’re able to attract a critical mass who like your offering and are willing to pay for it, then you’ve confirmed that you have a market for your idea. Otherwise, pivot.

Learn Aggressively: A startup doesn’t need a business plan but a learning plan. Your idea is new to the market, and you have no clue how the market would respond to it. Therefore, it helps to take a learning posture. As you engage the market, it’s wise to use the first year or two to study your customers and the dynamics of your business in the market. Be aggressive about learning at this stage, and if done right, a business model would emerge.

Scale on Learnings: Once you have a business model, then it’s time to scale. Many businesses have failed because they scaled without first understanding the rationale behind their business. Your learnings in the customer discovery stage and the emergence of a business model are your cue to scale. It’s not wise to scale blindly or based on emotions. Also, as you scale, don’t stop learning.