Ken Colwell wants to fix your head. The author of the brand new Starting a Business QuickStart Guide says many believe entrepreneurs are born not made, and this is pure folly. Such thinking “is not only erroneous, but self-limiting,” he writes, going on to outline how fear of failure may be the root cause of otherwise talented folks hesitating to start businesses. This guide gives the reader confidence to reverse negative mindsets – terming failures learning tools – along with a comprehensive, yellow brick road of steps to follow toward the launchpad. Covered within are everything from figuring out what problem is being solved all the way through writing an effective business plan and if your conclusion is that’s just too much damned work for someone who barely has time to do laundry and put dinner on the table, fair enough. But if it gnaws at you, at least peruse the book to see how chunking the assignment may just make it palatable after all.
One of the best lessons herein centers on figuring out whether or not you’d have a viable business. Outside of solving a problem, consider whether or not a market exists that isn’t too crowded, one in which you’d demonstrate a competitive advantage with an offering that isn’t too obvious to those who lack your background, experience, or insight. The best way to figure this out? Ask! You can go to the free public library and talk to the nice lady with the funny glasses and card catalog, but there are better ways. Surveys & questionnaires target specific people and result in quantitative data, yet likely won’t capture nuanced opinion and emotion. Colwell suggests the best source of information is interviews, through which one gathers the most current, meaningful data in real time. You may unearth the reality that your prospective customers handle your stuff themselves and can’t see a reason to pay an outsider, nice as you surely are. Just as important, it may be they’re doing nothing (emphasis as if spoken by George Costanza describing what Jerry is about). “If ‘nothing’ is performing fine and not costing your customers anything,” he writes, “then changing their behavior becomes very difficult.” Big facts.
And yeah, you’ll need money. It’s an awkward topic often avoided, but get over it, Sasquatch. In addition to basic knowledge of working capital, the balance sheet, and income & cash flow statements, a business owner must have ready access to financing. The book covers heady topics like venture capital and angel investing while pointing out less than 1% of start-ups will realize these sorts of cash injections. The rest of us are left to cajole the loot out of friends & family – fraught with difficulties, of course – or perhaps bootstrap. The author calls bootstrapping “a minimalist approach to funding” as well as “a driver for creative solutions and ingenious ways to stretch resources.” Now we’re talking. Like everywhere else in this book, the reader is given practical wisdom rooted in minimizing risk. Sure, the continual pressure to produce cash may result in risk aversion, but at least one’s edge is maintained along with those precious speaking terms with Auntie Gert at Thanksgiving. Money aside, there’s plenty to consider before hanging the proverbial shingle. Anyone who starts a business without absorbing a guide like Colwell’s is an accident waiting to happen.