So, you’re preparing to launch the business that you have poured your heart and soul into and you want to dive in head-first. However, there are too many unknowns and you just can’t take a leap of faith that might land you — and your fledgling company — in the poorhouse. Fortunately, there are ways that you can have your cake and eat it, too.
Make a smart business plan.
Peruse any standard business textbook and it will tout the virtues of the old-school business plan. That amounts to pages and pages of scrupulously calculated figures and deeply researched facts having to do with every aspect of your business.
The reality is that crafting this tome will be overwhelming if you’re working 40 or more hours a week, especially if you have family responsibilities on top of that. The good news is that it’s not even necessary to write this magnum opus. Sure, you need to plan; anything worth doing should be mapped out. However, instead of that creaky old business plan, we’d advise you simply take one or two pages to answer the following questions:
- What is your product or service?
- What need does it meet and what sets it apart from the rest?
- Who are your customers?
- How will you let your customers know about your product or service?
- Where will your revenue come from and how much do you think it will be?
- What costs do you expect to incur?
In the beginning, you will just fill in the bare bones as you ponder these issues. However, as each answer takes form and substance, you will get a truer picture of how your business will run while saving yourself from stress down the line.
Don’t step on any toes.
It’s all too easy to get sucked into the seemingly infinite number of details involved with launching your company. By the same token, you might be tempted to multi-task at your day job in the name of efficiency. Don’t do it. Shirking your current responsibilities or taking advantage of your workplace’s time and resources are big no-nos that might just get you fired and set all of your plans back.
Is your new business a direct outgrowth of the work you are being paid to do? Did any of your product ideas come from your job? If so (and particularly if you signed any type of nondisclosure agreement) you could be skating on very thin ice. Consult a lawyer to make sure that you aren’t making yourself vulnerable to a lawsuit. Burned bridges with your boss are the least of your worries in this arena.
Find a partner.
Walking the startup road alone can be a daunting prospect that leaves you carrying all of the burdens, both work-related and psychological. That’s why it’s ideal to find a co-founder who shares your vision and is willing to contribute some of the blood, sweat, and tears as well.
Believe it or not, teaming up with someone is often perceived as a sign of strength by investors. After all, they see that there are two or several people who are committed to the success of the operation instead of just one. Furthermore, they know that the foundation of the company will remain strong even if someone leaves. Speaking of that, make sure you put a vesting schedule in place that only gives full equity after a relatively long period of time. This helps to ensure that your partner will stick around for the long haul.
Put your ear to the ground.
Before you shell out big bucks to unveil your new business and your exciting products, you need to make sure that your potential customers truly do want or need what you are offering and are willing to put their money where their mouths are. Although it can be a bit of a challenge, you will probably need to take some time off here and there to accomplish this task since you’ll need to interview customers and even show them inexpensive prototypes of your product.
Supplement this tactic with online surveys that allow you to reach a large number of customers with little effort on your part. This combination of in-person and electronic strategies has saved many a new entrepreneur from going too far down the path with an idea that no one is interested in spending money to purchase.
Harness the power of the internet.
Your humble laptop or PC can connect you to the world and can be an indispensable tool in helping you to recognize if people actually are interested in your products and services. It is quite inexpensive to buy a domain name and construct a simple website on which you can test your concept. Augment this by looking at Google Ads to check into whether people are searching Google for words that connect with your new business.
Sites like Facebook and Instagram are also great platforms to launch test ads on. If you get a lot of clicks, it’s a pretty good indication that your business will fill a need. Best of all, these cyber-tasks can be accomplished day or night in your spare time after you get home from work.
Make solid investments.
While you are still getting a paycheck from someone else, squirrel some funds away for legitimate investments that you’ll need for your new company. These include the following:
- Domain and website.
- Prototypes, interviews, and other tools to gauge customer interest.
- A good lawyer.
- Tried and true marketing strategies to attract and cultivate customers.
At the same time, avoid bells and whistles such as hiring an accountant for tasks that you could do yourself with simple software at this early stage of your business’ development.
Use job contacts.
Your day job might take up much of your time, but it also furnishes you with a gold mine: Networking contacts. Think of each and every person you see in your work or personal life as potentially beneficial to your business as a customer, contractor, investor, mentor, etc. Don’t be shy about tooting your own horn; you never know what spark might be created and what eventual effect it could have.
Make some trade-offs.
Once you are becoming more certain of your goals, your products, and the customers who will make it all possible, the real hard work will begin. Long before you accept payments from customers, you’ll need to go the extra mile for your company as you prepare to launch it. That may mean several months when you put some of your priorities, hobbies, and even friends and family on the back burner. Of course, this requires buy-in from the people who are close to you, so be sure that everyone in your immediate circle knows what you are doing and why. (You never know: They might even volunteer to help.)
Once you have accomplished these tasks, you are ready to set sail on your new adventure. You have a product that customers want, a solid base of patrons who are already interested, a support network of cofounders and/or mentors, and the help of the internet to advertise and market to the whole wide world. Then and only then, after all of this careful preparation, is the time to say a warm farewell to your day job.