Starting a business? 5 important first steps you need to know!

May 14, 2020

Recently, I was asked the question:

What are you observing about people’s appetite to start their own business in the current climate?

I work with entrepreneurs and aspiring business owners. Specifically, independent consultants and professionals who want to launch their own consultancy.

Here’s what I’ve noticed.

Even prior to global shutdowns, people who’d been considering starting their own business were hesitant about COVID-19. Their initial response was one of watching and waiting.

Once we all got through the initial shock, we moved into a stage of acceptance. Yes, things have changed. But people are now looking at the opportunities and acknowledge the need to move forward.

What’s so interesting about this time? In the past, the biggest obstacle preventing my clients from making the leap into their own business was the fear of leaving the security of their current job.

But this recent experience has shown us how unexpectedly things can change. We now realise — even our jobs are not secure!

I’ve seen two groups of people emerge from this situation.

  1. Those who’ve recognised the opportunity to start a side business. To create a second income stream and take control over their financial future. Perhaps, eventually transition into their business full-time.
  2. People in between roles. They either have an existing side hustle which they’ve decided to focus on full-time. Or are using this time to try something new.

Historically, many successful businesses were established during times of economic downturn. Companies including Uber, Airbnb and WhatsApp arose in 2008/2009 following the GFC, along with plenty of thriving individual entrepreneurs!

So, if you’ve decided NOW is the time to start a business — what are the first few steps you should take?

Read on to learn the 5 essential steps you must take when starting out to build a sustainable, long-term business. You’ll discover a simple way to start making money and how to set your business up for success from the outset!

STEP #1 — START WITH WHY

In my last article, I discussed the importance of testing and validating a business idea before investing in starting a business. In it, I outlined a step-by-step process and the exact questions you should ask to determine if your idea is viable.

Testing and validating your business idea is vital. But there’s an even more critical first step that many aspiring entrepreneurs miss. Having a clear ‘why’ — or reason for starting their business.

A strong purpose or ‘why’ — beyond just making money — is essential if you want to build a sustainable, long-term business. Your purpose motivates you to get out of bed and go to work each day. And it’s what keeps you going, even during the tough times.

This is why it’s crucial to start here. Getting clear on your mission or purpose is the essential first step when launching your business.

STEP #2 — KNOW WHAT YOU WANT (+ WHY)

I work with many entrepreneurs in their first few years of business. They want help because they’re exhausted, lacking motivation and direction. Are heading towards burnout or even ready to quit.

Or, they’re feeling completely unfulfilled. Questioning if having a business is worth it. Maybe even considering going back to a J-O-B.

Why?

Because they have no idea what they’re working towards — or why. They either never considered these important elements when first starting their business. Or, are no longer honouring them.

To build a lasting business — one that keeps you thriving in your personal and professional life — you must get clear on your vision, purpose and values from the start!

This begins with a clear and compelling vision — knowing exactly what you want to create in your business and life. Having a strong purpose behind your business. As well as understanding your highest values — what’s most important to you.

I’ve written many in depth articles to help you identify your vision, purpose and values. But here are some initial questions to get you started:

  • Vision. Picture yourself in 3-5 year’s time. What do you want your business and life to look like?
  • Purpose. What’s your ‘why’ — the purpose, cause or belief behind your business? Why do you do what you do?
  • Values. What in life is most important to you?

STEP #3 — CHECK OUT THE COMPETITION

Once you’ve got a firm understanding of what your dream business looks like and why you want to create it, now is the time to test and validate. This is an important step to confirm your business idea is financially viable. It’s also helpful if you have too many potential ideas and need to narrow it down to the right one.

As mentioned in my last article, I highly recommend exploratory chats with other entrepreneurs already running the type of business you want to start. The point of these conversations is to get real insights into what it’s like to operate a business in a particular niche or industry sector. From there, you’ll start to understand if this business is right for you — and if it makes sense financially.

Finding there are a number of businesses already operating in your area? This is actually a very good sign. It shows there is already a proven market for what you do!

And if you’re concerned about the competition and entering into a saturated market — don’t be! Keep in mind there are several billion people in the world and you’re only serving a portion of the population at a time. Plus, there is no-one else with your unique perspective, personality or experience!

STEP #4 — TALK TO YOUR TARGET CLIENTS

This is an essential step to test, validate and start to monetise your business idea. Before embarking on these discussions, you need to know who your ideal customer is and understand their main pain-points. Plus, have a clear offer and ability to articulate the solutions that you/your services provide.

Talk to your target clients to understand their problems, challenges, dreams, ideal solutions and buying experience. These conversations give you market information and the exact customer language to use in your marketing materials — sales pages, social posts and content. As well as direct client feedback and the ability to start making offers.

Here are some specific questions to ask:

  • How are things now — what are their biggest frustrations or pain-points as it relates to your offer / area of expertise?
  • What do they wish they could change about their current situation?
  • What will it cost them — in the short-term and long-term — if they don’t address these issues now?
  • Goals — What are their goals as it relates to your service / area of expertise?
  • Why is this important to them?
  • What will be the impact of them accomplishing this goal?
  • What is their dream solution as it relates to your offer?

STEP #5 — START MAKING MONEY

I specialise in supporting consultants and serviced based entrepreneurs but this strategy also applies to product based businesses. To start to monetise, you need to talk to your prospects, understand their pain-points and match back the right solutions. Then, make offers.

If you’re following the process above, the conversation with a potential client is going well and you know you can help, let them know! Ask for their permission to share more. Explain how your service will solve their problems and what the benefits and results are.

Then if it feels right, make them an offer!

If you’re just starting out, you might begin with a free or low cost offer to gain experience, build confidence and get amazing testimonials. However, always limit this to a small number (say 3-5 clients) and for a short timeframe. From there, you can build up from free or low cost offers and increase your prices over time!

So, there you have it. The crucial first steps you must take when starting your business to set up the right foundations and begin making money.

These actions have helped my clients and I build a lasting business and thrive in our professional and personal lives. I hope these support you too!

Need further support to make the leap into your own business? It’s tough to transition from your corporate job when you don’t know how or where to start!

Get the complete step-by-step framework to launch your dream business. It builds on the steps outlined above + dives a whole lot deeper! Get it NOW.

Stacey Back is an online business coach, career strategist and the Founder of Profile Careers. She helps high-achieving professionals go from trapped in their corporate careers to transitioning into their own consultancy.

Stacey also supports established consultants who are stuck in a business model they hate, lacking direction and motivation or working longer hours than ever. She helps them establish the right foundations in their business so they can find more time and create a consulting business doing the work they love — one that supports their ideal lifestyle.

Stacey works virtually with individuals based across Australia and internationally.