Five Ways to Find Your Business Fit
Entrepreneur's New Year’s Guide
When asked their reasons for wanting to strike out on their own and start a business, people seldom say, "More money." Most of the time I've heard, "More time with the family," "more flexibility during the day," or some other unfulfilled quality of life desire.
Granted, money certainly plays a key role in their making a "go" or "no go" decision, especially in a slow economy. But becoming an entrepreneur, whether you're starting from scratch or buying into a franchise or existing business, requires you to look beyond simple financial returns.
You may already be earning a good living. But other than making money, maybe you just can't find another compelling reason to go to work in the morning.
Related: Starting a Business: The Idea Phase
Money alone is not enough to keep most people fulfilled. I recommend evaluating a business opportunity against the following five factors to make sure once the newness wears off, you will still feel content with your decision:
1. Is there a financial fit? Run three financial scenarios – best case, average case (or best guess) and worst case. Shoot for the best case, but make sure your decision is based on the average case scenario. Also, make sure you can survive the worst case. If the house takes your poker chips, make sure you have the necessary cab fare home.
2. Does the job match your personality? What does the business owner do each day? Will you find that work meaningful and satisfying? Will you be good at it? One of the most effective ways to answer these questions is to contact people you've worked with in the past, and ask for honest opinions. Past performance reviews can help, too.
3. Will you fit in with the culture and environment? Go out and meet many of the people you will be potentially working with. If it's a franchise operation, meet the franchisor's leadership and support staff. If you are acquiring a business, talk to the employees, customers and vendors. Are these people you can build rock-solid relationships with, or are they going to suck out your life force through your eyeballs?
4. Is there a compelling value proposition? Make sure you have high belief and confidence in what you're selling. Does the product or service add more value than it costs? Does it have staying power in the marketplace, or will it be replaced by something new? For instance, Blockbuster customers once loved the "bricks and mortar" video rental experience. Then Netflix and Redbox came along and offered the same movies at a more affordable cost through more convenient venues. Customers voted with their pocket books that convenience was more valuable to them than shopping experience, which eventually led to the demise of hundreds of Blockbuster stores.
5. Is this calling you to a higher purpose? I've consulted for Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream, which sells much more than ice cream. The business exists to provide "innovative ways to improve the quality of life locally, nationally and internationally." Google seeks to "organize the world's information and make it universally accessible and useful." Do most successful business people tap into their sense of purpose? No, but all the fulfilled ones do. You need to look into the future and ask what makes your feet hit the floor every morning.
Most of all, I encourage you think beyond the here and now when deciding whether to leap into a business venture. Think about your legacy. When the time comes to sell the business or retire, is this going to be something worth being remembered for?
Related: An Introduction to Business Plans