Starting a Business

Brightest Idea

Your perfect business could be just a work sheet away.
3 min read

This story appears in the May 2001 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Starting a business isn't rocket science. Of course, it's not easy to begin a business, but it's not as complicated nor as scary as many people think. It's a step-by-step common-sense procedure. So take it one step at a time.

First step: Figure out what you want to do. You may have several ideas you'd like to pursue, but assuming you only have the time and money to start one, it's decision time. Too hard to choose just one? Start whittling down your ideas with the work sheet below. Most important, make sure you're pursuing a business that's in line with how you live your life and what you want out of it. If things work out well, you could be in this business for a long time. So choose carefully.

Once you have your final idea, talk to people to find out what they think. Ask, "Would you buy (or use) this? How much would you pay?"

Understand that many around you will not encourage you to become an entrepreneur. Some will envy your courage; others will resent you for having the guts to actually do something. To succeed, you can't allow these naysayers to dissuade you, to stop your journey before it even begins.

One of the most common warnings you'll hear is about risk. Sure, starting a business is risky, but keep in mind, there's a difference between foolish risks and calculated ones. If you carefully consider what you're doing, get help when you need it and never stop asking questions, you can mitigate your risk.

You cannot allow the specter of risk to prevent you from going forward. Ask yourself, "What am I really risking?" Then assess the dangers. What are you giving up? What will you lose if things don't work out? Don't risk what you can't afford. Don't risk your home, your family or your health. Ask yourself, "If this doesn't work, will I be worse off than I am now?" If all you have to lose is some time, energy and money, then the risk is probably worth it.

Determining what you want to do is only the first step. You've still got a lot of homework to do, a lot of research in front of you. Most important: Do something. Don't sit back year after year and say, "This is the year I'm going to start my business." Make this the year you really start it.

Business Comparison Work Sheet

This form helps you compare prospective businesses with your personal objectives, experience and lifestyle. Assign each business a column number. Answer each question along the left-hand side of the form, assigning a rating of 1 to 3 for each question, with 3 being the strongest. Total each column after you've finished. The opportunities with the highest scores are the most suitable for you.

Rate your experience and background in relation to the business.
Does the business meet your investments goals?
Will the business meet your income goals?
Will the business generate sufficient profits?
Does your family feel comfortable with the business?
Will the business satisfy your sense of status?
Is the business compatible with your people skills?
Is good growth projected for the overall industry of the business?
Is the risk factor acceptable?
Does the business require long hours
Is the business location-sensitive?
Does the business fit your personal goals and objectives?
Does this business fit your professional skills?

Taken from Start Your Own Business (Entrepreneur Press, $24.95) by Rieva Lesonsky and the staff of Entrepreneur

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