Opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of Rolling Stone editors or publishers.
Starting a successful business has been the greatest satisfaction I could have experienced in my professional life. From investment services to esports, I’ve started and been lucky enough to find success in several ventures. Make no mistake — it’s hard, takes a lot of time and requires passionate dedication. But reaching success certainly is an awesome and indeed worthwhile reward for all those painstaking efforts.
To avoid finding yourself in a tough spot or feeling like you’re stranded on a desert island with nowhere left to go, ask yourself these seven questions before starting your entrepreneurial journey. There is no way to guarantee success, but we can improve our chances in a big way if we have a clear path and are honest with ourselves and our intentions.
1. What Problem Am I Solving?
This is the first question you need to ask yourself. The answer starts with: My product solves X. If you don’t have the answer you need to stop right there. Think about how your product or service improves your clients’ lives.
How does your product positively impact their experience? This aspect is important because it will tell you your product has value. It means people will want to buy it, as it’s a game-changer in some way.
2. How Much Money Do I Need to Start?
Don’t think of what your business should look like at its peak. Of course, it would be great to have unlimited funds and invest in everything you need to start a business from scratch with your guns blazing.
However, it might not be necessary. If you are self-funding or funds are limited, think of what you need only to get started. You probably need much less than you think. Remember, Jeff Bezos started Amazon by packing the items he sold in his garage.
3. What Is the Competition Like?
Running a business is the same as competing. Each entrepreneur is trying to outplay the competition to get as many clients as possible. You need to know who you are competing against; this helps you understand where your product stands out.
A quick internet search should give you plenty of information on who your competitors could be. You can analyze them to find their weaknesses and determine if your product has some added value.
4. What Makes My Product Stand Out?
This is important to understand as it’s the feature that is going to make your clients choose your product over your competitor’s products. The answer to the question should appear on all your marketing materials.
It could be something extremely simple such as all the raw materials being sourced locally. Or maybe your item has a unique design feature that is not repeated throughout the collection. If your product doesn’t have a differentiator, do some brainstorming and come up with one to gain an edge over your competitors.
5. Do I Need a Co-Founder?
This can be an important part of your success, but the person you choose to take the path of entrepreneurship with needs to be on the same vibe. Have a chat about the business project and find out the following:
• Where do you both see the company in one, five or 10 years?
• What are the exit, long-term ownership or sell-for-profit plans?
• How do you separate if things don’t work out?
• What priorities do you both have that are more important than the business?
Once you have found you are on common ground, the first thing to establish from my personal experience is who makes the final decision. This will avoid troublesome discussions to a large extent, streamlining business decisions and allowing you to concentrate on your success.
6. What Drives Me?
Motivation is clearly the answer to being a successful entrepreneur. But what exactly drives your motivation? Is the business venture you are considering a product you are passionate about? Or is the project purely a great play and you are sure you are going to make a ton of money?
Understanding what motivates you is going to help you have a clear focus on why you are in this business. Whatever your motivation, what you need to understand is: It takes grit. I have met many smart people with lots of passion who, despite having a good idea, fall by the wayside. What they lacked was grit. This stuff you won’t learn at any college — you can only teach yourself.
7. What Are My Limits?
The answer to this question needs to be set from the beginning. You need to know how much you are willing to lose in both time and money before you automatically shut down. This aspect is not something most people like considering.
Yet when you enter a gamble, you have already decided beforehand how much you are going to lose, right? When you make an investment, let’s say buying some stocks, you’re not likely to put everything you have in that one security. Starting a business is the same; there is a risk, and it needs to be checked.
Starting a business takes up a large amount of time and energy. You are going to need to decide what parts of your life are going to be affected. You may have to give up some things completely, while other aspects of your life may need to be re-dimensioned.
Understand that if you are in this 100% and are willing to give it all it takes in terms of emotions and energy, then you might find success in entrepreneurship. But even then, nothing is guaranteed. However, you can bolster your chances by honestly answering these key questions I’ve outlined above.