From education to employment

A good time to start a business?

If you’ve decided to move on from FE, and you really don’t want a job in another organisation, then you’re faced with another question.

Is now a good time to start your business?

Your current employer may advise start-ups about the process of going into business and so, in theory, there’s plenty of advice about getting your business off the ground to be had in your own organisation.

However, things are a bit different when you decide to take the plunge yourself.  It’s real and it’s personal when you’re thinking about your own business.  You’ll need to interpret all that good advice in the context of your experiences, abilities, aspirations and future hopes.  That can be difficult.

So, is now the time?  Consider the following as you make your decision.

Do you have something to sell?

It may sound like a ridiculous question, but do you have something to sell?

Lots of people start businesses without a clear idea of what they are going to put on the market.  They say:

“I have me, and I’m good at what I do.”

That may be true, but what will your customers buy?  If you’re a talented and hardworking person who will be an asset to the customer’s team, doesn’t that mean you’re looking for another job?

If you’re not, then remember that when you go into business you need a product.  Don’t be a data protection consultant or a life coach selling your time.  Sell data protection compliance audits, or mid-life crisis survival programmes.  Package yourself as a product if you have to, but make sure you have something to sell.

Without a product there is never a good time to start a business.

Will you stand out from the crowd?

Are there hundreds, or maybe thousands, of businesses out there doing what you intend to do?

If there are, that’s not necessarily bad news.  The fact that there are already lots of people in your chosen niche suggests there is a market for what you intend to do.  The problem you face is differentiating yourself from all of those other businesses, and getting people to buy what you’re offering rather than what someone else is offering. You can’t afford to be the same as every one else.  Yours is a tiny business with no track record.  You need to set yourself apart. You need to be different from the competition, not the same.

You need to be focused on a very tightly defined market segment.  You need to appeal to a group of real people, who you can serve well, not a huge marketplace you would never have the resource to work with.

Think about this before you start your business.  Get this right and you’ll be creating an offer that your target market will want today and for the future.   Do this and you can be confident that now is a good time for you to start trading

Timing isn’t everything

I remember when I left FE to start my business.  Despite the grim economic circumstances of the time several people said to me:

“There’s always room for quality people in any marketplace.”

“Timing doesn’t matter.  It’s what you have to offer that counts.”

After many years in business I know that what they said is true.  People and organisations are spending money today and they’ll be spending money tomorrow.  They may be spending less on discretionary items but they never stop spending.

Therefore, timing isn’t the critical factor when you’re starting your business.  What you’re selling, who you’re planning to sell to and how you aim to sell your product matter a lot more.

Margaret Adams Chartered FCIPD is the author of The Solo Success Start-Up Guide. She helps expert professionals to prosper in business.  

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