What are the questions to ask before starting a business?
When I first decided to set up a coworking space in Totnes for women and I was doing my market research, I discovered that there are more female-run businesses in the South West than there are in the rest of the UK. I found it quite comforting that there are so many female entrepreneurs in the South Hams and Torbay.
It makes sense why we’d have such high levels of female business owners in the South West. We live in a less densely populated area where employment opportunities are limited so we are often driven to set up our own businesses.
But starting a business can be a scary concept, particularly if you have never done it before. There is a lot to consider and if this is your first business it will be a steep learning curve. But as with everything, planning and preparation prevent poor performance.
So before you even begin to think about taking the first steps towards launching your new business venture, there are certain questions to ask before going into business for yourself so you can work out if it is indeed what you want and whether you have the right tools at your disposal to make this work.
So let’s take a look at some of the things you need to figure out.
Why do you want to start a business?
Many people dream of starting their own business but the first thing to ask yourself is why you want to start a business. And you need to be specific here. What are the reasons that you want to go it alone. Do you dream of being your own boss? Do you want to be the one making the decisions? Do you want to work from home? Are you looking for more flexibility in your schedule? Do you want to choose your own hours or work from anywhere? Maybe you want a better work-life balance? Maybe you want a job that you can arrange around family commitments? Or maybe you want to do something that fills you with joy and that you are passionate about? Or maybe money is your motivation and that’s ok too.
Whatever the reason, make sure you get crystal clear on your why. Then think about whether you actually need to start a business in order to make this happen? Could you achieve the same result working for someone else?
If the answer is no, maybe starting your own business is the way to go. So write down your reason why and keep it safe. This may change over time, but you will need to refer back to this over and over again as you progress further along your business journey.
What are your goals?
Once you have clarified your reasons for wanting to start a business, you then need to work out what your goals are. Do you want to make a million pounds a year? Do you want to only work three days a week? Do you want to make a passive income? Do you want to expand the business to other locations? Do you want to employ staff? DO you want to sell it on for a profit one day? Do you want to franchise it? Get clear on your goals so you know where you need to go in the future.
Who is your target audience for this business?
Once we have established this, it is important to work out who your target audience is. This is extremely important when it comes to marketing your business. Are you aiming to attract female coaches? Women with confidence issues? Mothers with young children? Commuters? Breastfeeding women? Women with skin problems? Women with weight issues? Business owners who need a website?
Who is going to pay you for your products or services. Get clear on this. Write out a client persona that contains all the details about your target audience.
What is your USP?
So you know who your target audience is and what problem they need to solve. Next you need to think about why they would choose your solution over others that are available. What sets you apart from the competition? What is your unique selling point? In order for you to stand out from the crowd, there has to be something different about you. It might be your experience? Maybe it is your qualifications or a unique skill set that you have acquired? Maybe it’s your reputation? Maybe it’s a patented bit of technology you have developed or a new material? Maybe it’s your location?
Whatever it is, make sure it is unique to you. If the same can be said about your competitor, it is not unique. Try again!
What resources do you need?
It’s time to think about whether or not you have the resources already to start this business. If you’re lucky you’ll already have everything you need, otherwise you need to sit and make a plan of everything you will require to get started. If you’re thinking of launching a service business like coaching for example that relies heavily on your skills, you may only need to think about things like getting a website set up and some business stationery printed and building your profiles on social media. All of this is relatively inexpensive.
If you’re launching a product business, do you need to invest in stock, or equipment? Do you need photography? Do you need to find a physical premises?
Sit down, work out what resources you need, where you can find them and how much of an investment this will be.
Do you need help?
So, looking at the previous question, do you have the skills and resources to make this happen on your own or are you going to need help? Do you need to find a website designer, or a product photographer? Do you need suppliers? Do you need staff to help you manage this new business?
Make a list of all the people you will need help from. Then you can start looking into sourcing these people and how much you will need to invest.
Can this business idea make money?
Next comes a biggie. Is this business viable? It’s all very well doing something because it brings you immense joy and allows you to work part-time around your kids, but will it be profitable? Can you actually make a living from it? The last thing you want is to invest your hard earned money into a company that will never be able to repay you and sustain the lifestyle that you want.
Are you ready to invest your time into this business?
The last of our questions to ask before starting a business is: Are you ready? You may have gone through everything above and decided that it all looks fantastic, you are crystal clear on what needs to happen to get this highly profitable business off the ground and you have all the necessary resources. But if you are currently 8 months pregnant or about to embark on a round the world trip, is this the right time? Are you ready to invest the necessary time into making this dream a reality?
Hopefully, this has given you some food for thought and you now know some of the questions to ask before starting a business.
If you are thinking of setting up your own business or turning a side hustle into your main business and you’d like to find support from like-minded female entrepreneurs who are embarking on the same business journey, consider booking yourself a hot desk at our coworking space in Totnes. We’re building a lovely supportive community of women from Totnes, Dartmouth, Kingsbridge, Exeter and Plymouth and we’d love to welcome you in.
And while you’re here, perhaps you would like to sign up to our newsletter so you can find out about our upcoming events for female business owners in and around Totnes.
Stacey Sheppard is the founder of The Tribe, a small community-driven coworking space in Totnes that caters to creative, growth-oriented female entrepreneurs by providing an inspiring working environment designed to foster collaboration, connection and community.