9 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Starting a Startup
Do you think the startup life is for you?
Every entrepreneur’s trajectory will be different but once your business idea appears promising, there are some building blocks worth having in place. Even knowing that the shape or the position of those building blocks will shift and adjust as you progress further down your path, it’s useful to start with some fundamentals.
Here are nine questions to help you figure out those building blocks right from the start.
1. Do you have time for this?
Spoiler alert: probably not. Like having a child or getting married, there is never a perfect time to launch a startup. So the question is actually, do you have time for this anyway?
2. Could you describe your new business in 30 seconds?
Name the value proposition of your product or service. Then explain why you and only you are uniquely qualified to deliver it. Be able to do this in 30 seconds or less.
3. Are you ready (like, really ready) to shoulder the burden?
4. Where’s the money?
Where will the money come from for your startup costs? Consider basic things like marketing collateral, office space and travel expenses, all the way to the tools or equipment that are specific to your industry.
If you’ve been ramping up the business as a side hustle while keeping your “day job,” keep in mind all the perks of an established business that will no longer be available to you once you’re on your own.
5. How much will customers or clients pay?
Assuming that you’re offering something new or unique, however, means that you’ll need to make some adjustments to the going rate, and that means convincing a whole new set of customers to pay a whole new price.
6. Do you have the stomach for this?
It’s about fortitude, as winemakers say when they’re asked if they’d take the risk or using natural (rather than synthetic) yeast in the fermentation process. When they’re being truly honest, most don’t have that aptitude for risk, as sexy and as innovative as it sounds. A similar degree of fortitude applies to entrepreneurs. Sexy idea, sure. But in the dark of the startup night? Maybe not so much.
7. How seduced are you by the image of an entrepreneur?
8. Are you okay with done, rather than perfect?
Think about this question in your day-to-day life right now. How many times do you read or re-read an email, for example, before you send it? Once you do send something out, how damaged are you by negative feedback? Do you recover quickly? The “fail fast” tenet is reality for entrepreneurs, so start experimenting with your comfort level around that.
9. What is your mission?
No, really. What is your mission? “We’re building this company to sell,” or “We want to make x millions of dollars” may actually be your end goal, but that’s different than your mission.
In between, at the waist of the hourglass, is your mission. It’s the skinniest part for a reason, which is the narrowly defined unique value that your startup adds to the ecosystem of its category. What can you do that no one else can do as well, that will ultimately add value to a specific type of customer? And, most importantly, why do you want to do it? Your mission lies right at the sweet spot.
At the end of the day, and at the end of this list of questions, is your reality. Each of these questions does have relevancy as you’re considering the startup life, but the “secret sauce” is your unique perspective and the circumstances that will shape the next phase of your professional life.
Cathy Huyghe is the co-founder of Enolytics LLC, which provides big data services to the wine industry. She is the author of the award-winning book, Hungry for Wine: Seeing the World through the Lens of a Wine Glass, and she has been honored with awards in both innovation and communication. She is a columnist about the business and politics of the wine industry at Forbes.com, and her forthcoming book is titled The Year of Living Entrepreneurially. Huyghe is also the founder of Harvard Alumni in Wine and Food and WritingForSeva.com. Find her online at cathyhuyghe.com and at Enolytics.com.Follow on:
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