3 Make-or-Break Questions For Starting a Business

You can drown in advice when you decide to go out on your own. Pay attention to what really matters.

What do you do when you know you want to start a business but you can’t sift through all of the how-to information available online and in books? It’s overwhelming! If you’re starting a venture, you must define these three things before you get inundated in the How-To Quagmire.

What is your value proposition?

 What is the thing you are selling and how does it add value or take the pain away from your potential customer? This might sound trivial but it’s not. Write a few sentences describing your actual product, its usefulness and why people will want it. The most important thing to remember is that selling is communicating. How are you helping your customer?

- Writing about food is not a business, but writing about delicious food that takes less than 30 minutes to prepare could be.

- Traveling is not a business, but providing resources so people can get the most out of their airline miles could be.

- Inspiring people is not a business, but teaching an online class titled: “Transform Self-Doubt into Confidence” could be.

Who is your target market? 

Do you know who would buy this thing you are providing? How do you know they would want this and if they would pay for it? Ramit Sethi does a great job talking about the “2-Qualifier Method,” and Eric Reis talks about a “customer avatar” in The Lean Startup. In essence, you have to be specific when finding a target market. “Women between 18-55” is not a target market. “Mothers between 25-35 living in New York City” is better.

Get feedback from that target market.

 Send an email. Ask your friends. Ask your spouse's friends. Sure, you can research case studies, but if you are targeting a certain group of people, chances are you know some of them. Make sure they truly want the solution you are creating. Even feedback from 20 people is enough to understand whether your idea could work. The most important thing to find out from these individuals is the reason why they would or wouldn’t use your product. If they would, does it match the initial assumption you made or did you learn a new selling point? If they wouldn’t, was it price? Confusion? Lack of desire? Time? Lack of interest?

The business cards, website, incorporation, social media postings and all of the rest come after these initial steps.

Bassam Tarazi is a career coach and founder of Colipera (Collective Inspiration, Personal Accountability). Author of The Accountability Effect, he runs goal-setting workshops for companies and universities.