Starting a business, the first step

Several would-be entrepreneurs reached out to me at the end of the year, seeking advice on how to get started with their business ideas. In the course of those conversations, I realized that ideas and expectations were all over the place: they had some pieces in place, while skipping crucial steps in others.

The exercises made me realize that while there’s no end to “starting a business” advice, very little of it explains what you do immediately after the “Hey, wouldn’t it be great if…” moment (probably because that stuff is uninteresting and doesn’t fill a publishable book). Yet it’s crucial that you make those very first steps and not skip ahead, because the answers will rear their heads down the road, whether you considered them or not. I figured some were revving up for New Year’s resolutions, which made me realize that there’s probably others out there looking for the same answer.

So, you have an idea. Awesome! How do you evaluate the idea? What’s the first step? Come up with valid answers to these 8 questions:

    * What does your product actually DO? * What pain point are you trying to solve? * Who is your target audience? * How will you make money? * How will you reach your target audience? * Identify your first customer. Name the person/company. * Lay out your prototype – MINIMUM product features necessary to deliver to the first customer. * Name your competition.

Why do I consider these questions “The first step?”

Every startup is different, and comes with a lot of unknowns, doubly so if you’re a first-time entrepreneur. But for all their differences, a number of foundational characteristics remain constant. These questions represent that bare essential information necessary to make any startup successful. You absolutely MUST have answers to these questions, or your setting yourself up for trouble down the road.

I’ll cover each question over the coming days, but you are encouraged to take a shot at answering them.