Taking your first steps towards setting up and running your own business can be exciting, but also nerve-wracking and challenging. There’s lots to think about, particularly if you’ve never been self-employed before.

There’s a great deal of help and support available, but most of it is very practical, and doesn’t necessarily focus on the critical role that you, as the proprietor, play. A savvy business owner can make a mediocre business a successful one, but a mediocre business owner can make a mess of a brilliant business idea.

Holding a mirror up to yourself and understanding your strengths and weaknesses is vital if you’re to make the most of any opportunity you’re pursuing.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • What aspects of running a business interest you?
  • What might you neglect or put off?
  • What functional skills (selling, IT, finance etc.) do you have?
  • How will you manage those areas you’re not so good at?
  • What’s your communication style and how will that impact building relationships/managing staff/suppliers etc?
  • Who can you turn to for impartial advice and feedback?
  • Where will you go for help and assistance?
  • What resources are out there?
  • How comfortable are you networking and marketing yourself?

Understanding your motivators, drivers, skills and personality style is essential to becoming an effective entrepreneur. It will also help you to plan for and overcome the potential challenges of running your own business such as isolation, accountability, and the lack of support, benefits or training.

Before you get started

The excitement and urgency of setting up a business can rush your thinking. So, it’s a good idea to present your plans to a neutral party. This can often throw up flaws and inconsistencies that you’ll want to address before you get started.

It may sound obvious, but before you do anything, (especially anything that involves financial investment), write a business plan. This should include information about:

Market research

  • Who are your key customers?
  • How are you differentiating yourself from the competition?
  • How will you monitor what’s happening in the market?
  • What changes are occurring in the market in terms of trends, needs or competition?
  • Are you dedicating enough time to monitoring this?

Sales & marketing

  • What’s your proposition?
  • What marketing collateral will you need (website, social media presence, literature)?
  • Who will create it for you?
  • Do you have a marketing budget?
  • Have you written your sales pitch?
  • What time are you setting aside for ongoing business development to ensure a pipeline of work?
  • What analysis are you undertaking to understand who your most profitable customers are?
  • How can you improve customer service levels and retention rates?

Cash flow management

  • How quickly do you need to pay your suppliers?
  • How long will customers take to pay?
  • What can you do to accelerate payment?
  • How effective is the financial control of your business?
  • How regularly do you review business performance?

Personal and professional development

  • What investment are you making in your own professional development to keep abreast of best practice and the latest technologies or methodologies?
  • Who can you turn to for advice, counsel and feedback?

This is by no means an exhaustive list but just some of the areas that can affect the success of your business.

This article was written by the career coaching experts at Chiumento.

Starting your own business can be one of the most rewarding, exciting and satisfying things you can do. But it’s not for everyone. Talking to a business coach can help you decide whether it’s right for you.

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