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What everybody ought to know about starting a business

Starting a business
Twenty years ago I did something foolish. I quit my job to start my own business. At the time I had a young family to support, but worse—no clue what I was going to do or how. As a young primary school vice-principal in a regional city, I was no longer enjoying the job.

With hindsight, I must have seemed crazy!

Quitting my job
Before quitting I saw a career counsellor. We identified a passion in which I had some practical experience— fitness and wellbeing. The explosion of the fitness and wellness movement came much later. At the time I started there were some early hints that it was emerging, so it was the best shot I had.

Learning
invested some time and money in learning about fitness and adult learning, hoping to build up more expertise. I also blew a bit of money on logos, business cards, stationery, equipment, phones and memberships. None of it was sufficient to start and sustain a business.

Networking
Networking was big in those days. Events were opportunities to meet people that might lead to work, and I travelled just about everywhere in the hope of making a sale.

Money
Unfortunately, in not being able to sell, and not even sure what I was selling, led to me chasing any new idea or trend, hoping to cash in. The more desperate I got, the more I kept changing direction—desperately seeking the holy grail.

It’s not how you start and grow a business.

Mentors
This lack of direction changed when attending one of those events I met someone who became my mentor. He took me under his wing and changed the way I thought about business.

It was not a smooth transition. My mentor identified quite early on that I had neither direction nor focus. Nor any real understanding of business and how it worked. In a sense, I was all puff and no substance.

He helped me identify a business need where I lived. Then he worked with me to find clients and work on their projects. He provided marketing consulting, and my job was to provide the marketing implementation for the client.

His mentoring was a mixture of advice, reading, asking me difficult questions to reflect on and through working together on over 50 projects. That’s what has increased my depth of marketing and business know-how over the last twenty years.

Without his direction and help, I would of continued floundering like a fish out of water.

Moreover, now I’m in a position to help others.

What do you need to know when you are thinking about starting a business?

A business solves a customer’s problem.

It provides the skill or know-how to solve the problem, one where the customer is willing to pay more than what it cost to produce that solution.

That means a business has to do three things:

  • It must have a product (that solves a problem),
  • that it can sell and
  • deliver.

Remembering, that once you’ve solved the customer’s problem, the most important thing is to get paid.

Without this, there is no business.

If you are lucky, you already have skills and know-how built up over several years solving expert problems.
Learning how to market and sell your product comes next.
Help to develop your business idea, along with a range of practical advice, can be found from state and local government departments, often online.

Seeking help and advice will save you time, heartache and money. I learned this the hard way. If you can find a knowledgeable mentor, even better.

My finding a mentor was serendipitous. I was lucky finding one who was patient, caring and was, and still is, prepared to put in the time to help me. I am very thankful to him and hope that my writing will do him justice, and help others to survive, grow and thrive in their businesses.

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