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How To Start A Business

So who's running the business?

I often get asked about a new business idea. Someone has an idea for a business and wants to know what I think about it. Now most of these people are making the same mistake. They are thinking about what they want to do, not what customer problem they want to solve.

The result is that there are lots of underperforming businesses out there and the failure rate of small business is brutal.

This fixation with doing is a big part of the lack of success. It's not entirely surprising. Right from high school, we asked "What do you want to do?". We invest heavily in becoming a doer - a doctor or an engineer, or learn some kind of trade or skill. Then we pin our identity to this doer - we call ourselves a plumber, or carpenter or surgeon. Our identify is an immensely powerful part of us and drives a huge proportion of our habits, beliefs and actions.

My news to you is that deciding what you want to do is no way to start a business. It's not about what you want to do. It's about customers' problems and solving them. You need to do whatever it takes to solve their problems. This includes finding the solution, hiring the people to deliver the solutions, marketing the solutions and making sales. That’s what you need to do to have a successful business.

I certainly experienced this first hand. I originally qualified as an IT professional with a computer science degree. After many years in business, I was still wrestling with the conflict between wanting to be an IT professional solving IT problems, with needing to be a business leader solving business problems. The lightbulb moment came to me with reading Michael Gerber's famous "The E-Myth" which I recommend to anyone who enjoys reading.

If you just want to make cakes, or perform brain surgery, in short do something, then get a job doing something. You get a regular pay-cheque, get to do what you love to do, and don’t have to worry about selling, looking after customers, managing staff or making it all fly commercially. You don’t risk personal bankruptcy and losing your house either.

But if you want a business that does something profitable, the best place for you is running the company, not doing the doing.

I spend much of my time as a coach helping business owners understand how their identify is driving habits which are holding back their businesses. The classic example is the business owner who just doesn't seem to get around to working ON his business because there are customer demanding his attention. There will always be customers demanding things. Your job is to put people in place to serve the customers, then making sure they're doing the job to the standards your customers want.

So look around for a problem which needs solving, with customers willing to pay money to have it solved, and not many competitors. If you can solve their problems profitably, you've struck gold. You have a promising opportunity for a business. Just get yourself out of the doing just as quickly as you can and focus on building the business, whatever that takes.


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