Successful businesses are the ones that are consistently there for their customers and clients. Year, after year. Day, after day.
Cultivating your staying power is how you STAY in business.
No business is guaranteed to be around forever: markets change, things fall out of favor, and new ideas emerge. It’s a constant evolution.
But if you’ve got staying power, you can adapt and grow when your business needs to change.
So how do you gain this “staying power” that blends consistency with innovation into an almost indomitable force?
It starts with being in the RIGHT business.
I’ve found that there are a lot of reasons why people start a business. They might fall into business as an accidental entrepreneur, because of a need they see in the marketplace or because they’re just unemployable.
If you’re reading this post about how to start the right business, it’s likely because you’re already in business and you’re just not sure if the business you’re in is the right one… or you’re weighing your options for what kind of business to start in the first place.
How To Start The Right Business: Pick The Wrong Business, First?
My entrepreneurial journey started at a pretty young age… I designed my first website when I was 12, and ended up freelance web designing my high school’s website and took on a few other local businesses, too.
I tried my hand at designing t-shirts and selling them online through a “print on demand” service. I blogged about Halloween costumes and earned income through ads in the sidebar (that’s where I honed my search engine optimization skills, by the way!).
And I even spent some of my adolescent years in front of the computer “getting paid to surf the web” and looking at random websites, earning pennies for each site I visited… my parents thought it was a scam, but I actually made $40 in my pajamas.
Of course, I knew that none of these businesses were really the right business for me, long term.
So when it came time to start my own business after college, I actually didn’t know what passion of mine to pick. I had a degree in Software Engineering, but I just couldn’t see myself coding the types of projects I learned in school and getting paid for it.
So what did I do?
1. Coming up with good ideas for your business
The first thing I did was to sit down and mind map all of the possible different businesses I could start. I just jotted down all of my passions (there were a lot!) and things I could spend hours learning about without getting bored.
On my mind map I had topics like healthy eating, gardening, writing/fiction, self-help, software, web design, travel, languages…
Now, if I were to re-do that list today, I’d probably add a ton more topics that I’ve come to love over the years.
I decided to go with raw food / real food, because it was a pretty hot topic and I had such a great experience with it, along with getting my dad to eat healthier and lose weight, too.
What I didn’t really think through at the time was whether this was a topic I could see myself talking about for 5 years or 10 years, or even more. I knew I was passionate about it, but I realized a few years in that I preferred to have that as my lifestyle and not as my business.
So my exercise here for you is to do a similar mind map, and then to filter the ideas out by what you know you’ll be able to sustain as a main topic that you’ll cover for years to come.
The other half of the “how to start the right business equation” is to make sure that there’s a market for your business products and services. You might think to yourself that there are TONS of people willing to buy an ebook about raising llamas in Alaska… but you might want to do a little research to see if there are any other players in this field.
Interestingly, choosing a market or a niche that has existing competition can be a GOOD sign… it means that there’s money to be made, or at least people who are willing to pay for products and services in that market.
2. How to pick the right idea – when you have a whole lot of ‘em…
Now, if the previous exercise helped you to come up with lots of potential business ideas or main areas of expertise you could start a business around… you might be wondering how to pick the RIGHT one.
I’ll stop you right there. While I do believe there are good and bad business ideas, I don’t think it’s generally possible to know with 100% certainty if a business idea will work until you start taking steps in that direction.
There are plenty of times where I thought I was on to something in my business, only to put it out in the world and realize it was a dud.
And likewise, sometimes an off-hand remark can turn into a brilliant business gem.
However, you should do a little more digging before you invest a ton of time and money into starting a new business venture, especially if it’s your first one.
One thing I’ve learned along the way, is that pivoting in your business is generally a lot easier than starting a new business from scratch… turning a car that’s in motion is much easier than trying to push a car that hasn’t started yet.
So my advice for choosing the right business idea to pursue is to:
- Check in with your gut first: if you’re feeling drawn to an idea, find out what’s calling you in that direction. Sometimes we’re interested in an idea logically because we think it will be profitable or there’s a lot of money to be made, or because we think it will be easy… That’s not the right attitude to have going into business (trust me, even though this might sound counterintuitive!) if you want to be successful.
- Look at the existing marketplace: if you can’t find ANY competitors at all, it might not be a good market. If you can find similar concepts, but yours is slightly different – use that as an indicator that you’ll be able to disrupt the market. Even if you’re seeing a lot of competitors, it’s not a sign that you should back down… There are thousands of romance fiction writers and books out there, and there’s space for even more. The same goes for different types of businesses, too.
- Find your uniqueness: this is the fit between your aspirations, talents, and passions… and the market’s goals, struggles, and needs. If there’s overlap between what they want to achieve or get, and you know how to get them there in a way that you’ll be happy to deliver on this product or service day and night for years to come, you’ve got a winner. Now this doesn’t mean you’ll be stuck in a particular business model forever, it just means that you’ll have a strong foundation that will allow you to shift and adjust down the line.
3. How to test an idea to make sure it’ll work before you get going…
Now that you’ve brainstormed some ideas, and you’ve narrowed down how to start the right business for yourself… it’s time to test your idea before you go all in.
One way to do this is to do some potential customer research, and gather the words of your ideal customers. You can find these words on forums, review sites, Facebook groups, you name it…
From this data, you can start to spot trends. Maybe people are constantly saying they’re struggling with tying their shoes… or that they don’t have the money to invest in learning how to tie their shoes. (Silly example, I know!)
Either way, you’ll be gathering useful data. If the trend you notice isn’t indicative of a strong enough market need, then you’ll know that this idea might not gain traction.
However, you might have heard the quote from Henry Ford:
“If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.”
This basically means that you don’t want to base your entire business on what your ideal customers are saying they want… because you might actually see something even better for them.
To give you a concrete example in my business, I knew that people wanted to learn how to create a horizontal opt-in bar on their websites. I saw this question over and over again. So I created a quick video tutorial to explain how to do just that.
But then I took a step back, and realized that teaching people how to code a horizontal opt-in wasn’t the easiest way for them to get the end result. That’s why we ended up creating the PopupAlly Pro plugin, so that people could whip up a fully customized horizontal opt-in in just minutes, instead of learning how to code one from scratch.
Your assignment here is to be a fly on the wall, where your ideal customers are hanging out… and then formulate the solution you can offer to solve people’s problems.
Over To You Now…
Now, I’d love to know YOUR tips for starting the right business. How did you know you were on the right track when you started your business?