After Your Big Idea, Before the Business Plan

By Kenny Smilovitch, Director of the Duman Entrepreneurship Center

An aspiring entrepreneur recently asked me, “What is the first thing I should do when considering starting a business for the very first time?” We often hear, “It is important to have a well-thought-out business plan,” a map that will guide us as we navigate the challenges en route to realizing our vision. But before we consider details of the plan such as business structure, registration, insurance and licenses, allow me to highlight a few components that I feel are critical before getting started: character, experience, marketing and support. So grab a coffee and let’s reflect on some ideas you may want to flesh out on your laptop or on the back of a napkin.

Character

As entrepreneurs, we live 24/7 with our ideas front and center and are constantly pushing boundaries about how everyday challenges can be effectively addressed or improved. We are analytical, innovative and determined. But because we are so close to our ideas, we can sometimes forget our master plan may have to change as we learn more about the marketplace, the competitive landscape and our customer’s needs—we need to learn to adapt. At our best, entrepreneurs are hard-working, open to new ideas, flexible, customer-focused and understand the value of relationships and feedback. Entrepreneurs thrive when embracing a learning culture and develop a process for making informed decisions based on sound business practices. An open-minded outlook can help us develop our skills and learn more about ourselves and the customers we serve.

Experience

Do you have industry knowledge and a compelling vision for your start-up’s future? Think about the many different skill sets you will need to have in your new business—leadership qualities, people skills, marketing insights, legal knowledge and financial smarts. The list is long and can seem overwhelming at first. The key thing to remember is that no one person is an expert in all these areas. We may have obtained some experience in our careers that will help us with some of our start-up needs. But what about all the other areas? If we are inquisitive and not afraid to ask for help, we can surround ourselves with information that can help guide us through the choices we will need to make along the way. Help can take the form of casual weekly gatherings with experienced friends or mentors who can offer insights and advice or through more formal advising, workshop and training opportunities. The good news is there are a variety of programs and services to help you better understand the required skill sets and how they may relate to your venture—many of them available at no cost.

Have a quick question about your business idea? Already have a business plan and would like to have someone review it? Need a second opinion on your financial projections? Curious if your business is eligible for funding? We’re here to help. For more information on how the Duman Entrepreneurship Center can help you, please call 855.INFO.JVS.

In Part Two, Kenny Smilovitch will discuss Start-up Marketing and Support.