When you are trying to develop a new business, you will need to focus on more than just developing and delivering a high-quality product or service. There will be multiple things that will all compete for your attention and require you to make careful choices at the right time. You will need to have a strong vision for the future, a detail-oriented approach for the present, and a plan to tie it all together.
If you are not sure what steps to take or even where to start, you are not alone! Having started and owned a DJ company, freelanced as a tutor, held various roles in education, and working with many small-business owners, I can attest that feeling anxious, overwhelmed, or even lost is common. In this entry, we will focus on three primary areas of research when starting any business.
Create an effective business plan
To begin, you should focus on creating a solid business plan. There are many formats for business plans that can be used. Whether you utilize a more report-type of format, such as one recommended by the U.S. Small Business Administration or a more visual template, such as the Business Model Canvas, a completed plan can set your direction as well as help you prioritize next steps. Every hour spend on this plan will save you countless hours, and headaches, in the future. Even a side-business that seems simple will greatly benefit from such planning. Ensure that while planning you are focusing on the things that will allow you to improve your business in the short and long term and include as many facts, and as few generalized assumptions, as possible.
Identify new opportunities and target markets
As part of your business plan, you will need to focus on identifying specific needs you feel your business may fulfill for people in your target market. No product or service can be all things to all people, so being able to parse out what job you expect people to be able to complete, or complete better, through your company is critical. Begin by asking how you and the people around you would view your product or service. Test your ideas with various potential customers and compile and analyze their feedback. This information should be used to identify what particular group of clients you will begin trying to reach. In other words, start with as small as still viable a group of potential customers for as clear as possible an outcome!
Research the competition
There is always competition in any industry space. Whether it is due to another company or just people completing tasks without your service or product, it is your job to get your target market to pay attention. You can research a template or matrix that helps you organize your main criteria for comparison (ex. price, accessibility, product/service matches) against an array of competitors. Pay special attention to the criteria that are requirements of your target market, points of parity with the competition, and potential areas for overlap with existing businesses. While it seems a bit counterintuitive, it may be even more important to play against the competition at times that play for clients.