Talking business with Coco Soodek: Three things to get right when starting a business

Three things to get right when starting a business.

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Published: March 02, 2016

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I'm Coco Soodek. There are three things you need to get right when you're starting your business. 

I know you're so excited to start your business, and you should be, because starting a business is absolutely the coolest thing you're going to do. I also know that you're probably incredibly intimidated by all the stuff you've got to get right, how are you going to get your arms around this. So I want to make it a little easier for you.

If you get these three things right, you'll be on your way. First, you must make sure there are potential customers for what you're selling. Second, you must plan how you're going to get your products or your services to those customers. And third, you must start small and grow from there. Even if you dream big, you don't necessarily start there. You start small and grow.

It's a common dream that if you build it, they will come, and we all make that mistake. But that's not actually how it works. You have to actually go out there and figure out who are the best potential customers for what you're selling, and then you have to go communicate with them.

Use the existing tools that are out there. Use the Business Plan Center and the Competitive Intelligence Tool. Look at companies that are servicing the customers that you want, and see how they communicate with those customers, and emulate them. Survey your potential customers, and ask them what they're looking for and what would make them buy.

You also have to plan how you're going to get your products and services to your customers, and you do that by writing down all of the steps that it takes from beginning the product or the service to getting it out the door. And once you do that, you put that into a flow chart and you put it on a big poster, and then you hang that big poster on the wall. And then you never stop trying to make that process better and more efficient.

I see a lot of people who never get started because they think they've got to start big. The important thing is to start, and to start to build a track record of actually going out and getting customers and selling them things and then collecting their money.

Let's say that you want to take advantage of this trend for glamping, right, glamorous camping. You could maybe go raise a million bucks, buy some land, and build a campground. Or you could find an existing campground, rent it out for a couple of weeks, and fill it with your own customers. Then you've established a track record that you can go and you can take to people, potential partners, investors, employees. And more importantly, you've not only learned about the business, but you've also taught yourself that you can run this, that you can do this, and you've done all of this without a whole lot of risk.

Your business plan is the tool that you'll use to figure these things out. When you do the market analysis part of your business plan, you figure out what the market opportunities are and also who your potential customers are. Similarly, the company operations section is the moment when you're going to start to plan how you're going to create and deliver the product or service that you're in business to produce. 

Running your business is both exhilarating and scary. When you're scared, remember to focus on just those three things you absolutely must get right: customers, operations, and starting smart and small. And you can use your business plan to guide you forward. I'm rooting for you, so good luck.

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