by Stu Minshew
On the topic of ‘maximizing BAM success factors’ we’ve invited guest authors to highlight what they consider key factors contributing to success and growth for BAM practitioners. But what if you are a startup? What if you have a business idea and want to know how to maximize your success from the get-go? We asked entrepreneur and CO.STARTERS trainer Stu Minshew to share what he’s learned about maximizing startup success in this five part mini-series.
Part 2: Success Starts With You
Why would a series on starting and growing your business begin with a whole post dedicated to you? A good product or service is all it takes, right? While it is important to have a good product or service, the most important factor in the success or failure of your business is YOU.
Most businesses don’t fail because of poor products or fierce competition. They fail when finances are mismanaged, passion is lacking, and expectations are unrealistic. By starting with an in-depth look at yourself – including your passions, strengths, weaknesses, expectations, and financial literacy – you can take the critical first steps to launching a successful business.
Identify and Test Your Assumptions
We all have an idea of what our successful business will look like in the future. At this point, that picture might be a little blurry if your business is only a concept. However, getting a clearer picture of that vision is important for your success. It is going to provide you with a general target for how you grow your business.
Take time to think through this series of questions to help you get a better idea of where you are headed, helping that blurry picture come into focus. I’ve also included some additional sub-questions and thoughts to ensure you are able to thoroughly think through each question.
1. Why does your business exist?
- What is the problem you will solve and how will you solve it?
- How will you use your business to glorify God?
- Complete the phrase, “My business exists to…”
2. Why are you starting a business?
- What do you want to get out of it? Are you just having fun? Do you want to make loads of money to give away? Do you want greater flexibility in your life?
- What does success look like for you?
- Why do you feel that God has set you on this journey to start and grow a business?
3. How big will your business be?
- In the future, will you work independently or will you have have a large staff?
- Are you a small business or an international conglomerate?
- Are you able to start small and grow to where you want to be?
4. How much control do you want to have? Who is working with you?
Some feel that while they are called to run their businesses well, they have little control and God ultimately will determine if their business succeeds or fails. Others feel the need to tightly control and steward the resources Christ has provided them. I am not here to argue which is right or wrong, but you and the people on your team need to be on the same page about the amount of control you desire to have.
Personal Strengths and Weaknesses
We need to understand that God has created His people with different behaviors and working styles. Though you may not realize it, you tend to behave and react in certain ways when you are in a business setting. You love and do well at certain types of work, while there are other areas you find challenging and hard to push through.
Understanding the strengths and weaknesses of your working style will have a huge impact on your business. It will be incredibly important for you to understand the types of work you enjoy and the types you don’t. There will always be tasks we do not love to do, but if we can hand off the majority of those we don’t love or aren’t good at, our business will have a higher likelihood of success.
There are dozens of tools out there to help you figure out your personality or working style such as the DISC and MBTI. CO.STARTERS has their own quick Working Style Assessment for everyone who comes through the class. No matter which one you choose, the main objective is to get you thinking about who you need around you to provide support in the areas where you are weak. We all need support in this journey and trying to go it alone is a common reason entrepreneurs fail.
Building Your Team
Once you know your strengths and weaknesses, it’s time to build your team. Your team is going to help in areas where you are weak. Focus on finding people who have a different skill set than you do. By having the right people on your team, you will move forward faster.
You may be thinking that you don’t have the money to go out and hire a whole team. That’s okay. Your team doesn’t have to be made up of employees or paid contractors. It could be a single partner, an advisor, mentor, or a subject matter expert who is willing to lend a hand. Who do you know who would be willing to provide advice, feedback, or moral support?
Managing Your Time
As I mentioned in my last post, getting your business up and running is going to take hustle, hard work, and personal sacrifice. On this journey you are going to meet challenges along the way. Some will be related to your business, some will be personal, and many will be some combination of both business and personal. It is important to identify as many of these obstacles as possible ahead of time so you are not surprised by them later on.
One big obstacle is know how much time starting your business will require versus how much time you have to devote toward your business. Life tends to be busy for all of us. We have responsibilities at work, maybe at school, and with our families. Before we know what happened, we don’t have time left for anything else in our day.
At CO.STARTERS we have everyone write down how much time they spend on various activities throughout their day such as sleeping, work, eating, exercising, and etc. They may find that when they total these activities, they have little time for something else. This helps them look for activities that can be eliminated and then carefully plan out the time they will set aside to work on their new business. For current business owners, it helps them prioritize time to think about and complete tasks that will help them grow their business, rather than spend all of their time on the day to day activities.
Managing Your Money
Just as there never seems to be enough time, there also never seems to be enough money. In the last activity, we determined where our time goes. In this one, we will discover exactly where the money goes. Even if you keep your business and your personal finances separate, which I recommend, how you handle your personal finances is going to affect how you handle your business finances. If you have a financial crisis, whether it is personal or in your business, it is extremely likely that one will impact the other. Therefore, it is very important that you thoroughly understand both your personal and your business finances.
If you haven’t done so already, I encourage you to create and stick to a budget in both your personal and business financials. Also, it is important to have a good handle on how much debt you have going into starting a business. Do you have school loans, credit card debt, medical bills, or a mortgage? This may limit your financial flexibility and funds available to launch your business.
Take some time over the next few days to get to know yourself better. Why do you believe God is providing you the opportunity to start or grow your business? What is your vision for the future and what do you want to accomplish by running your business? Who can bring skills you are missing to help you accomplish your vision? Are your time and financials set-up in a way that will encourage success? Remember, you are the most crucial part of your business! Once you have taken some time to know yourself better, check back for the next post in our series, which will focus on understanding your customer.
The CO.STARTERS Canvas tool goes a long way toward helping you test your assumptions and determine if your business model is worth pursuing, before you begin looking for ways to make it more efficient.
CO.STARTERS has not only created the startup canvas but has also developed curriculum around it, and has been training a growing community of over 5,000 entrepreneurs and small business owners globally since 2013.
Be equipped for the startup journey: take the CO.STARTERS Canvas tool with you!
Download the CO.STARTERS Canvas for free here.
Stu Minshew is a facilitator for CO.STARTERS, a program that equips aspiring entrepreneurs to turn their passions into a sustainable and thriving endeavor. He is also co-founder of Mission Studio, created to help entrepreneurs explore the intersection of faith, business, and community. You can connect with him online at ExpatStartup.co, where he helps expats across the globe achieve freedom of lifestyle and create positive social impact through entrepreneurship. A serial entrepreneur, Stu has previously started three other businesses, two located in East Africa and one in the United States. He mentors, trains, and consults with entrepreneurs and startups globally.