Many people believe starting a business is a mysterious process. They know they want to start a business, but they don’t know the first steps to take. In this chapter, you’re going to find out how to get an idea for a business–how you figure out exactly what it is you want to do and then how to take action on it.
But before we get started, let’s clear up one point: People always wonder if this is a good time to start their business idea. The fact is, there’s really never a bad time to launch a business. It’s obvious why it’s smart to launch in strong economic times. People have money and are looking for ways to spend it. But launching in tough or uncertain economic times can be just as smart. If you do your homework, presumably there’s a need for the business you’re starting. Because many people are reluctant to launch in tough times, your new business has a better chance of getting noticed. And, depending on your idea, in a down economy there is often equipment (or even entire businesses!) for sale at bargain prices.
Earlier in 2014, GEM published its annual report looking at the state of entrepreneurship globally. It found that sub-Saharan Africa is the region with by far the highest number of people involved in early-stage entrepreneurial activity (TEA), with Zambia and Nigeria leading the world rankings. Yet for every person who actually starts a business, there are likely millions more who begin each year saying “OK, this is the year I am going to start a business,” and then don’t.
Everyone has his or her own roadblock, something that prevents them from taking that crucial first step. Most people are afraid to start; they may fear the unknown or failure, or even success. Others find starting something overwhelming in the mistaken belief they have to start from scratch. They think they have to come up with something that no one has ever done before–a new invention, a unique service. In other words, they think they have to reinvent the wheel.
But unless you’re a technological genius–another Bill Gates or Steve Jobs–trying to reinvent the wheel is a big waste of time. For most people starting a business, the issue should not be coming up with something so revolutionarily unique that no one has ever heard of it but instead answering the questions: “How can I improve on this?” or “Can I do this better or differently from the other guy doing it over there?” Or simply, “Is there market share not being served that makes room for another business in this category?”
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