You want it to be something that customers really value that you can do over and over again without going crazy!
Have you always wanted to run your own business so that you could be your own boss but always been unsure of what business to start? Some people who start their own businesses have always known exactly what they wanted to do, they start their businesses almost as an act of faith, and everything magically works out for them. They’re the lucky ones. But if you’re like everyone else, then you might have to put a little more thought into it to figure out what the best business for you to start is.
As the old saying goes, if you find a job doing what you love, then you’ll never work a day in your life! Spend some time thinking about what you enjoy doing, and no, we don’t mean sleeping in or going to the beach. We mean how you enjoy exerting yourself. Do you enjoy thinking about complex problems? Working with your hands? Meeting people and talking to them about the challenges they face? Creating things that are beautiful?
Think in those kinds of terms. The point here isn’t to decide that you enjoy something so that should be your business. Instead, it’s to develop some criteria that you can judge potential opportunities against. For example, if you can’t stand working with your hands, then starting your own hand-crafted furniture business obviously won’t be much fun. Nor will your own accounting and auditing practice if you don’t like detailed numbers and really consider yourself more of a people person. You get the idea.
What comes out of this exercise should be a lot of common-sense observations about yourself that might border on the blindingly obvious to anyone who knows you well, but trust us. People have a way of not being true to themselves when the prospect of money to pay a mortgage comes into the picture. Think about how you like--and don’t like--working, and then right down those criteria so that you can judge your potential business opportunities against them and make a decision that’s right for you.
This question is really getting at what people are trying to get at when they ask you what you enjoy doing. What we mean when we ask what you enjoy doing is what will keep your attention? Whatever business you decide to start, you’re basically going to live it for a long time. It’ll have to sustain you through good times and bad, from when no one’s beating down your door to buy your product to when you keep stocking out and all the times in between. So you’d better enjoy thinking about it because it’s going to be on your mind a lot.
Your interests and your passions are a great guide here. Sports enthusiast who can’t shut off ESPN? Political junkie who lives to read about the rough and tumble? Fashion-forward who loves keeping up with the latest trends? Understand what motivates you and draws your attention in your free time and you’ll have a better sense of the rough industry in which you might want to operate.
Now that you’ve thought about how you like to work and what you wish you could spend more time on, think about your actual marketable skills. As we all sadly learned shortly after graduation, no one’s going to pay us for doing the things we enjoy that only benefit ourselves. We all have to provide value to others, and we do that by making use of our skills, so think about yours. You might have a flare for storytelling, a keen eye for design, a rational and logical sense of judgment, an ability to organize anything, a talent for motivating others, or the ability to make others feel understood.
The thing about talents is that no particular talent is evenly distributed across the population, so whatever you’ve got, there’s someone else out there--and probably many people out there--who won’t have it. So finding a way to use your best talents increases the likelihood that someone will see you and your product as a solution to their problems.
Good ol’ Mr. Market. In the famous parable offered up by value investor Benjamin Graham, Mr. Market is an odd sort of fellow who shows up at your door every day offering to buy or sell whatever stocks you’ve got for a particular price. That price changes daily and seems to fluctuate randomly, so you never feel quite sure that Mr. Market knows what the heck he’s talking about.
That might be a fair way to think about the stock market, but try not to think that way when you think about starting your own business. Throw out the abstractions about the market and zero in on your potential customer. There’s a saying that first-time business owners start off thinking about their product and second-time business owners start off thinking about their customers. In this case, our advice is to skip straight to Step No. 2.
When you think about what your ideal customer really needs, you can spot opportunities that are more likely to turn into profitable business ventures. If it doesn’t help customers solve a problem that they actually care about, then they aren’t going to pay you any money for it. But solve a problem that they really do care about, and they might start demanding that you take their money right now and get to work!
Here’s where we finally come full circle. You want to think of the above considerations as part of a Venn diagram. Ideally, you’ll want to be operating in the center where all four of these categories overlap because whatever you do, you’ll want it to be something that customers really value and that you can do over and over again without going crazy! But try to think through those four considerations in that order. Knowing how you enjoy working, what holds your attention, what valuable skills you possess, and what your ideal customers want will help you figure out what you can be happy doing that others wouldn’t have thought of that you can also get some reasonable financial rewards out of.