Business schools love acronyms and formulas. There are the “four P’s of marketing” (sometimes as many as seven) and the three Cs of business.
There is strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats analysis (or SWOT thinking) and more than a fair share of theoretical or academic quadrants within which you can plug your business challenge and find a solution — in theory anyway.
Each of these tools has value and merit and can be useful for a number of business applications. Attempting to apply them all to a startup, however, can wholly overcomplicate the launch.
The task of launching a startup boils down to four simple considerations. If your business idea has been fleshed out to embrace these elements, you may be ready to launch — in theory anyway.
Have you identified a solution to a problem or pain of your customers?
Will your solution improve the lives of consumers?
Whether you’re manufacturing a product or providing a physical service, your company must deliver value to customers. Although new products are always being created, your startup does not necessarily need to reinvent the wheel.
Consider, for instance, that many amazing companies started because their founders had a problem, but there was not an existing solution in the marketplace. Or if the solution existed, it was insufficient, unsatisfactory or too expensive.
Find a problem and fix it.
Can you produce and deliver the product or service you have developed?
Could someone else produce and deliver it for you?
Gain clarity about the system you’ll use to produce and deliver your product or service. Sometimes an idea is so new or innovative that the capability to produce it is too expensive, limited or doesn’t exist. But an existing company or service might be able to make a product for you and bring it to market faster and more efficiently, perhaps through a licensing arrangement.
Plus you must decide other important business matters, from the structure of your company to how you will manage finances and keep files. While you will be responsible for such administrative tasks at the start, eventually they could be delegated to the right team.
Your priority is to meet and build demand.
How will you land your first customer?
Do you know how you will find your millionth one?
How will you scale up the business in size?
Have you considered how you will exit the company and gain a profit?
So many entrepreneurs start with a great idea, launch a company and then it fizzles after a short time when they run out of money. They may lack the ability to scale the enterprise larger or have diversified the business too much (or too little).
Having a vision and considering a short- and long-term strategy will help ensure that you are leading your company in a sustainable direction. Developing a business plan is great place to start, but these days flexibility is crucial for success.
Consider coming up with a strategy as being like preparing for a long sailing trip across the sea. Clearly, you would want a map and a destination, the proper tools for navigation and a plan for restocking — as well as the awareness you might have to deviate from the course in an emergency.
This early startup planning is a challenge for most entrepreneurs since many have little experience and don’t know what to expect. This is where finding advisers and mentors and even experienced co-founders can be a tremendous help.
Always have a vision and a plan.
Do you have the courage to start?
The last element for planning a new venture is finding the courage to start. From experience, I know that if you have the first three elements of a startup in place, there’s no reason to wait to launch. Understand, though, that a significant number of new startups fail.
It’s possible that you won’t be successful in your first business. I believe the best entrepreneurs are those who brandish humble confidence and remember the valuable lessons learned from a few early failed attempts.
Remember that launching a startup is like dating. The first date is always the most uncomfortable, with unknowns and insecurities gnawing. For certain, it only gets easier.
Do you have advice for aspiring entrepreneurs considering a startup launch in Africa? Please share your feedback with others in the comments section below.