Starting a business is not hard.
With just a few simple steps anyone can start a business. Heck, I’ve started about 20!…
Building a business that provides you first with a personal income and later with sustainable, scalable growth, is a little harder…
That being said, you can’t achieve the latter without the former. And you will struggle to achieve anything at all without building a business around your personal passions and interests.
So, how do you turn your passion into a business and enjoy sustained success and growth doing the things that you love the most?
– Photo credit: Famous OTO, makers of the awesome OTO Ice Cream Truck
But first, a word of caution…
The life of an entrepreneur is not an easy one. If you’re thinking of striking out alone for an easy life, think again. You will be working 7 days a week, and thinking about your business 24 hours a day. You’ll be exposing yourself to the world and risking failure and ridicule on a daily basis.
It’s tough – really tough – doesn’t pay well in the early days and could leave you with nothing to show for all your hard work.
Still interested? OK, great. Let’s go!
5 Steps to Turn Your Passion Into a Business
I find simplifying complex tasks into action points immensely helpful. It’s something I’ve always done and it helps me to attack even the most daunting of challenges.
Break it down, break it down, break it down… Simple steps, taken one at a time, can produce incredible results.
Step One – The Vision
A business needs a vision – your vision.
It should include the companies value and service proposition (what you are offering, how you intend to offer it and what value it provides to your customers), as well as a top-line understanding of how the business can scale over time. What does the business look like in 12/24/36 months? How will you scale the operation? React to market forces? Competitors?
Without vision, you are doomed to fail from the get go. Vision helps you construct a workable business model, communicate it with your collaborators and customers and keeps you going in the middle of the night, when the revenues are low, the bills haven’t been paid and the specter of failure is looming large over you.
Without vision, don’t even bother.
Step Two – The Players
You have a great idea, a clear vision and the passion and commitment to go all the way. Great. Now you need the resources to make it happen.
Can you do this alone (very few businesses are solitary affairs) or do you need support?
Technical? Financial? Emotional? Production? Geographic? Identify the resources you need and make sure you find the right collaborators before starting out. You’ll be amazed how much faster you will realise your vision if you can successfully recruit the right team.
Careful consideration needs to be given to remuneration and reward when recruiting your players, but try to avoid giving up the farm before you’ve even got started. If money is the only reason your founding partners are interested in getting involved, think carefully before recruiting them.
Try to find like-minded collaborators and ensure you share common goals, vision and passion. Believe me, it makes a world of difference.
Step Three – The Paperwork
This is the super easy bit.
Register the company (you can do this yourself in most instances, or employ the services of an accountant to do it for you), draft a simple Directors Agreement outlining your roles and responsibilities, create and distribute shareholdings between the Directors, and then quickly move on to the fun bit – branding.
There are tons of free or nearly free online marketplaces full of designers willing to help you with logo design and corporate branding, but if possible try to keep it in-house and create it for nothing. I’ve always created my own logos and other brand assets when starting out, as it gives you ultimate control over the image and keeps the pennies in the bank. You can always refine the brand later down the line, when the money starts rolling in. For now, you just need to get started.
When building your launch brand, also consider your tone of voice (how you will speak to your customers, the copy writing style for your website and so on), as well as your brand colours and use of fonts in official communications (letterheads, business cards, website).
When it comes to the website, keep it as simple as possible. It’s difficult to comment here, as many business ideas are based purely online (or on mobile) and each will require a different effort to realise. What I can say, however, is to remember that you can always improve the site over time, and many of the assumptions you make about how it will be used will be wrong. The best approach is to find your minimum viable product (MVP), launch it as quickly as possible and iterate frequently, based on customer feedback.
And don’t forget to build and maintain a company blog, promoted via social channels – it is hands down your fastest and simplest route to your customers and will help you to build rapport and early brand advocates from day one. It is an essential business tool and must not be overlooked.
Step Four – The Customer
The single most important element of any business – the customer.
Before setting out on this journey, you need to clearly define your customers. Who are they? Why do they want to pay for your product or service? How much are they likely to want to pay? Why will they do business with you? Are they traditionally loyal? Or are you competing in a crowded, disloyal market? What are their motivations? Their financial status? Their hopes, dreams and aspirations? Where do they hang out? What opinions do they hold dear?… The more you know them, the better your chances of engaging and persuading them.
You don’t need to go so far as to create personas for your customer base, but a clear understanding of their motivations, limitations, desires and habits is essential when modelling and planning your new venture.
If you are the target audience, this is a little easier. Go with your gut and make the product or service you would want to see. Of course, you should get some feedback from your peers, but be ready for a LOT of naysaying when you do. From my experience, your family and friends will often tell you “it won’t work”. Developing a thick skin is a good idea if you are going to take this path in life.
If you are not the target audience, find a selection of potential customers and work with them to hone your sales pitch and service offering. Your blog is a great place to find them, so consider starting the company blog well before you launch the business.
Once up and running, never lose sight of your customers’ wants and needs and stay in touch as much as possible. To remain relevant and successful, you will need to constantly reassess your service offering and customer approach and be prepared to change direction whenever the market tells you. The ability to embrace change and remain flexible is an essential skill in today’s fast-moving business environment. Stay agile and avoid complacency at all costs.
Step Five – The Long Game
A business is not just for Christmas (well, unless you’re selling Christmas trees!… but even then, there’s always next year…). Joking aside, it’s all too easy to forget about the long game. It takes so much energy and focus to get started, it’s surprisingly easy to forget about future planning. Don’t fall into the trap that this is something you can postpone until you’ve got things off the ground. The more groundwork you can do now, the better chance your business will have of lasting the distance.
Planning for the long game – 3 years in detail, a 5 year goal and a 10 year vision – will help you to structure your business for scale from day one. What works at launch may not provide you with the right elements for scale in year 2 or 3…
A long game vision will also help you to maintain your passion and interest as you execute against – or diversify from – your 3-5 year plan.
That’s it! If you can structure your planning process around these 5 points, you should be in pretty good shape.
As I’m sure you can see, this is just top-line stuff and each one of these steps requires a momentous effort to get into shape and flesh out with details, but hey, no one said this was going to be easy!
I would love to hear your opinions and suggestions in the comments below.
Thanks for reading!Is this your first time here? If so, thanks for stopping by! If you’re looking for my Tumblr blog, you can find that here. I’m a Digital Strategist, entrepreneur and Head of Digital Business at Advertising M&A, the specialist Mergers and Acquisitions consultancy exclusively for the advertising, digital, media and marketing services sectors. I am also the Founder and Editor-in-chief at advertising industry blog Inside MarComs, featuring Q&As with brilliant people in advertising and marketing, as well as Founder and Principal of Rick Palmer Consulting, offering my personal expertise to private clients. You can find out more about me by reading my biog or connecting with me on LinkedIn.