The millennial generation is the newest entrepreneurial generation (Forbes, Fortune, Mic). So many of us born in the late 80’s and into the 90’s were raised with the same mantra of “you can do anything you set your mind to” and “the sky’s the limit”. But what does it take to start a successful, for-profit business? Before the obvious write down a business plan, develop a marketing plan, and ensure financials are in order and budgeted, let’s figure out why we want to start this business, who we are hard-wired to be, and what our particular skill set best enables us to do. Your business is a body, and for it to be healthy, you need to be putting the right stuff into it.
(Once you get the why, who, and what out of the way, the Small Business Administration has tons of useful tidbits for business planning, marketing, and financials)
If you haven’t watched Simon Sinek‘s TED Talk “Start With Why”, take 20 minutes and watch it now. The “why” of your business will be its very heart, core, and foundation, influencing the personalities you hire, your mission and culture statements, and how you choose to market your services and products. Write down adjectives that describe what you want your consumer to feel when interacting with your brand. Not a wordsmith? That’s why my favorite dinosaur, the Thesaurus, exists. Create the ideal consumer for your brand. Give him/her a name, profession, likes and dislikes, hobbies, and a personality. What problems does Joe Consumer have that your business would solve? Is there a niche in your market that’s untapped or underfed? What passions drive your success? What aspect of your industry makes you want to get out of bed and work every day? If you can feel satisfied with the answers you write here, you may just have something special on your hands. But we’ll get to those later; next stop is the brain.
For a real life example, here’s how the WHY fits the Back to Grasics business model, feel free to skip this section and move on to your WHO.
My passions include language, connecting with people, and supporting the local economy. Starting a business to help other businesses just made sense. I have the passion, the personality, and the prowess to help other companies thrive. Few things excite me more than seeing that “a-ha” moment in a client when the final puzzle piece presses into place and an ambience of accomplishment is awash in the air.
Now that we know where the heart of your business lies, let’s take a look at the head running the operation. Without delving into the Nature v. Nurture debate, I think we can all agree that our adult brains and personalities are pretty set in their ways with small changes from year to year. Whether we were born with our personality, or our environments shaped us that way, we each have a set of characteristics that define who we are. The most useful personality test I’ve found is StrengthsQuest. It does take 20-30 minutes to complete and has a one-time, $10 fee, but the information (in the form of Talent Themes) it provides has been well worth it over the years (I’ve seen this to be true in colleagues as well). You can also take a free Myers Briggs or DISC test, but I find neither as useful or well laid out as StrengthsQuest. [not compensated for this endorsement]
The concept behind StrengthsQuest is that one should focus on what he/she can already do well. That too often personal and professional development advice is on addressing our weaknesses. That we spend too much time being frustrated by trying to become competent when we already have mastery over other skills. By focusing on what we do well already and becoming not just good, but great, means being happier and more successful. Other people have skills you lack. Hire them.
For a real life example, here’s how the WHO fits the Back to Grasics business model, feel free to skip this section and move on to your WHAT.
My personal Talent Themes are Strategic, Input, Connectedness, Command, and Communication.
Strategic means that I can always find a solution and adapt when circumstances change. Input comes in different forms, mine manifests in remembering details and collecting information like words, languages, and linguistics. Connectedness is the innate belief that everything is intertwined and has meaning, it also means intuitively seeing patterns, making connections, and feeling data such as understanding market trends and gauging emotional impact beyond the numbers. Command is a natural sense of leadership and comfort being in charge. Communication lends itself to effectively articulating and understanding ideas, concepts, feelings, and motivations.
Understanding that I hold onto large amounts of information (input) that I can weave together (connectedness) and do so effectively (communication) meant that marketing was a good fit for me. Being able to be self-reliable and -sufficient (command) and able to tackle problems easily (strategic) meant that I could be successfully self-employed.
After determining what strengths your head brings, it’s time to assess the hands. What can you bring to the table skills- and capabilities-wise? Make a list of your abilities, divided by proficiency. (More info and some handy assessments provided by the U.S. Dept. of Labor.)
It may look like this:
- Interpersonal skills
- Public speaking
- Social Media
- Event Planning
Combining this with your personality profile, you should be able to figure out what types of people you need to hire whether they be employees or contractors. Make a plan of how financially sound you need to be to comfortably outsource the work that’s not at least ranking at Competent. If you need help with that, business development ranks pretty high here at Back to Grasics.
For a real life example, here’s how the WHAT fits the Back to Grasics business model, feel free to skip this section and move on the conclusion.
I won’t bother listing every skill that I have, but talk about what’s most pertinent to Back to Grasics in an honest and very transparent way. Most of the skills for the services I offer fall under “Novice” or “Competence” and not “Mastery”. This is because 1) true Masterery takes years of practice and experience 2) I am gifted with an ability to become good at many things, but not necessarily great at a few. So how do I use this to my advantage and provide myself a living with it? By setting up my business so that it makes sense to hire someone who’s good at much and not necessarily great at any one thing. That’s why I market myself toward start-ups and small business owners. People who don’t necessarily have the time or resouces to find, screen, and hire top-tier professionals. My clients can get all of their marketing and business development needs in one place, at affordable rates, while still looking clean and professional, which is often worth more to them than super fancy graphics or a state-of-the-art website.
So how does my retention work? I’ve started and will grow a network of those top-tier professionals to sub-contract work to when my clients have needs greater than my skill levels (this doesn’t mean I’m not working every day to improve myself, just that I understand my own limitations and drive and what I’m best fitted to do). Those professionals appreciate that I speak their language and can translate my clients’ requests to them and my clients can rest assured that someone who has invested time and energy into understanding their business, someone they trust has their best interest, is overseeing their projects.
Because one of the things that I have truly mastered is understanding people. Being able to identify their needs, develop a strategy to address those needs, and see them to fruition is my ultimate end game. It’s what drives me and makes me love my work.
PUTTING IT ALL TOGETHER
Once you have your business body robustly buffed, you can find a business model and industry that will fulfill your passions, complement your personality, and utilize your skillset. If that’s something you need help determining, contact Back to Grasics, this type of work is exactly what we live for.0