Five tips for entrepreneurs in the new year
A new year equals a new start, and now is the time to fulfill your dream of starting your own business, says Quinlan clinical professor April Lane.
In addition to teaching entrepreneurship at Quinlan, Lane is the executive director of Catapult Chicago, a collaborative co-working space for digital startups that have demonstrated business traction.
Here, Lane provides five expert tips to guide the prospective entrepreneur on the right path:
1. Read, Read, Read
What you think you know about starting a business is most likely out of date. Business plans? We don’t really write those anymore. Instead, it’s time to get up to speed on how we start businesses now. Get familiar with the terms: business model canvas, lean startup, and customer development. Read anything by Steve Blank, Ash Maurya, and Eric Ries. Take Steve Blank’s course on Udemy. Find some blogs or books on starting a business and get reading.
2. Solve a Problem
We all have ideas, but what you really want is a good problem. Look around. What problems do you encounter at home or work? Also, think about the lives of your friends and family—what problems are they facing? Get out and talk to people about the problems they encounter and how they go about solving them. Pay close attention for gaps, inefficiencies, outdated technologies, etc. Think about how you could do it better.
3. Leverage Available Resources
There are a plethora of entrepreneurial support groups that you can leverage for guidance that are often free or low cost. Make it a priority to connect with local universities, small business development centers, or SCORE for help. Look for online courses on sites like Udemy and iTunes, honest informational videos on YouTube, and even great podcasts like Tech in Chicago, Bootstrapping in America, and The Full Ratchet. The key here is to use free or low-cost options online, while also connecting with like-minded people at events through Meetup.com, Chambers of Commerce, industry associations, and Built In Chicago.
4. Get Involved in Startup Community
Surround yourself with entrepreneurs. Starting a business is hard and a lot of people can’t relate. Find others who are at your stage or further along for help. They can share experiences to help cut through the noise of what works or doesn't, and can offer "therapy" to keep you sane when things get tough. Concerned about someone stealing your idea? Don’t be. Seriously. Ask for help, introductions, referrals, capital, etc. Startup communities are incredibly helpful and supportive.
5. Just Start. Now.
Most people spend their time talking about starting a business and never actually get around to doing anything because “now’s not a good time.” Well, there is never a good time, so you might as well just do it. Today. Not tomorrow. Not next week. Today.