The first step in starting a business is recognizing the right opportunity. Most opportunities are easy to spot. Just look at problems you are already facing. For instance, in 2008 my first startup was a banner network for social media networks called AdParlor. I started the company with a work colleague to solve a problem we were both facing ourselves: the need to invest in advertising to gain users on Facebook apps.
The idea for my second startup, BookMyCity, was developed in 2012, when my girlfriend and I booked a mini-getaway to South Beach during “spa month.” We quickly discovered there was no central location to book appointments for a service like spa treatments online (as you could with OpenTable, for a restaurant table). A year later, we created BookMyCity to easily connect businesses and local customers online, and manage availability with one-stop booking.
Throughout both experiences, however, I learned the only way to really seize opportunities like these is to go all in and really get to know the audience you’re serving. It’s not easy, but here are a few of my personal lessons on success as an entrepreneur:
Entrepreneurship is a roller coaster. There are massive highs and extreme lows. This is what drives me; the lows are inevitable, but the high experienced from overcoming extreme business challenges is exhilarating.
You can have results or excuses; not both. Set your personal bar and own it – your center of influence is you. Don’t do things halfway and don’t procrastinate. If you are committed to becoming an entrepreneur, then put yourself 100 percent in it. Forget week-long vacations, for now.
Know your audience.
Do your homework on potential customers. Make sure whatever you are creating, you have identified an audience who would actually use (and pay for) it. Find out all you can for free using online survey tools, informal interviews, and social media. Also, look for candid feedback from people in your target audience who won’t be afraid to tell you what they really think.
Every interaction is a potential opportunity. Networking is the best way to get ahead in the world. Use social media (i.e., LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, etc.) to connect with potential customers, investors, and advisors. In the offline world, attend conferences and gatherings in your industry to connect with local entrepreneurs. You never know where (or how) your paths will cross in the future.
Whatever product (or service) you are launching, aim to be the best and don’t settle for mediocre. That being said, make sure you have priorities on which steps should be done first and those that will have the most impact. Iterate countless times at the design and product development phase until it is simple to use and understand.
If you want a co-founder, find a good one and be a good one. A good business partner can make or break your startup, especially if you are not used to the highs and lows of entrepreneurship. Having a partner to bounce ideas off of is much different than bouncing ideas off of friends and family. You need someone who will be immersed in the business as deeply as you are for an effective partnership.
Find your balance.
Work-life balance is achievable. Remember to take short “day-long” breaks here and there. Startup burnout is very inefficient and can happen quickly if you go too hard for too long. Don’t be afraid to take a weekend off and recharge once in a while.
Keep promises. Don’t change meeting times. Don’t say one thing and do another; say what you mean and mean what you say. Simply put … be reliable.
Have some fun.
Starting a business is hard work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have fun. If you’re doing something you love, this part is easy.
My advice for aspiring entrepreneurs is simple: Start by doing something you love. If you currently work full-time, pursue your idea after work hours. Join entrepreneurship groups, go to conferences, ask questions, and always keep your eyes and ears open. With enough dedication, you will surely find something that can be created, done better, or done more efficiently. When you do, jump in — that’s when it really begins.
In June 2013, Kristaps Ronka founded BookMyCity.com, an online promotion, booking and scheduling platform for service-oriented businesses. It lets customers find all sorts of services in their area and book appointments right on the spot.
© YFS Magazine. All Rights Reserved. Copying prohibited. All material is protected by U.S. and international copyright laws. Unauthorized reproduction or distribution of this material is prohibited. Sharing of this material under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International terms, listed here, is permitted.