All entrepreneurs are not made the same. Some know what they want to do right from the start. Some need deeper soul-searching to find the right idea. Either way, it is important to find something that pushes you, challenges you, and excites you about waking up every day and putting in the maximum effort that day, and the next, and the next till you achieve what you want. Otherwise, you’ll lose the steam early on in your venture and drop it after having invested time, money, and energy. So, the question, “What business should I start?” deserves a great deal of attention.

Of course, there are no standard answers here. Every one of us likes different things. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all solution will not work. So, the best way to start finding a business for you is to start with YOU!

Step 1: Who Are You?

Go back to the basics. Ask yourself questions that will help you understand who you are:

  • What are my interests?
  • Where do I like to spend most of my time?
  • What excites me and entertains me, and brings purpose to my being?

Questions like these will bring you in touch with your inner self. Why is this important? Because, when many people decide to start a business, they are often chasing money, fame, or a lifestyle that they had always dreamed of. There’s nothing wrong in pursuing them. However, these factors should not be your primary motivators.

Money, fame, and lifestyle goals all get too old too fast.

You WILL get bored by these faster than you think and when that happens, you’ll be left with a void. Any successful business will fetch you all the money, fame, and lifestyle you crave. It’s crucial to find one that fulfills you. After all, you only have one life.

Step 2: What Do I Want to Do?

This step builds on the previous question. It involves more introspection and is a two-part process in itself.

For the first part, take a hard look at your past life and your CV (it does not need to be formally written down for this). Check your education history, your work experience, and your extracurriculars. 

  • What is it that you loved doing the most? 
  • What is it that you kept doing again and again?
  • What is that one thing that you can keep doing even when meeting obstacles?
  • What are the things that you do not like to do??

Once you find answers to these questions, it’s time to move to the second part of the step – 

Why do you do it?

  • Is it simply because you have always been very good at it?
  • Is it because there’s a lot of money in it?
  • Is it because it makes your parents very proud of you for doing it?

The key here is to look behind the superficial ‘Why’. Normally when you come up with an answer you can ask a second level why, e.g. Why do I want to earn a lot of money?  You can repeat this several times until you get to your real why. This is an exercise I often do in my seminars and the final results are sometimes very far away from the original reasons. This in turn leads to a true transformation in the participants as they finally recognize what is driving them.

The reason ‘Why’ you like doing it is fundamental, because when you hit hard times in the future (and believe me, you will!), your reasons should be strong enough to keep you ploughing through. Will they be sufficient for you not to quit?

Step 3: What Skills Can You Bring to The Table?

If you have been paying close attention, you’ll notice that I did not say – what skills do you have?

What self-actualized people understand, and most others don’t, is that your skillset does not define you. You can acquire new skills all the time. It just takes time and energy. Whether you are ready to commit yourself to acquire those skills is what matters the most.

So, the real questions are: 

  • What skills do you have now?
  • What skills can you (and do you want to) acquire in the future? 

Find out what you liked to do so far, what you learned while doing it, and whether you can do it better than a good number of people out there. Also, ask yourself what other skills would you like to acquire?

In some cases, the new skills can be easy to acquire because of your existing skillset. Some skills might be difficult to learn as they are vastly different from anything that you’ve ever done. It’s the latter kind that takes the most time and effort. However, this also leads to more growth as your skill set will become broader and more versatile.

There are many ways to acquire a new skill – through formal training, specific courses, reading books, doing internships or assisting in specific projects. There are three very important aspects to consider in this context. 

  1. Money you spend on this is an investment not a cost or expense.
  2. You can find everything for free on the internet. However, most people are not able to transfer this into an actionable skill. You learn faster and more efficiently if you go to somebody who has already done it and is good in his field. Money spent here is wisely invested and if you want to save in this area, this might cost you somewhere else much more in lost opportunities.
  3. Different experiences in different environments also add to your skill set, as long as you consciously take them up and internalize them. This will enable you to put existing skills in a different context and have more connection points which in turn helps you to develop new skills.

Are you ready to commit yourself to learn new skills and spend the necessary time, money and effort? 

The answer to this question will determine what skills you can bring to your business.

Step 4: What is The Problem You Would Like to Solve?

Look around you. Everything is a problem waiting to be solved, a challenge to be overcome, an opportunity to be grabbed. Your business idea basically has to fall into one of three buckets:

  1. You solve a difficulty in people’s lives or help to overcome an obstacle
  2. You make their lives more convenient
  3. You make them feel good

Once you know that your idea falls into one of the above buckets you need to answer the following questions:

  • Who has this problem? 
  • Where are people with the problem?
  • How many people have the problem?

Despite having a perfectly viable solution for a problem your business can still not make it. So, before you start a business, make sure that your solution satisfies the following conditions:

  • Enough people know that the problem exists
  • Enough people want a solution to the problem
  • Enough people are ready to pay for the solution

Only then will your business be a viable venture.

Before moving to the next step you need to check whether your idea and corresponding solution for somebody’s problem match your answers to Step 1, 2 and 3. If it does not, then repeat, once there is a match then move to Step 5.

Step 5: Who Else Is Needed?

Remember this – you are an entrepreneur; not Superman! You cannot do everything. Every business requires a multitude of different experiences, skills and abilities. In order to set up and grow a successful business you will need to involve other people as well. Many people wonder in which capacity they should involve additional people. 

There is a relatively simple rule for this. The closer the skill is to providing the core value to your customer the closer the person should be to you. In descending order this means:

  • Co-founder
  • Employee
  • Freelancer (who is regularly doing business with you)
  • External servicer

The right choice changes from one context to another and can also be a function of the funds available. If you have the money to spend and you might prefer to hire somebody. On the other hand if you do not have sufficient funds you might pay some people with a certain equity stake.

When deciding who to get on board you should also consider where you can provide most value to the business. This is what you should concentrate on. All the other things which distract you should be given to somebody else or be outsourced. Even if you can do it well and somebody else might not be as good as you, delegation will move the business forward as a whole.  

Step 6: Test Your Solution

Finally, the moment of truth. 

Summarize the problem you are trying to address and explain your solution in the most compelling way. Your message needs to be crisp, clear, and sharp. Choose the specific things that you’d like to address with your solution and explain why they are the most important things for your customers. And now go out and find out: What do other people think about your great idea?

Present your solution not only to your friends, acquaintances, and family members. Ask people in the street, call people, post questions on social media, use market research platforms, and whatever else you can think of. Make sure the people you ask are your target group, but also test with people who are outside as they might also provide very valuable input. Nobody is going to steal your idea. A few participants can even provide you insights that you may have missed entirely. This exercise will bring perspective, polish your solution and remake it more sophisticated.

Don’t get married with your idea. It is not about defending it against any criticism or negative feedback. After all, your clients will buy your product or service not you yourself. At this stage changes, amendments, or improvement can be made easily and cheaply.

If the feedback you receive is not satisfactory, then it’s time to go back to Step 4 and redefine your problem statement and find a new solution. Perhaps, you can focus on addressing different aspects of the same problem. Maybe, you can solve the problem differently. When none of this works, it’s time to find a different problem to solve.

If this step was successful you have your idea and it is time to get started. 

Final Thoughts

Finding the right business idea is one thing. Making sure that it fits to you and you are giving it your 100% is crucial for long-term success. You cannot afford to go wrong at the foundation stages. Therefore, make sure you went though the six steps and you are fully aligned with your idea and it has been ratified by outside people.