Work There First

….before starting your own company!

For all of you, who want to start a company, consider this idea. Work for a potential competitor first. Many successful entrepreneurs would tell you that they learned the business from a competitor, identified best practices and improved a few processes before starting their company. I am not suggesting a conspiracy to steal clients, but a genuine focus on learning as much about the industry as possible.

For instance, if you are interested in starting a coffee shop, take a job at Starbucks to understand how they run the business. It will also give you an insight about the business and provide a solid understand about best practices. You might find that it is difficult and might not be a fit for you. Now you just saved yourself time, energy and money in launching your own business cold. This concept can also help validate your business model by proving the need for your product, understanding the barriers of entry, providing the financial understanding and an operational understanding of your business.

If you are considering starting your own company, ask yourself the following questions.

1) Why do I want to start a business? What are the three primary factors influencing this decision?

2) Specifically what kind of business do I want to start?

3) What are my key personal strengths–what am I better at than anyone else?

4) Is my idea better than what the market offers and who is my competition?

5) Am I in a good place physically, mentally and emotionally to dedicate a lot of time and energy into starting a new business?

6) Do I have personal and financial support of family and friends to accomplish my goals?

7) Do I have some working knowledge of the industry, technology or products to start this business?

8) Is my past education and experience relevant to the industry I’m looking at? Is my education and/or certifications sufficient to do what I want to do?

9) What are my financial goals, both personally and for the business?

10) Why do I believe I can make this business work?

These questions will help you understand where to spend your time when starting your business. Working for the competition specifically addresses questions (4, 7, 8 and 10). Starting a business is a difficult, so preparation is a critical component to being successful. Preparation means studying the industry, research the geographic market of competitors, understanding the competition’s strengths and weaknesses and learning the best practices to be successful.

In the book titled “Made in America”, Sam Walton, the founder of Wal-Mart, said that he learned as much as he could about the retail business and competitors before launching Wal-Mart. He worked at a Ben Franklin retail store and would visit K-mart stores to understand how they ran their business. He would document how they positioned products, priced products, managed their inventory levels and how they serviced their customers. He felt that he could do it better, but took of few years to understand the industry, market and the competitor’s best practices.

Once you have a grasp on the business idea, research the market to understand your competition. Consider taking a job with the competition to immerse yourself in the market to learn as much as you can about what to do and what not to do when you start your business. Be patient. Rome was not build in a day. Take your time to and earn money while you are researching the industry. This will provide a solid platform for your new venture and increase your probability of success.

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