Anything you do can be a business? Really? It might seem like a strange thought, but it is a mantra that I hold true.
The perception is you need to have this unique amazing idea and lots of money to start a business. However, I would say some of the very best companies started with neither of those things. No great idea. Certainly not lots of money.
As I point out in the podcast, everything you do in your day to day life can probably be boiled down to a business idea. If you are doing anything for anyone and you are getting something in return, then you have a business. My best advice is always trying to focus on an idea that interests you. Working on something you’re passionate about will keep you going through the long nights and weekends that it will take you to get your enterprise up and running.
My first experience of business was when I was 15 and my mother asked me to fix one of her friends’ computers. At that point, I was certainly no expert. We had only got our first computer couple of years before, and I was more interested in playing games on it rather than programming. To this day, I can’t even write a line of code, but that didn’t stop me being interested in how a computer worked. By tinkering with it and breaking it, I had to learn how to fix it again – or face my parents’ wrath that I had lost all of their data for the fifth time. Suffice to say, that by the time I went on my first visit to fix the family friend’s computer, I had some knowledge, and certainly more than they had. Rather like a primary school teacher being asked to cover a secondary school class, I just had to stay one step ahead of my customer.
Whatever you decide to base your business on, you don’t have to be amazing at it. Just good enough to help someone else. Maybe you like baking. Maybe you’re a bit OCD and enjoy cleaning (honestly some people do, including myself). Whatever it is you can turn that activity into a scalable, successful business. The problem is that most people who start on that journey don’t set it up correctly and don’t push to scale, which means it remains very much a hand to mouth operation.
If you are keen to get out of the 9 to 5 and control your own destiny then starting a business might be just the thing for you. Remember though: there are no shortcuts, no easy ways to do it. Effort in equals effort out. If anything, the whole idea of the end of 9 to 5 is that your work ceases to fit into a neat box. It can become all encompassing, and you will end up working longer and harder than you ever thought possible. The main difference being that you will be working for yourself. If that’s something that you care about, then the extra time involved won’t matter and you’ll stop considering it ‘work’.
So, in coming up with your answers to my questions:
- Have you managed to offer someone to someone else – either a product or service?
- Was the product or service valuable to the other person?
- Could you do it again?
Open your mind to many different situations in your life. Maybe you helped proof-read a friend’s essay or enjoy posting arty photos on Instagram – anything could be a business. Set me a challenge and put an activity in the comments section below and I will do my best to say how I would turn that into a business.
When I look back at a telecoms business that I started in my bedroom, it became something that I never could have comprehended when I started it. Certainly, I always had aspirations of taking over the world, but I couldn’t imagine all the cool things we would end up doing or the types of customers we would serve. Basically, all the interesting stuff comes later – initially the focus needs to be on you and starting. It doesn’t have to be super sexy, just something that you care about.