Question: I have a lot of ideas for new ventures. The one thing my college education hasn’t taught me, which always holds me back, is where do I start?
Regardless of how new you are to the process of starting a business, feeling lost or overwhelmed is understandable and for many of us that’s part of God’s process for keeping us dependent upon Him. First and foremost doing B4T is about God working inside us and secondly it is about reaching out to others. So walking by faith is good. Realize that a degree in business usually doesn’t include training in the practical skills an entrepreneur needs to start a company, and even when it does, actually applying what you’ve learned can be overwhelming.
The first step: before doing anything practical, is to take time to pray and think. Envision the company that you wish to create. Are you convinced this is God’s assignment for you and not just a good idea, or a way to get a visa? Is this a company that you can believe in, heart, soul and wallet? Are you enthusiastic about how this business will make a difference in people’s lives and its potential for transforming the community? This is crucial, because if you love your work, you are far more likely to persevere despite the long hours and struggles that are inevitable, and your successes and celebrations will be all the sweeter.
Next, get input. Having a mentor, plus a couple of experienced coaches is extremely important as you move forward. You need people you trust, who you know want to assist you in pursuing God’s will for your life. These wise men will give honest feedback on your plans. If their eyes glaze over when you describe your new venture, return to your drawing board and start over. If they all get excited, you are probably heading in the right direction.
The next steps involve risk, which may be why you’re hesitating. The risk of putting your idea out there and of committing your time and resources is scary. Some people hang back at this point, trying to perfect their plan, and then end up spending more time on it than actually running the business. Successful entrepreneurs don’t wait for the perfect moment — they create it.
Develop some samples of what you intend to sell, and when you’re happy with your product or service, begin with the best and cheapest form of market research you can — ask your friends, family members, neighbors and social media followers to try it out. If the reaction is negative, consider tweaking your offering. Don’t let this process get you down. Making a few adjustments does not mean that your idea isn’t a good one. I have read scores of business plans and I doubt even one was implemented exactly as written. The ability to adapt to market changes and customer wants is part of building a business. Flexibility and the ability to solve problems creatively are essential qualities in an entrepreneur.
Once you’ve made those changes, try selling small batches of the product or offer initial introductions to the service wherever you can – to friends and neighbors, online, door to door, at local markets, and so on. Continually be asking for feedback. You need input to keep upgrading. Develop a system to keep in touch with those who use your product. Work to get the branding right too. Does it stand out? Does your brand’s values attract customers?
As your customers’ input becomes more and more positive, you’ll need to start increasing production. Practical matters will start coming up, like how to distribute your product and how to manage cash flow. At that point it’s time to begin pitching your idea to potential investors and distributors, and also to start hiring and delegating. St. Francis of Assisi said: “Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.”
Finally join a network of like-minded people who can both encourage and sharpen you, while keeping you living in reality.
And God bless with your new business!
PATRICK LAI and his family have worked in SE Asia for over 37 years. His experience in doing business with Jesus has brought him to understand the meaning of work and worship in the marketplace. He started 14 businesses in four countries, six of which are still operating. Patrick and his wife, May, mentor and coach businesspeople working where there are few or no Christians. Check out Patrick’s latest book, Workship, now available in paperback and e-book.