This project is part funded by Invest Northern Ireland and the European Regional Development Fund under the Investment for Growth & Jobs Northern Ireland (2014-2020) Programme

The questions you’re afraid to ask about starting a business

DATE: 13/03/23

AUTHOR: Fiona Kennedy

Have you been thinking about starting your own business lately? Perhaps you’re early on in the process, just crystallising your business idea, and figuring out your plans? Or maybe you’re further on, firm in your brand development and ready to launch? Whatever stage of entrepreneurship you find yourself at, there may be some hard questions that you are afraid to ask. Questions that go to the heart of most start-ups. Questions that in some cases could put you off taking the entrepreneurial leap entirely.

Let’s run through some of the most intimidating questions and we’ll see why they’re not as frightening as they might seem.

How do I know if my idea is any good? 

A little (or a lot!) of self doubt is very normal in any creative or innovative decision making. Most of us will question whether we know what we’re doing, whether our idea is good enough and whether we’ll be taken seriously. Having those doubts does not mean the answer is no. It simply means you’re taking the process seriously enough to question it. That in itself is a good place to start. Before launching any business, it’s vital that we question the idea, the structure, the finances, the projections. Being thorough around every piece of information we have can guide us in making the right decision.

Gather Market Research

When it comes to your business idea, there is no crystal ball unfortunately. We’d suggest instead that spending as much time as you can researching and gathering market data will point you in the right direction. Start small. Bring together a group of colleagues or friends and ask each of them to bring someone else along. You can pitch your business idea and hear some objective (and probably some subjective) feedback from everyone in the room. It won’t all be positive but you want that. Take what you hear and dig deeper into any criticism or comments you receive.

Competitor Research

If you can, it’s also useful to do some competitor research. Figure out what products or services are available elsewhere. Are you offering anything new or unique? Are you solving a problem that is not being answered elsewhere? Starting a business is easier if you are filling a gap. It makes more sense to find a niche that you can grow into rather than trying to break into an already saturated market.

As you fine tune your business idea based on your market data, you should start to feel better informed and more confident about your plans.

How can I do everything myself, will I have any help? 

Launching your own business can feel daunting. In particular when it comes to wearing the many hats of a business owner. Many of us have a fear of uncertainty about what lies ahead. Often we may have insecurities about our education and level of experience across so many areas of expertise. It’s common to have such concerns when you’re in the process of starting a business however important to remember that many very successful entrepreneurs started without any relevant education or indeed experience.

Develop a business plan

Much of the success of any business comes down to the work and planning that goes into the preparation of the business as well as the commitment and passion of the founder. When it comes to planning, it’s key to spend time researching and compiling a comprehensive and strategic business plan. Consult the Go For It Programme where you can work directly with a business advisor to move forward in developing your business plan. Receive help and advice and be connected with a wider network of business professionals to help you feel better prepared and informed.

Once you have your business plans and strategy in place, you may find that concerns over time management and the expertise of expertise feel less daunting. You’ll also have a support network in place through your work with Go For It and the wider business community that you can lean on when necessary.

As your business grows and you consider the possibility of scaling, think of the employees you’d want to take on to build out your team. You’ll be an expert in every area of your business by then and even better placed to train the people you want to help nurture your brand.

What about the money? How will I fund my business and will I make a profit?  

Money is always at the top of the list of concerns for potential entrepreneurs. How much will I need? What is the best way to fund the business? How much will I sell? When can I expect to make a profit? How soon might I be able to draw a salary? All of these questions come up time and time again and no one answer fits every business.

General advice would be to do as much planning as you can. Work with your Go For It advisor to flesh out financial projections as part of your business plan. Be detailed as you gather information about your potential overheads, liabilities and the costs attached to your product or service. Have a clear idea about how much it will cost you to bring your idea to market. Figure out what you’ll need to charge your clients or customers to sell it. The more information the better here.

Look into your competitor’s pricing. Understand your supply chains so that you can build some safety net into your pricing. Once you have, figure out what profit you’ll be taking in the first month, year, or 18 months based on projected sales. It’s unusual to make a profit in a new business before 12 months have passed so be realistic about what funding you’ll need to float the business until that should happen.

Funding Assistance

When it comes to funding for your business, look into the various options available to you. From local funding opportunities (check your local council organisations, business grants and other related bodies), to loan options from Banks and Credit Unions. Finally, consider any personal savings or loans from friends and family.

Start small and build up. What is the least you’ll need to build, launch and gently grow your business over the next 12 months? Start there and once you’ve exhausted the help available to you, you’ll have a clearer picture of where you stand financially.

For more information about financial assistance, read our guide.

How can I spread the word about my business? 

Building and growing a brand might seem like an insurmountable challenge particularly if this is your first journey into the start-up world. Designing and fleshing out a simple but thorough marketing plan is a good start and in most cases is something you’d want to include in your business plan. Taking into account your market research and competitor data, combine this with your short, medium and long term brand goals and start mapping things out.

Look to Social Media

Start with who your potential customers or clients are. Who is it that you want to engage with your brand? What are the demographics of this group and where do they live online? Have you established what your group are interested in? What is the best way to communicate with them? Once you’ve figured this out, put in place consistent social media content directed to these groups. If you are talking to the over 40s, Twitter might be the best platform for you. If it’s teens and young adults, try focusing on TikTok. It is possible and advisable to start small. Develop a clear and targeted content plan and without investing huge amounts of budget, roll out regular content to build up engagement and interest.

Keep an eye on your analytics. See what content is working for you, where you’re getting the best engagement and build on that. As you move forward, you may decide to invest some budget into the most profitable areas and grow from there.

In the end, what am I doing this for?  

As with any big decision, figuring out the motivation behind your plans to start a business can be very helpful.

Are you planning to start a business because you have a yearning to be your own boss? Is it that you want to be in charge of your own decision-making and potential success? Are you considering launching a business so that you can follow a passion as yes unexplored? Or perhaps entrepreneurship appeals because you have a solution to a problem that you feel completely driven to bring to market? All of these reasons are positive and speak to the heart of small businesses and innovation. It’s important to come back to them throughout your business journey to remind yourself why you’re putting in the effort and what your long term goals are.

If, on the other hand, your motivation for starting a business is to escape from your current professional position, you might not be on the right path. Launching a business is no small matter, and to do it, and do it well, amidst the pressures and uncertainties, it’s vital that you believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Seeing it as an escape from something else will not be enough. The most successful small businesses are those where founders are consumed by their mission and product. They are businesses where founders truly believe in the value of what they’re bringing to market and won’t let anything stand in their way.

Lean on Go For It

It’s normal to have questions you’re afraid to ask. The questions we like to push to one side. In the world of start ups, but it’s smarter to face these hard questions. Easier in the long run to figure out what your real answers are and move ahead from there. The information you gather and the process involved in getting to the answer can give you powerful insights into your potential brand and arm you for the challenges ahead.

Talk to us at the Go For It Programme to put design and develop a strategic and realistic business plan to make sure you have the best foundations in place for whatever direction your business will move in.