What you must consider before you start your business

Pt 1/8 in a series for early-stage founders. Starting with how to build the right business based on your innate strengths and traits 💪 .

Do you wonder how you can build the right business for you, based based on your innate strengths?

Read on for today’s post that digs into getting started, which, by the way, is part 1 of an 8 part series for people in the early stages of their business-building journeys.

Whether you are:

i) Still deciding if you should do it or not sure what you are building exactly

ii) Clear(ish) on the overall vision but unclear on the steps needed to turn it to reality

iii) On the right path but withoout the momentum you'd like as you are yet to step into your biggest baddest self and make the impact you’d hoped.

Over the next four months I’ll be writing about the eight fundamentals of early-stage business-building and how to set yourself up for success with stories of entrepreneurs from The Ask community and beyond who have thought deeply about these topics and kindly lifting the hood on their strategy, approach and obstacles they've overcome along the way.

That's twice as much content as before. So don't miss out — sign up today to make sure you receive all 16 posts chocka full of goodness to get you the clarity, direction and momentum you need in your business.

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Everyone has a business these days, right?

Today more people than ever are starting businesses, whether to escape burnout from a role that hasn’t fulfilled them and been exacerbated by the pandemic, they’ve been let go or they are on the search for more career fulfillment and opportunistically a new path. The most common reason for starting a business? To be your own boss, according to this study by Oberlo and I have to say that rings truest for me.

If you're currently unfulfilled in your current path professionally, you’ve likely been wondering if your skills lend themselves to the devil that is entrepreneurship. Perhaps you are embarking on your first venture, or you are like some of my clients who have ran businesses before but are not sure if they are so keen to run another one. They can’t quite imagine working for anyone else either.

So perhaps you are still teetering on the edge. You're not entirely sure if starting a new business is the most viable option for you right now or how likely it is that you will make it work. You'd love it if you could ensure success and choose something that will actually fulfill you...

What you do know though is that you are not currently living up to your potential.


So — is starting a business the answer?

To answer this question start by asking the right questions about what kind of person you are, where you’re at and what you’re capable of.

By answering these questions you can build up a better picture of you, to complete the jigsaw puzzle that answers the question “What should I do with my life?”.

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Such questions require more self-awareness and reflection than we might be used to. But we have been flexing our introspection muscles a little more during the pandemic; as we were told to stay indoors people around the world turned inward and reflected on their lives in ways that they may not have had time or reason to before. Time Magazine described this searching as a wide-spread existential crisis.

So I’m guessing if you’re reading this you’ve already introspected quite a lot lately or you’re in that process right now.

Asking hard questions and then actually doing what it takes to change course if you don’t like the answers, is key to living an intentional life. It’s a welcome change to see more people living this way as I've been asking these questions for many years and hear them daily in my coaching practice. I called my business The Ask® precisely because I know that success and happiness can come from asking the right questions.

Since I started my career in the City many moons ago dissatisfied and fearful that this reality of the working world might be all that there was…I embarked on a series of questions that have led me a decade later to work in the most fulfilling path possible (for me).

So over the next few weeks we'll be reflecting on the core principles and very important questions about starting out on your business building journey.

To kick us off today: Who are you, and what kind of business are you best suited to building?


What comes naturally to you you will find fulfiling

I believe we can all build fulfilling businesses.

Not that we all necessarily should start businesses, but that we are capable of designing something that works for us individually provided we’ve asked those right questions to align on what we most want.

To explore this further, let me asterisk that success and fulfillment are not the same things.

A business might be objectively successful and generating outsized returns, but have a deeply unhappy founder at the helm. Or it might be fulfilling but not successful. Either way, you want to have your cake and eat it. The goal is to reverse engineer what you most want and ensure that as you start out you are making decisions to bring you both riches and happiness.

If that sounds like a pipe dream then let me assure you it’s not easy. It requires time, hard work and sacrifices and maybe a degree of luck and circumstances in your favour. But it really is possible.

I was pleased to learn that Wharton professor on entrepreneurship, Ethan Mollick has even put a name to this process. 'Effectual reasoning' is the process he teaches his students in entrepreneurship (who, Mollick claims, have gone on to raise more money in VC investment than France and Germany as countries, combined). This process is about answering questions cautiously, over a series of days or preferably weeks in order to create the best business for the individual.

Questions including Who are you? What do you know? And who do you know?

In doing so, Mollick explains how you can start with the resources that you already have, so you can move into starting a business based on what you can do better than anyone else. His book The Unicorn’s Shadow explains this further and disputes many myths about startup founders in the process.


The clues to what you can do next lie in what you’ve already done

What I love about business building is you get to choose what you work on.

And if you get to choose, you may as well choose something that comes naturally. So, to figure out what comes naturally, if you do not already know, then I suggest a dig into the memory archives.

Who have you always been, even since you were little?

I set up stalls outside my house selling sweets, babysat the entire neighborhood, ran eBay shops, and worked in restaurants all before I turned 16. Clearly, I wanted to make money and make things happen! The point is not that you had an entreprising childhood but to consider what skills and hobbies you would spend time on even for free. Childhood is a great indicator of this as we were more able to do things that interested us just because, and not because we needed to ‘monetize’, ‘hustle’ or reach the top of maslows hierachy.

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When I realised that the number of personal development videos I watched on YouTube was not typical, it clicked that I didn’t just want to be a consumer of this inspiration, but a creator.

So consider; what have you been doing for a long time, that makes you perhaps a little bit weird? Overly obsessive? Lose track of time? Where do you get innately curious? Your personality is the clue to your business success.

The more you can show up each day to do the things that you love to do, the better.


You can map your strengths to your business

You don’t have to turn your hobby into a business, just figure out the skills and tasks that you enjoy using that you could happily do more of.

If you’re always the one bringing groups together, organising the logistics and hosting could your business might well include offline events or seminars or trips that allow you to step into your natural genius?

If you have a knack for aesthetics and visuals, from magazine collages to a beautifully curated social media feed, then let your creativity sit at the core of what you build?

If you are described as compassionate or intuitive and love connecting with people then you may be suited to a care or therapeutic field.

The kind of business that you should build looks different to the kind of business your friend/partner/coworker should.

The key is to map it to yourself.

Mapping it to yourself means you get to create your ideal role as the business owner and do the things you love each day — without being confined to a job title or box traditional employment need us to.

Let me tell you a critical story in my own journey.

In 2017 my career got confusing. I left headhunting as I’d felt stifled in terms of creativity and growth. I joined a startup accelerator that connected startups and corporates for pilots and alongside my role took up ad hoc ‘Talent’ responsibilities in the team. But I’d frequently get asked, what do you do exactly? To which I had no good, clear answer. Until 2018 when they sold a corporate a programme that required us to headhunt talented entrepreneurs for the programme for which I was put in charge. This was literally my dream role and I was over the moon that my career change was paying off, my skills were all being put to good use and for the next 18 months I was flying.

But in 2019 the funding for this programme got pulled and suddenly there was no ‘Talent’ component. My dream role was pulled from under my feet and I felt powerless. My career stalled so I decided to move on. However, this dream role I’d created didn’t exist elsewhere, and I was back looking at headhunting only jobs. I felt like I’d lost 2 years of progress and my range of skills werent wanted in any traditional jobs I could find.

I never wanted to have this feeling again. Like the rug had been swept from under my feet and everything I had built, put my name to and worked long days and nights towards now meant nothing because of a change in strategy. I felt like I’d have to start again.

Fast forward to today and building my own business has been the antidote.

It’s a joy to work on projects that I choose — ones that wouldn’t neatly fit into a box in the jobs market. I knew I could write, coach, speak, do sales, marketing, client services and recruitment. So from 2020 onwards I’ve been able to do all those things and get paid for it whilst adding value to a business I’ve created. One that no one can pull from under me.

Your strengths and skills might be going to waste in a traditional employement setting built for the industrial age that asks us to produce a consistent output in measurable ways.

You weren’t made to fit in a box.

Create your own box.

Founders get to be a Swiss-army knife of skills and never before has it been easier with the rise of personality-based business models that monetise being yourself.


Put an end to your excuses and start today

I’m so glad that I decided to back myself , reject traditional job opportunities that couldn’t meet me where I was at, and work for myself. Two years later I still feel like I’m just getting started. There is energy and momentum I never had before.

So if you are feeling unhappy/lazy/demotivated and not activating your highest self in your work then starting a business might the answer for you. Building a company is one of the biggest personal development journies you will ever go on and you will have to face your fears and do it anyway.

The world is missing out on some of its best founders (the founding motto of talent-based accelerator EF) and from my perspective as a coach, most people are typically holding back due to confidence and timing more than concern about their skillset.

But now really is the best time. The barriers to starting are lower than ever. There is so much innovation and change needed as our world is crying out for creative solutions to some of its biggest challenges.

Expecting to be 100 per cent ready, willing and able isn’t realistic, so what are you waiting for?

Join me over the next 16 weeks to embark on this journey — so that you can have the business you know is inside of you by 2022.

PSST…

If you’re looking for some more hands-on support and want to accelerate your journey to starting, fundraising, team building, generating revenue like my 1-1 clients have this year, then you can book a no-obligation consultation to explore whether founder-coaching is right for you.


Before you go… What’s happening at The Ask HQ.


Event with General Assembly for new and aspiring entrepreneurs — Wed 15th Sept.

TICKETS AND INFO HERE.

I’ll be moderating a panel with other entrepreneurs for General Assembly —Started from the bottom now they’re here — to dissect founders’ starting stories.

Join us to hear about starting a business, topics such as mental health, pressures of the industry and how founders have got to where they are today. If you want to be inspired in your own business building journey then do grab a ticket - they are free!