Some weeks I get to talk to between 10 and 20 entrepreneurs (on the phone), one on one, all at different stages of their business development. Usually, they’ve seen our Business Setup Kit brochure Inevitably there are going to be two or three people who really want to be in business, but don’t know which one. Are you in that position? Here’s my advice – just three points – but all very important.
1) Self Analysis. Explore yourself first. There are hundreds of businesses, products or services you can get into in Zimbabwe, more than most people think, but not all are suited for you.
What natural skills, knowledge, talents, passions do you have? You love numbers? You’re a good communicator? A brilliant sports person? A flair for art? Are you a good organizer? Love to travel?
Look at what you’re good at and enjoy, then ask yourself “Can I package this and sell it?” In other words, can you turn it into a product? If not, can you combine it with something or someone else to turn it into a product that can be sold for profit? Last resort, can you turn it into a service? (I say last resort, because in a service business you will be forced to sell your time for money, which limits you.)
Don’t commit to anything just yet because next you’ll need to do some…
2) Market Analysis. Is there a demand for what you can do? Where’s the pain your product can solve? Where’s the problematic opportunity that matches your talent/ skill profile? In what form? Which market opportunity represents the greatest need for what you can do?
If there is no demand for what you’re trying to do, just forget it, don’t try to generate hunger unless you have an endless budget and really thick skin. Just move on to a different idea, or a different twist on your current one.
Once you’ve found a match between your talent profile and a market need, you’ve done most of the work. By the way, you don’t necessarily need a massive demand, just an intense one.
Also, in Zimbabwe you’ve got to be careful of going into business to service the latest trend created by Gideon Gono or some new political development. You may end up devoting time and money into something, just to see everything change and render your investment useless.
3) Competitive Analysis – How will you differentiate yourself from those offering something similar? If you’re meeting an established need (as you should in most cases) then you’ll most likely have competition. How can you position your solution as better?
If you’re just another commodity, selling exactly the same thing to the same people in the same way, you’ll always have to compete on price. Competing on price makes your business extremely vulnerable.
It means no matter how long you’ve been at it, someone else can wake up tomorrow morning and steal your biggest customers by charging less. You’re trying to get rich, he’s just trying to survive, so who do you think can afford to charge less?
You’re also competing with big businesses that can buy in bulk and therefore get discounts you might not be able to afford. That means they can also sell for less than you. You best bet is to differentiate your product/ service.
Offer something extra your customers consider valuable. A free something, a longer guarantee, unique service, different flavours, colours, brands or whatever. Don’t be different for it’s own sake, do it in a way that’s profitable. Do it by answering the question “Why should I do business with you, even though I have so many other options?”
Going through all these steps is a lot harder than just randomly picking something or following the crowd, but the rewards are also much greater. Take the time to get a feel for all these factors before you choose your business. Don’t take too long though, don’t fall procrastination, perfectionism or ‘analysis paralysis’.
Take action, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful new business.