5 Questions You Should Always Ask Yourself Before Starting a Business

Recently, someone asked me what I would counsel them to consider before starting a home business. As I thought about this, I came up with five questions I think everyone should ask themselves before they start a business (or blog):

1) Am I Truly Passionate About This Idea?

If you want to be successful, your business idea must be your own. It can’t be a great idea that someone else told you that you should do.

It needs to be your brainchild, something you are wholeheartedly excited about and in love with. Because, believe me, you’re going to need that passion on those long and hard days when you feel like giving up.

I’ll never forget an email I received a few years back. It was someone I’d never heard from before and it came very out of the blue. They told me they wanted to start a website, but they couldn’t come up with a name. They said that they figured I probably had some good name ideas so could I please tell them what I thought they should name their website.

While I love helping budding entrepreneurs and try to answer as many questions emailed into me as I can, I knew that it would just be wasting my time to give this individual a name for their site. Why? Because they didn’t appear willing to work hard to see their idea succeed.

If they had emailed in with a list of ideas of possible names and a succinct vision for their site, I would have done my best to respond and give input. Instead, they wanted me to tell them my idea so they could use it.

If you’re wanting someone else to give you a big leg up with getting a business started, I can almost guarantee you that you’re not going to be successful. Because successful business owners take initiative. They are out there putting in the back-breaking personal effort to make things happen. They aren’t expecting someone else to spoon-feed them their success.

2) Who Is My Potential Customer?

When I was recently putting together my book proposal for the book I’m currently writing, one of the exercises I did was actually create a fictitious person in my mind that this book was written for. I didn’t go so far as creating an actual name for her, but I wrote down how old she was, what her personality was, how many children she had, and more. This might seem a little over-the-top, but it really helped me to solidify in my mind who I was writing for, once I’d created a sort of face for my audience.

Before you can create a marketing plan or a vision for your business, you need to have a good idea of who you are trying to reach out to. Because you’ll want to take a completely different approach if you’re trying to reach teen guys versus middle-aged moms.


3) Can I Afford the Start-Up Costs?

I believe strongly that you should never go into debt to start a business. Otherwise, you’re beginning with a noose around your neck.

If you don’t have the money needed for the start-up costs, I suggest that you either go back to the drawing board and downsize your idea, or that you save aggressively for six months or more in order to have the cash necessary to cover all of the start-up costs. Ideally, you’ll want to be able to cover the first three to six months’ worth of costs with your savings, without even making a dime of profit.

Not only will this cushion relieve a lot of stress that is often involved with starting a business, it will also allow you to invest some or all of your initial profits back into the business. This will give you an even stronger foundation for your business.

4) Have I Done Enough Research?

Most people are so eager to jump ahead and start the business that they don’t take enough time to really do their research. I recommend that you read at least 10-20 business-related books (here are 7 books I recommend that all work-at-home moms read) before you start a business. These will help you shape your business from the get-go and will also cause you to analyze your plan and preparations to make sure things are solid.

I also recommend that you talk to every person you know who has started a business or who works in the field or industry you’re wanting to go into. Tell them about your business idea, ask them for input, and pick their brain on the lessons they’ve learned along the way. This counsel could prove invaluable. Truly, every great idea I’ve ever come up with has been initially sparked by something I read or someone I talked to.

Once you’ve begun your business, don’t stop reading and growing as a person and a business owner. Challenge yourself to read at least one new business or leadership book every month, subscribe to a magazine like Inc., follow blogs like MichaelHyatt.com, and listen to podcasts like the EntreLeadership podcast. Always be experimenting with new ideas and never allow yourself to grow stagnant or content with the status quo.

5) Am I Willing to Fail?

If you jump out there and start new things, you are going to fail at least some of the time. Expect to succeed, but willingly accept failure. Not every business idea is going to be a homerun. In fact, most of them won’t be.

However, success is almost guaranteed to those who are willing to try, try again. Even if your first or third or fifth idea doesn’t work, you’ll eventually land on something that will be a success. Don’t give up!

What questions do you feel are imperative that someone should ask before starting a business or blog? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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Comments

  1. says

    These are great! And not only “Am I ready to Fail” but am I ready to be flexible and change/adapt as the need arrises! I think it’s great to always write down your goals and how you are going to achieve those goals.

    I wish everyone who want to start their own business/blog lots of SUCCESS!!!

    • says

      I was also going to suggest that being flexible is important. When I talk to my husband about blogging and small businesses, I tell him that we need to get started on some failures so we can get closer to success! Even if you fail, at least you are doing something at all. And it will surely give you a good education in the process.

      • Heather says

        Very true! Your thoughts made me think of the moving “Meet the Robinsons” were the motto is Keep Moving Forward. They talk about how it is through our failures that we learn. If we succeed in everything we did, we would never learn from anything.

  2. Natalie Snyders says

    Thank you – this is great advice! I would add that not only do you have to be passionate, you have to be willing to put hours of hard work in and make sacrifices along the way to be successful, and it does not happen overnight.

  3. says

    Well said! My parents have owned their own business for over 30 years now, through bankruptcies, bad economies, and increasing government regulation. If they didn’t have the work ethic to see it through in the tough times, they would never have had their successes.

  4. says

    I just finished listening to your interview on the Tribe, and I love reading this blog. You give great advice that makes me excited to want to fail. How will I ever know if my idea will ever be of something if I don’t test it out. You are a great example Crystal. Thank You so much for all your wisdom.
    Oh and I once worked at Old Navy for like 15 seconds , but they also had this made up customer that we would refer to.

  5. says

    Thank you so much for writing this! I’ve been blogging for 22 months, and I’ve barely made any money at it. I love writing, but I’m due to have my 3rd child any day now, and my husband needs my help with the administrative tasks of his business. I’m just not sure I can continue, or that it’s the best use of my time at this point in my life. Thank you for these good questions to ask myself…as a SAHM hoping to put God, my husband, and my children first…and hoping to supplement my husband’s income from home. :)

  6. says

    Great points Crystal! Here are a few more I hope will help others:

    * Time ( How much time will your buisness need? My saying” If you can’t put in the time, your not gonna make a dime”. It takes time to build up a buisness, not everything comes together over night.

    * Morals & Beliefs ( Depending upon the buisness you are considering, I would take a long hard look into my morals & beliefs. See if what I will be selling or promoting goes against them. Money & Success is not worth losing or hindering my morals & beliefs. Those things money can not buy.

    * Season ( Not the season’s of the year, but of life. I must evaluate my life to see what I can & can not do. Some seasons of life will give us more time than others. If I feel like I barely have time for my family, how could having a buisness work for me now? Consider what will be sacrificed and if it is worth it. Time & love is something that can not be bought nor refunded.

    Hope these help. May all of you have a wonderful week~

  7. says

    “Am I Willing to Fail?”

    I’ll adjust that to…

    Am I willing to make learn from my mistakes? This admits you’ll fail at some things but also shows it won’t be the end of the world.

    People who are too sensitive have to develop thick skins before they choose to start a business. So if you are one of such people (Who will do nothing for the fear of failure) then it’s time you developed some callouses in the right places.

  8. says

    Some very good tips. I think I would add a 6th that applies to all of them in some way. “Am I being Honest with Myself”. Often, people will answer the above questions with answers that they’ve come up with to “psych” themselves into starting the business because they want to be in business and don’t really care how.

  9. says

    This couldn’t have come at a better time. I have had a hard time putting words to some thoughts/feelings that have been stirring within me. This helped me to define them a bit and to reevaluate.

    Thanks – again.

  10. shannon says

    I would ask, do you have to know a large number of people or be on facebook to succeed with starting up a blog?

  11. says

    Number five is what I was always scared of, but not so any more!

    I’m reading a creativity book right now…and although it isn’t about starting a business, I like this quote, “Research suggests highly creative people make more mistakes than their less imaginative peers. The reason is not that they are less proficient–it’s that they make more attempts than most others. They spin out more ideas, come up with more possibilities, generate more schemes. They win some, they lose some.”

    And…”If you take no chances and make no mistakes, you fail to learn, let alone do anything unusual or innovative.”

    I’m learning to be open to failure! Not that I want it, but I don’t have to cower in fear from it or let it define me.

  12. says

    This is a question I address when I give seminars to would-be real estate agents. My number one tip is investigate all the start up costs. It’s often a lot more than you think and you need some money to get started.

  13. says

    #5 is tough for me. I don’t want to fail! And yet, each failed endeavor has been an incredible learning experience.

    Love and agree with your entire article. I must say, I do sympathize with the folks wanting you to name their business. Names are tough! (“greenlighting sessions” for coming up with a name can be really fun though :) )

  14. Ginger Wood says

    Thanks! I am currently in the process of slooowwlllly starting my own business:) I loved that I could answer your questions confidently!! Thanks for all the free ebooks ( I received a nook for Christmas and can’t wait to use it!), and for the recommendations. I feel so encouraged!!

  15. says

    These are great points. I guess I’ve failed so much in life that I’m getting kind of numb to it so when I started blogging last year, I figured that even if it failed, it wouldn’t hurt me to try. And it didn’t cost very much to start.

    The other big thing I think people should consider is: what specific time slot are you going to carve out of your schedule to do this thing? I had to make the choice to start getting up at 4 AM and blog between 5 and 6 AM, plus use a few hours of my peaceful, (cherished) Saturday mornings. I’m too tired in the PM after a day at work to do much, and I do a lot at my church in the evenings too. None of which I could eliminate from my schedule.

    Without going into it with a specific idea of when exactly how I’m going to work on the business/blog, I don’t have any idea how I at least could be successful. Life just gets in the way too much.

  16. Grace says

    great advice! my husband and i started a business about 6 months ago (kind of a “storage wars”/auctions). i cant overstress not being into debt for the business! we started it with only a 77.00 a month work van payment but it feels like a LOT of stress (even if it is just remembering to pay it :D). also for those planning to work from home, always make sure to set aside TIME for just you/spouse/family etc. Since my house is ALWAYS full of stuff (our house is too small for a “designated area” it is so easy to either work all the time or be thinking about it. After the kids and i worked for several days what felt like straight down time is super important.

  17. Debbie L. says

    These are all good questions. I started a freelance book publicity business 9 years ago. One of the biggest keys to the success of my business has been the support of my husband. We’ve had three kids since I started my business and without my husband’s support, I don’t think I would have made it this far. He’s a huge help around the house and with the kids and has made it possible for me to have this business and be at home with my kids. So, if you’re married, I would say to really look at whether your spouse and family is on board–it’s critical. And if you’re single, then make sure you have some sort of support system in place. Makes all the difference.

  18. says

    Great points! I think #5 is so important. I’ve had so many ideas in my lifetime and I’ve been willing to put in the work, but I was just stuck being terrified to try and fail. I’d also add to #4. Yes, do enough research, but don’t get stuck there! I think I was stuck in that phase for years. I really think there’s no substitute for getting out there and doing for yourself (wisely and carefully, but whole heartedly).

  19. says

    Am I willing to fail is a great question to ask yourself when starting a business. When you feel like you’re failing take a step back, re-evaluate and re-adjust and keep moving forward. (That’s what I had to do a year ago when I started my web design business!)

    I would also encourage folks to start a business debt free because you never know how business will be!

    Thanks for a great article Crystal!