Thinking about starting a business? Here are the THREE key questions to ask.

What is the basis for a successful business?

You must like (or love) what you do
You must be great at this (or at least better at it than your client)
Ideally, it’s hard or unpleasant for your client.

#1 You love to do this (or at least learn to like) doing this.

You want a business you can sustain.

You already may know the feeling of having to drag yourself out of bed to a job that you don’t like. Your business is supposed to make you happy that you ditched your 9-to-5, not that you traded one slog for another (with probably less pay and fewer benefits – at least at the beginning).

If you like doing something, it’s also follows that you will be willing to work harder and longer to make it succeed. In fact, Inc Magazine cites it as one of the three keys to success.

So if you’re going into business, be pragmatic with your choices, but choose something that does good for you – and for your clients. And that you can see yourself doing for the long haul. It’s going to take time to build your business. Ideally, it would be nice to actually be happy that it is succeeding and that you get to wake up and do this. Every.Single. Day.

But there is a flip side to all this happiness. Your happy place should be paired with an unmet need in the market. Otherwise it will simply remain a hobby business.

#2 You’re great at this.

People will pay for great skills, especially if it takes training, practice, specialized equipment, or experience. And EVERYONE has something they are great at. Everyone.

The key is matching your skill set with a problem that people need to solve – and are willing to pay to solve. That is the piece that is sometimes missing from the evaluation part of starting a business. Your “really good at” has to align with “customers will clamor to pay for this.” And the more you can narrow down your skills and abilities to align with customer needs, the more you can potentially demand.

For example: If you have a problem with your eyes, you will probably decide to see a specialist eye doctor. Someone whose skills, knowledge, and experience will solve your exact problem. A general practitioner might be able to cure your eye problem. But you have a built-in confidence that the eye doctor’s skills will be better at fixing your particular problem. 

A specialist will command bigger fees and more respect around solving problems.Be a specialist who is great at what you do and you’ll always have clients willing to pay for your knowledge, skills, and experience.

One caution: you may be passionate about something (see #1 above) but not be very good at it. Think about all the bad actors, un-funny comics, and awful paintings you’ve seen. Good at something beats passion every day of the week when it comes to your business. Your skills need to be “pay-worthy” if you want to have a business.

#3 It needs to be hard or unpleasant for someone else. 

The harder and/or more unpleasant, the better your chances of commanding a decent, livable rate. And the more specialized your skill is, the better able you are to serve your audience.

The eye specialist is fully booked because she went to medical school to learn about eyes – she can diagnose eye problems with confidence. If you had a problem with your hips or your chest, she is (probably) not a great fit to get you back in shape. But problems with your eyes? She has the skills.

The mechanic who fixes your car is a whiz at Toyotas and knows exactly how to keep your car running so you can pick up the kids with confidence. If you had a Tesla or a Ferrari, you would probably seek out a mechanic with specific skills around electric vehicles or exotic cars to keep your vehicle carpool ready.

There is a guy around here who makes a living doing…wait for it…dog poop pickups. Yup. He comes to your yard on a schedule and picks up all the dog poop. This is actually a very popular business. Google showed 6 different companies offering a similar service in the Boston area.

The dog poop guy is willing to scour your yard in rain, snow, and the mid-day heat wave for Fido’s crap. While picking up dog poop is not hard, it is unpleasant enough that people will happily pay for his service. 

Regardless of whether you need training (like the eye doctor) or a specialized skill (fixing Teslas) or do something that is unpleasant or inconvenient (picking up dog poop), all these businesses have one thing in common:

They found something that customers value and are willing to pay for.

Test idea for a business

The “friends ask for my help all the time” test for a business.

You are a closet-whisperer.

You read Marie Kondo’s book and fell in love with her methods. They “spark joy” in your life.

Are you good at it?

Better than good. You can quote chapter and verse of of gospel according to Marie.

Your friend’s kitchens and closets are masterpieces of joy after your magic touch.

Is it hard or unpleasant for your customers?

Yes…breaking up is hard to do with all their clutter. You are the master at getting them to part with their excess and feel good about it.

Rather than feel overwhelmed, they feel the freedom of less. All because of you.

You’re particularly good at helping seniors who are downsizing, pairing empathy with a keen eye for what has resale value. 

Is there a way to make money?

Yes. Organizing is a valued skill.

You can do one-on-one consults, create a training class for other organizers, create a line of organization tools and products. You can specialize – empty nesters looking to downsize, city-dwelling new parents – and create your own methods.

There are lots of directions to make this a successful business.

Yes to all three questions. There are lots of opportunities here.

A short warning about MLMs – those “party plan” businesses

I have to stop and preach a little about MLMs. It can feel so attractive when you’re desperate for change to jump onto the MLM bandwagon and start selling Mary Kay or jewelry or Herbalife or any of the thousands of MLM sales “opportunities” that people are trying to get you signed up.

Please, please, please don’t. 

Just no.

MLMs are overwhelmingly a losing proposition. The Federal Trade Commission estimates that over 98% or people who join MLMs not only don’t make any money, they lose money. Often thousands of dollars more than the “training kit” that you need to buy to get started.

Please read more about MLMs in this article. And if you think you finally found the exception to the rule in MLMs I will tell you almost certainly that you have not. The hidden gotchas are there somewhere. 

To sum it up….

Find something that you love (or at least don’t mind doing.

Are you great at it? Be honest here. If you’re not great, can you get great? Take a course, get experience, do an apprenticeship…what can you do to sharpen those skills?

Is it hard for other people? Having a barrier to entry (skills, experience, specialized equipment) help.

Having those three things will at least help you eliminate business ideas that will not make you money.

Ready to launch your business?

Still figuring things out?

Check out these resources to launch with confidence.

little boy in a cape with sunglasses reaching up to sun

Can you be the next Nike, Spanx or Stonewall Kitchen? Hint: YES

What does your new (or not yet) business have in common with Nike, Spanx. Amazon, and Stonewall kitchen?

A lot actually. 😊

Each of those businesses started with someone having a crazy idea and chasing their vision.

(BTW: keep reading to the end to find out one other amazing thing…)

From Fax machines to an underwear empire

Sara Blakely scored too low on the law school admissions test to follow her dream of becoming a lawyer, so she ended up selling fax machines door-to-door.

While the pantyhose smoothed out her panty lines, she didn’t like wearing them in Florida where she lived. Blakely cut the legs off a pair of control top pantyhose and liked the result.

She kept tinkering until she came up with a design. Then she took $5000 of her own savings, developed prototypes, and tried to get pantyhose manufactures interested.

No one would take a chance until the owner of one of the mills, impressed by his own daughter’s enthusiasm for the product, decided to take a chance.

That company is called Spanx.

 From a waffle maker to one of the biggest athletic brands in the world.

Nike started with one guy building shoes at his kitchen table.

Phil Knight went out to athletic events and talked to runners. He kept refining and rebuilding until runners were demanding his shoe.

His commitment to making the best shoe meant burning through a couple of his wife’s waffle irons in the process because he was truly bootstrapping at his kitchen table.

From a crappy website with a single product to the world’s largest retailer.

Amazon started with a crappy website selling books.

Jeff Bezos had a vision for a one-stop “everything” shop but started with books. Bezos went all in on the venture, leaving his Wall Street gig to get Amazon up and running.

He had a vision to sell, well, everything, but started with books because it seemed the easiest category for him to break into. Amazon kept expanding as Jeff Bezos added products and refined the system until it became the Amazon we know today.

From farmer’s markets to international gourmet brand.

Stonewall Kitchen started off with founders Jim Stott and Jonathan King selling jams at a farmer’s market in 1991 in Portsmouth, NH.

Stott and King enlisted their family to help them fill jars.

Jim’s 90-year-old grandmother stuck on their signature burlap on top.

Now they sell in 42 countries with lines of foods, cookbooks and home goods. Oh, and they have a cooking school and café at their “mother ship” in York Maine. Well worth the visit, BTW.

Each of these businesses were started by someone using their talents and skills – their superpower.

Each of these businesses chased a vision that their founders had.

–Phil Knight wanted to create the premier running shoe in the world

–Sara Blakely wanted to create undergarments that gave women confidence in how they looked

–Jeff Bezos wanted to make an “everything store”

–Jim Stott and Jonathan King wanted to build a gourmet food empire that started with a family blueberry jam recipe.

 

So I am asking you…what is your superpower?

Don’t you DARE tell me you don’t have a superpower.

I will wait right here until you can tell me just one thing – even if you think it’s a very small thing – that you do better than anyone.

Got something in mind?
Good
We can continue….

You can start a business around your one superpower.
The other stuff, getting in front of your customers, figuring out if what you’re selling is what your audience wants to buy – all part of the process. And EVERY business goes through this.

I can see you in the back, shaking your head and saying, “nope, I can’t do that because _(fill in your own excuse here)”

I am telling you, you can.

In fact, I am on a mission to help women recognize their skills, their knowledge, their life experiences have value. As a business. In their lives. In their community.

Incredible value.
Monetary value.
Leadership value.

I am tired of the world telling women who feel beaten down because everyone around them has told them that they are “just (something)”

Just a mom
Just a big fat failure
Just getting too big for their britches
Just not good enough / smart enough / ambitious enough to chase their dreams.

I want women to be strong enough to grab onto the power and skills they have right now.

Because YOU truly are enough

Right here.
Right now.
This instant.

YOU are enough to
Start a business.
Start changing their lives
Start changing the lives of your families and your community

 

All with the simple vision of yourself as
Important
Powerful

And it does not require that you follow someone else’s idea of what is perfect.

Nope, you get to (in fact you must) do this for yourself if you are going to be successful.

You can work from what you are already good at and make money doing it.

Yes.

And it doesn’t take buying into someone else’s business model, or something weird that you don’t really understand, or some “get rich” thing that all the cool kids are doing.

Maybe they could be a great fit for you.
But probably not.

So can we figure out your greatness?

Figure out the marketable skills you already have (and you do – you just need some help pulling the weeds away to see it)….and get you started on an adventure?

Because (as my very wise friend Seth says….)

Nobody makes your choices but you
Nobody gets to choose who you are but you
Nobody gets to choose who you are NOT but you

Want to figure out how to get started?

It’s actually a pretty simple process.

Step One: What is your superpower that people will pay for?
Don’t you be telling me that you don’t have any superpowers – because EVERYONE has superpowers. Sometimes you need a little help to see your amazing.

Step Two: Who will pay for your superpower?
There is someone out there who needs exactly what you can do for them. You might need a little help finding them – but that’s part of the process.

The other stuff, getting in front of your clients, figuring out if what you’re selling is what your audience wants to buy – all part of the process. And EVERY business goes through this.

We can figure this out. All of it.
Let’s do on this journey to becoming your version of Jeff, Sara, Phil, Jim, or Jonathan.

PS…

Here are the other “amazing things” I promised I the beginning…

Spanx was a side gig for Blakely for the first nine years. She kept her office supplies sales job until Oprah picked Spanx as “her favorite thing” and sales exploded.

Knight worked as an accountant and sold Japanese-brand Tiger shoes out the trunk of his car at track meets while he worked to build Nike.

Bezos’s parents were not thrilled when he decided to leave Wall Street and advised him to do Amazon as a side gig. Bezos refused and went all in.

Stonewall Kitchen’s first big order for 2500 jars from Crate & Barrel in 1993 took a month to fulfill. One. Jar. At. A. Time. The success of this helped them with their first expansion.

PPS…

Your journey is right there….
Nothing is stopping you …but you.