The Most Important First Step When Starting a Business

Whether you call it the mass exodus, the Great Resignation, re-evaluating your life, or a midlife crisis, there are scores of people leaving traditional jobs to start their own businesses.

However, the question often asked — whether it’s pondering from behind the desk in the corner office or in a bit of panic having just been let go from your job — is “What’s the first thing I should do to start my own business?”

The answer: Find your unique thing.

What can you offer that is meaningful to you, leverages your strengths and capabilities, and is marketable?

Know that it doesn’t have to be perfect. The truth is, you will likely go through several iterations of this idea before you come close to landing on “the” idea that is sustainable. Think of it as the journey from iteration to identity. Every self-employed business owner I’ve ever asked about how similar their business is from their original idea will say not very similar at all. The original spark may hold true, but iteration is part of the process and it should be expected.

Consider your skillset

It’s possible you no longer enjoy what you’re experienced in. But are there aspects of it you love that you can imagine doing more of? Or, can what you don’t enjoy help you determine what you would like to do? Often what drives us crazy can be a catalyst for innovation to do something different than the way it’s been done before. Acknowledging what you dislike about what you were doing can be just what you need to create something new, disruptive, and very marketable. In any case, applying your skillset can be your marketable idea.

Pay attention to compliments

You know those things you do that people comment on that you brush off? Like the way you simplify complicated problems. Or, the way you have a knack at seeing solutions when others can’t. Perhaps you have the ability to organize a complicated situation or that you thrive under pressure. There’s a good chance people around you have been pointing out something unique about you that they see value in all along. Think about the pattern of compliments you’ve heard over the years, in the workplace and out. Pay particularly close attention to the feedback you just want to brush off as “no big deal.” Because it just might be a big deal. It might point precisely to something you are innately good at that’s so easy for you, you don’t see the value in it. But others do. And that spark can be the beginning of a great business idea that can catch fire. 

Create a thread

Creating a thread from your past to your future can provide credibility to your new venture, an explanation as to what makes you different, and a compelling story to share. While we sometimes see our own lives as a series of doors opening and closing, other people often find the thread that creates a throughline more compelling. Don’t be too quick to shut the door behind you, but rather look for opportunities to continue and share the story.

Again, the important thing to remember here is you’re starting with an inkling of an idea, not the final chapter. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to get it perfect, or for that matter, even close to right. Far more clarity will come as you progress.

Yes, there’s a lot to do when you consider the first things that need to be done to start a business. But finding your “thing” — that spark of an idea that’s the combination of your skills, value, and story — is the best place to start.

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