This is my second post in my series on “Tips for Starting an Internet Business.” In my Introduction, I listed vision as the first of four essential elements needed for starting an Internet business.
A successful Internet business, like any business, starts with a healthy dose of vision. Vision is a vivid mental image of something that may come to be. It includes intelligent foresight and clear anticipation. Vision originates in the imagination and over time is converted into thoughts and desires and eventually plans and goals.
Imagination can be fanciful and unbelievable. It can assume away reality and overlook pitfalls. Vision, on the other hand, if it will produce a good roadmap, must be realistic and anticipate problems. It should formulate the best way to navigate the pathway to success.
One’s vision should define success. What is my definition of success in business? How will I measure it? Once success is clearly defined, we can focus on how to get from vision to success. (I feel that one’s vision should also include an exit strategy that covers what to do after success has been achieved or what to do if success remains elusive.)
In essence, vision includes the concept, goals, and strategy that will ultimately govern our day-to-day focus. In essence, it is the foundation for the business plan from which investment and other resources can be added.
Now for some suggestions for creating a practical vision that could give birth to a successful business. Here’s a few tips based on my experience.
- Find something you are passionate about
- Think of ways you can start small and grow
- Scratch an itch being overlooked (or scratch it better)
- Be realistic (SWOT – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats)
- Expect to struggle
Find Something You Are Passionate About
If you care deeply about something then you will do what it takes to learn about it. You will spend time and effort with that thing. Eventually you will become an expert on the subject. Soon others will associate you with it and you will be recognized as an authority in this area. That recognition and trust makes an incredible asset for a business.
Think of Ways You Can Start Small and Grow
I’m a “pay as you grow” kind of guy. I don’t like debt. Period. If you can come up your own investment up front that gives you more control and less expenses in the long run. Interest and debt service area a huge drain and produce lots of worry. In down times they can kill your business.
So especially for Internet businesses, I advocate starting with what you have and know. You are already an expert on your passion so look for ways to monetize that asset. Maybe you could do consulting work. Maybe freelance for others. Perhaps address small jobs or projects overlooked by the “big guys.” And in all this, plan to under-sell and over-deliver; i.e., give more than you promised. Word of mouth is an incredible driver of future sales.
For an Internet business, maybe you could keep you “day job” for a little longer and build up your reputation (get your name out) first by blogging and giving free expert advice on forums, message boards, in other people’s blog comments, and via social networking websites. Be sure to point your “byline” to your blog or website but don’t be sales-like in doing this. Good word gets around and you will be rewarded over time.
Scratch an Itch Being Overlooked (or Scratch It Better)
Look for a niche you can fill better than anyone else. Remember you will have to compete so think about this up front. If you are already an expert then that’s a huge advantage and you can go with that a long way in building your Internet business.
I advocate serving a niche area at first so you can start small (without debt) and grow into larger things. A small niche area might be something that you can serve yourself until your revenue grows to the point of hiring others. It’s also an area that you can compete well within as an expert.
One thing to remember: Some people might have to be told they have an itch that your product or service can scratch. You’ll have to demonstrate why your product or service meets a need so be prepared to give lots of information.
I like to think of SWOT analysis (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, threats) in this area. All of these aspects should be honestly evaluated. It’s wise to have a trusted friend or partner help in this and listen to them. They may point out “blindspots” and pitfalls that you were not aware of. They may also have great ideas or tell you about another “itch” that needs scratching.
Expect to Struggle
Owning a business is hard work. It means long hours, problems, lots of bills, slow sales periods, and even worry. It also can produce the opposite.
I know of no business owner who hasn’t had to struggle at times. This is especially true for startups. Over 90% of new businesses fail. That means those surviving in business do so through hard work matched with good ideas and dedication.
This inevitable struggle is another reason why I suggest that the ideas behind and purpose of the business be clearly defined up front. It’s easier to remain committed in a struggle when the tactics, direction, and focus are firmly established. If there are partners, all should be committed to the same vision and working toward the same goals at all times. That doesn’t mean everyone has to agree but all disagreements should be thoroughly hashed out and a workable solution wholeheartedly endorsed by all.
A Few Other Tips
I suggest that you be conservative and realistic in your planning. Remember that with an Internet businesses your competition is global and people have very limited attention spans. It takes time to be found and to convert browsers into buyers.
An important aspect of vision is the name of the business. For Internet businesses, it is important to choose a name that functions well online as a domain name. Besides the obvious that the domain name must be available, some other suggestions for picking your name are one that is easy to remember and easy to spell. I also recommend buying obvious misspellings of your domain name so you can redirect them to the correct name. To reduce search engine competition later, you might also want to purchase both the .com and .net versions as well. You may even wish to purchase derogative versions of your domain name to prevent them from being used against you in the future (such as businessnamesucks.com). [Tip: See our domain name registration page to get started.]
Now is a good time to get some professional advice too. Enlist the assistance of a competent attorney and accountant to set up the legal and financial side of the business equation. Make sure you are on sound footing to protect your personal assets and that you have a viable business plan to proceed. [Tip: You can get help online and create your own legal documents. See our legal services page to get started.]
I also strongly recommend separating business and personal assets and accounts early in the process. That means getting separate business credit cards and banking accounts and not mingling your personal and business funds. Separate bookkeeping makes life easier when filing your income taxes and much easier if you are ever audited. [Tip: Our business finances page makes it easy to open business credit card accounts.]
The above thoughts cover a few aspects of vision in business planning. This brief overview gives some personal insight into what you may face in planning your own Internet business. Remember, good planning now makes later success easier to achieve.
My next article will focus on the second essential aspect for an Internet business: Investment.