Do you want to start a business or a profitable business? Even though you might choose the later, most startups end up doing the former. Most of what beginners do is just to start a business. The issue of profitability is usually left for assumption.
Let me give you an example that describes it well. I’m a blogger, and the common idea among those who want to start blogging, is to setup a blog and ‘boom’ they start making money.
If you ask many of them how people would find their blog to read, they don’t know. They just assume that once you write a blog the internet will do the rest for you, and find you millions of readers. Then, you start collecting money from Google for AdSense.
It’s the same thing most startups do in Nigeria. They never factor the most important things about business before getting started. In fact, if you ever ask any startup the problem they are having in their business, you will hear things like, if only I have money to invest or my problem is capital. But the question is, what would you do with the capital?
Understanding Profitable Business
A business that doesn’t have a pool of customer base is not feasible and cannot be a profitable business. Get this right, you don’t have a business if you don’t have customers. Instead of trying to start a business first, why not try to get customers for the the business you plan to start.
A profitable business is not an assumption, and that’s why many startups don’t succeed. You cannot start a business you are not sure you have customers who are willing to patronize you and are within your reach.
Take bloggers for example. Instead of rushing to start a blog, offer to write on another existing blog to build your audience. Especially if you don’t know much about blogging. The same thing for startups. Be patient to undergo an apprentice program. What you don’t know may be the reason your competitors are doing better than you.
A profitable business is not just a good business idea. Anyone can have an idea or even copy other people’s idea to start a business. You need both an idea, the required skills or experience to convert the idea into a profitable solution for the customers who are ready to buy it. Let me delve into apprentice program further in the next paragraph.
Business Apprentice Program
According to a TEDTalk in 2018, Igbo traders apprenticeship program was considered as the largest incubator program in the world. This system has raised most of the successful entrepreneurs there is from the eastern part of Nigeria. And if you must start a profitable business, don’t ignore this at all.
When ever I advise startups to do apprentice program first before launching their business, they always chide the idea as old school. They are usually in a hurry to start a business. I bet you, they are not planning on starting a profitable business, but they don’t know it.
Apprentice program gives you valuable knowledge and experience in that business that would have taken you many years to acquire. Sometimes, what most people don’t see in a successful entrepreneur is the many years he or she spent trying to figure out how the business works and failed.
No one talks about or remembers the failures of successful entrepreneurs. All people see is the success they have achieved after many failures. Take this from me, if you want to start a profitable business, become an apprentice first. You cannot lose with the knowledge and experience you will acquire. It’s the best form of mentorship.
A Different Kind Of Startups
The advantage most successful startups have in developed countries are because of their experience working for another company. Take a look at the tech world, you will see these examples. WhatsApp founders, Brian Acton and Jan Koum were former employees of Yahoo! before they started WhatsApp in 2009.
No wonder they went on to build very successful product like WhatsApp, which they later sold to Facebook for $19 billion in 2014. What do you think helped these guys come up with such an innovative idea as WhatsApp? In their days at Yahoo! they probably saw how the technology was evolving and what they needed to do.
Sometimes, what you need to start a profitable business is to create a product or service that people really need.
And there are many of such examples of startups who were able to launch profitable businesses because of their past experience or training. You cannot be competing against successful competitors with the same old ideas that nobody wants.
Writing. A Business Design
If you want to start a profitable business, you should at least write a business plan. It’s amazing how most startups never had a business plan, excerpt when they are looking for bank loan.
A business plan is not just a tool for collecting loans from investors. A business plan is a written building plan of your profitable business. How do you want to build a profitable business without a building plan. How would you even know what you need to do the most?
In the next subhead, I will be showing you about the 80-20 rule. How would you even know what would give your business it’s 80% outcomes? Your business plan is the real Bible of your business, and you shouldn’t be going into business without one.
If you don’t know how to write a business plan, I would suggest you hire a consultant, but work together with the consultant to write it. Even if you don’t know what he or she is writing, at least get them to explain. Don’t trivialize the soul of your business.
Moreover, there is so much about your business that your business plan would reveal to you. Have you ever wondered why car makers, phone manufacturers, even wristwatch makers add a user manual in their product? Imagine your business not having an owners operational manual. That’s not the way to start a profitable business.
How Money Works In Business
The issue of business capital is mostly misunderstood. It’s not every startup that needs money at the beginning. Don’t get me wrong, but you will understand as I explain further. Money is needed in a business to make your idea profitable.
So, what’s your business idea? How viable is your idea? What’s your huge value proposition? Who are those willing to buy it? What are your chances of reaching your target market? And lastly, what makes you think you can deliver on your promise?
The real work of money is to amplify your business. Your business will not become profitable because you have money. A profitable business is the business that requires money. That’s why the bankers and investors only put their money in a profitable business idea. And not just in a startup business.
You do not have a profitable business if it’s only money you have. Money in itself cannot make your business profitable. So many startups have lost money because they invested it in a business that’s not profitable.
A Different Kind Of Marketing
From a different kind of business to a different kind of marketing. A profitable business must know how to market its product or service to reach a larger audience. Imagine the concept of 80-20 rule.
According to an Investopedia description, the 80-20 rule, also known as the Pareto Principle, is an aphorism which asserts that 80% of outcomes (or outputs) result from 20% of all causes (or inputs) for any given event. In business, a goal of the 80-20 rule is to identify inputs that are potentially the most productive and make them the priority.
As a consultant, I was faced with this kind of situation when I started my practice. I know the 20% effort that would cause my 80% outcomes, and that’s exactly what I did. However, I did it in a most usual way that multiples the effects of my 20 percent effort in a way that my 80% outcome is constantly amazing.
Do you know what your 20% effort for your startup business should be? Even if you have the most amazing product, you must have the most amazing marketing if you must turn it to a profitable business.
Marketing is probably the most important task for startups. It should be well researched and planned for as much as you work on your business idea. It’s always recommended that marketing precedes the business launch. It’s the success of your marketing that should encourage you to launch out.
Where Are Your Customers?
Now, I’m back to the main reason any business is profitable in the first place. It’s about the customer, and always about the customer. And there are different types of customers that you should be aware of when starting a profitable business.
That’s why it’s important you start your marketing ahead of launching your business. Some of these customers would only be helpful during the startup stage. Some may not be helpful in anyway. While some customers would be helpful once in a while or always throughout the life of your business or theirs, whichever comes first.
Here are the classes of customers your business may encounter:
- Customers that loves your business
- Customers that loves your product or service
- Customers that would tell others about your business
- Customers that would encourage others to buy from your business
- Customers that would never buy from your business
- Customers that would buy from your business sometimes
- Customers that would always buy from your business every time
The customers that loves your business are usually the ones that comes in contact with your business early at startup. What they love about your business may not be profitable to you. That includes those who love the product or service, but are a lot better than just loving the business and not even knowing the product or service.
You may have seen those customers that likes, shares and comments on business pages or posts. That’s where you mostly find customers that tells others about your business. Another category are the encourages. Then, those who would never buy.
Finally on the real customers, you will find two different categories that buys from you. One group buys sometimes, either when they can afford it, or when they really-really need it. But the last category is your target customers. They are the kind of customers that gives you 80% of your outcomes. They buy every time. The thoughts of your product or service excites them.
The Skill-Set Of Startups
Let’s look at the skills you have to start a profitable business. It’s not just enough to want to start a business, you should know your strength and weakness. You should understand the important skills your business requires the most. If you don’t know what these skills are, you probably shouldn’t be starting that kind of business.
It doesn’t necessarily have to be you that must have the skills. But it’s important you know the skills you need in your business. You can hire such skills or get some as partners in the business. That’s why I recommended the apprentice program earlier.
These skills are the advantage your business would have over your competitors. You know there are no exact skill sets that are the same degree and experience. Imagine if you are a musician with the most soulful voice in the industry, just that alone can give your music career an edge. That applies to every skill set that you may have.
That’s what skills does for your business. If there are skills you need to acquire, go for it. If there are those you need to have as partners, do so. For the rest or lesser ones, you can hire them to work for you. But be mindful of the skills required for your business and prioritize their level of relevance and benefits to your business.
I didn’t set out to discourage you from starting a business, but to help you start a profitable business. If you really want to do something, at least do it well. There’s no joy in starting a business that would eventually fail.
I strongly believe that you never set out to start a business with the knowledge that you won’t be successful in it. So, you should humbly follow my candid advise here and do the needful. If your business is profitable, you are the first beneficiary, isn’t it?
And my role as a consultant is to help you make the right decisions. If you are having a problem starting your own profitable business, just share your challenges in the comment box and I will be glad to answer your questions. Cheers!