Build a Portfolio Career

Building a Portfolio Career

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Mistake-Proofing Your Start-Up Business – advice for Midlifers & others

Mistake-Proofing Your Start-Up Business 
By Jay Arthur

With so many people out of work, or afraid of losing work, it should come as no surprise that many are thinking about starting their own businesses. So how can entrepreneurs mistake-proof their start-ups? All it takes is a little time using free online tools and search engine research with Google.

Mistake 1: Not Listening to the Voice of the Customer
Many start-ups fail because they didn’t understand the “voice of the customer.” First, figure out where the crowds of customers are going and then get in front of the crowd. In the old days, this would involve lots of market research, focus groups and money. Today, these answers can be easily found on the Internet for free with Google’s key word tool:

Mistake 2: Not Speaking Your Customer's Language
Customer language can differ from our own. When naming your business, don't paraphrase; use the customer's exact words. Then check website domain name availability. If it's available, register it; if not, try adding other key words likely to attract customers.

Mistake 3: Not Making Your Product or Service Better, Faster and Cheaper
Too many entrepreneurs try to enter an already crowded market. Search the Internet to find out how many competitors are out there. Customers want you to be better, faster and cheaper than the competition. Ask, “What is the competition? What can we do differently?” If you can’t answer these questions, neither can your customers. When customers can't distinguish one business from another, they default to the familiar or low cost one.

Mistake 4: Not Testing the Business Concept
To test your business or product concept, Google Adwords offers another powerful tool. Google makes its money by putting ads around its search results. Many entrepreneurs use Adwords to test business and marketing concepts before they throw a lot of money at it. All of this research might take a few weeks and a few hundred dollars, but it’s a lot cheaper than wasting your hard-earned money on a doomed startup.

Mistake 5: Not Bootstrapping the Business
Entrepreneurs don’t always need a lot of money to get started. If the business is a product, don't make 10,000 of them. Put up a Web site; bake a few in your kitchen and sell them online or give away free samples to test the response. If the business idea is a service, print some business cards (with your keywords) and pass them out. This is how entrepreneurs bootstrap businesses that grow. It's also how they avoid sinking huge sums of money into bad ideas.

If the first business idea doesn't click, try another one. Walt Disney went bankrupt several times before succeeding … but then again, he didn't have Google. Good luck with your start-up!

Jay Arthur, the KnowWare Man, works with companies to fire up their profits with Lean Six Sigma. Jay is author of "Double Your Profits: Plug the Leaks in Your Cash Flow." He spent the last 20 years helping organizations maximize revenue through the "Lean Six Sigma System," a collection of audio, video, books and software. Jay is also the author of "Lean Six Sigma Demystified" and the "QI Macros SPC Software" for Excel. To plug the leaks in your cash flow, sign up for free Lean Six Sigma lessons online at: or call (888) 468-1537.

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