4 Questions You’re Probably Not Asking Yourself Before Launching Your New Businessvictoriabaltz
By Alex Lavidge, CEO of Startup Champs & contributor to startingblockchattanooga.com
June 13, 2021
This Cognitive Bias Codex poster has been hanging on my office wall for many years.
As a pre-launch growth consultant for clients worldwide (which is just another way of explaining that I help startups get presales & revenue-backed financing before launching), the infographic showcasing over 188 cognitive biases reminds me everyday of preventable traps I help my clients circumvent as we separate “assumptions” from “facts” during each phase of developing their new business ideas and value propositions.
Questions phrased well are the best defense against uncertainty.
Yet, most aspiring entrepreneurs don’t have the discipline and patience to ask the right questions ― much less are self-aware of their own biases. So when in 2019 the SBA reported that 90% of startups fail, it didn’t come as a surprise. The “let’s spend a lot of money and figure it out as we go” approach, time and time again, proves to not work for most new businesses.
Regardless of the support, debt or equity capital, and access to “resources” a community offers them, the odds are still against them unless they take out enough time to validate a presales and marketing strategy before moving forward.
But as you’re reading this, I don’t want to discourage you from taking a risk and working toward a dream! Not at all. Rather, please feel encouraged that by asking the right questions, not just of your business model but of how you make decisions and live your life, that you’ll be increasing your odds of creating a sustainable and meaningful business, someday.
To start, here are four core questions that I keep coming back to sharing with anyone thinking about launching a new venture, regardless of where they are starting from.
After being deeply involved in the startup community for 15 years wearing a variety of different hats, also as a serial entrepreneur myself ranging from tech startups to real estate management, these still seem to be neglected questions. I hope they can guide you towards creating a solid foundation in your own personal life first before later deciding if launching a new company is the right path for you.
1. Are you running your own life like a business?
Taking on the attitude that you are the CEO of your own life is an empowering shift for many aspiring entrepreneurs as a first step.
You’re responsible for making decisions and the consequences of their outcomes. (There’s no “boss” you can blame for when things go wrong.)
Have fun with this exercise, starting with your personal mission statement. What problem are you trying to solve?
From there, it puts your life in a context that allows you to add the structure, routines, and other systems needed around living less stressful lives with more free time to dream, explore, and create.
● Do you keep up a calendar that shows you how you’re managing your time?
● Is there a daily, weekly, and monthly checklist in your life?
● How are you monitoring how you spend your time and money?
● Which platforms do you use to automate the activities that take up the most time and hassle?
● What do you have left over to invest?
● And what thought process do you use to make those decisions where to invest what is left over?
Over the years I’ve seen hundreds of enthusiastic businesses fail because the founder (or founders) didn’t have their own personal lives structured very well.
When it came time to scale their company, the right habits hadn’t been developed yet prior to launching the new business, resulting in burnout.
From there, thinking about how you operate your life like a business can go in a lot of different other directions.
Are you mindful of how you present your personal brand on social media? How do you engage with your own mentors in life? When was the last time you reflected on what constitutes a healthy relationship in your life whether that be a friend or family member, thus laying the groundwork for healthy relationships with future business partners and customers someday? How open are you to studying biographies and case studies of others who went from where you are to where you want to be?
Ultimately, if you ask yourself “am I thriving” and the answer is “no,” it might be a good time to focus on yourself first with more questions that can help you live your life like a business first before thinking about launching a company, especially if it’s going to require a lot of moving parts.
2. How can you build personal wealth faster than average?
Over the years, I’ve been involved with numerous efforts to “democratize” entrepreneurship so that it feels accessible and equitable for everyone.
I traveled across 6 continents in 2019 visiting startup communities and realized that despite these international efforts since the late 90s, an underlying problem continues: there’s not enough money. So when entrepreneurs are encouraged to go into debt, give up equity in their new companies before they have significant revenue, or rely on friends and family if they don’t have personal wealth to draw from, their odds get worse.
All of these approaches make entrepreneurship much more riskier than it has to be, and much more stressful.
Unless you have friends and family that want to give you free money, or you have received an inheritance, or won the lottery, or a free grant or prize, it’s going to be up to you to come up with funds to get started to launch a company fueled by enthusiasm.
Getting pre-sales before you launch is the best way to do this for many entrepreneurs that want to beat the odds. It means that when a sales quota is reached, help can be hired from the onset to scale the business rather than leave the founder with an obligation to work countless 60,80, even 100+ hour weeks “doing it all” until revenue comes in to justify paying for help.
Otherwise, you’ll find yourself quickly stuck as a “business owner,” not a “business operator.”
So if you’re unsure of how to build personal wealth first, check out Re:Boot Chattanooga and other efforts throughout our city that have brought to light the stories and various ways people from all walks of life can build personal wealth first, starting from nothing, so that they can later afford to pay for pre-sales campaigns before launching new businesses.
Who knows ― maybe after you earn an extra $50,000 to $100,000 as a reseller, a stock or crypto trader, or flipping real estate (to name just a few possibilities) you might step back and instead want to go back to school and explore a different career or take a different path? With your own resources, you’ll have more options that you can then filter and determine what makes the most sense for what you really want.
I promise you that even if you don’t see it right this moment, there’s an opportunity out there for you to help you make extra money on the side that doesn’t require you launching a business from scratch that will help you get ahead.
3. What are your natural aptitudes and strengths?
With most of my individual clients, I have over 171 questions I typically run them through to identify key traits, personal assets, leadership style, personality type, natural aptitudes, and more.
In some cases, this is a reality check that helps them realize on their own it’s too soon in their career to launch something unless they get some personal milestones out of the way. In other cases, they learn that they need to hire help because they’re not going to be able to do everything on their own.
Taking the time out to reflect on your “ikigai” (a Japanese framework for identifying “direction” in life) helps founders, leaders, and CEOs navigate even the most difficult of times with grace and enthusiasm because they know who they are with unwavering certainty.
There are a lot of amazing coaches and consultants throughout Chattanooga that can help you identify the right types of aptitude tests, personality assessments, and other frameworks that will help make sure that you are choosing an entrepreneurial path where you are likely to not only succeed but also find lasting fulfillment from that is aligned with both market demand and a higher a calling.
4. Have you considered getting paid to learn, first?
Most of my entrepreneurial clients are over the age of 45. They’ve worked in their industry for over a decade and have a solid reputation in their industry, they understand the latest technology trends, they know the sales cycle process, and they also have a lot of strong relationships already in place that can help them launch a company that solves a very well-defined problem in the market.
Sure enough, it’s no surprise that these types of entrepreneurs are much more likely to be successful according to MIT researchers.
If you’re not in this category however, don’t throw in the towel just yet. Just ask yourself, “how could I get paid to keep learning about the industry in which I want to launch a new venture?” Maybe this is a job working for an employer in the industry you’re interested in, or, maybe you want to start up a consulting practice?
Some of the most successful web entrepreneurs I know for instance these days started with a web development agency where they developed websites for clients before later launching their own online companies.
Best of luck and remember to keep asking questions frequently along your entrepreneurial journey about your life design, wealth-building strategies, who you are and what you love, and how to make your personal and professional growth pay for itself along the way.
I’m cheering you on.
Alex Lavidge, CEO and Founder of Startup Champs. His prelaunch growth consultancy works with high net-worth to Fortune 1000 entrepreneurial clients worldwide develop data-driven strategies to secure presales before launching startups in industries from manufacturing, real estate, to enterprise software. By request, award-winning pitchdecks are then created to secure additional capital to grow and scale a new business. Formerly, Alex was a Director of Startup Accelerator Programs at CO.LAB here in Chattanooga, TN, a VP Business Development at Variable, an Entrepreneur-In-Residence at Strata-G, and continues to lecture and consult internationally on the applications of market research, social psychology, systems thinking, attribution marketing, and sales automation techniques toward securing sales before launching. You can follow him on most social media channels via @alexlavidge.