Are you thinking of starting a small business in Australia in 2017? Fantastic! I highly recommend it. However, first a word of caution: if your small business isn’t unique, it’s probably going to fail. But, I promise, with the right approach, it doesn’t have to.
The advances in technology during the last 30 years have been AMAZING, haven’t they? Every day, I wake up and pinch myself that I’m lucky enough to be alive at this time. We live in truly amazing times: women are empowered by voting rights, we enjoy the wins that our feminist sisters have earned for us, and we experience the opportunity via the internet to create businesses from our homes while raising our kids. I’m sure if my grandmother was still alive and could see the potential that is available to women like you and me, she’d be amazed.
Now, not to be a Debbie-downer, but… with the barriers to starting a small business decreasing every year, small business success is not something that comes easily. And despite what the online gurus tell you, there is no “magic pill” that you can take (or buy) to help you break through the noise and clutter of the small business start-up space. Business success, like most things in life, takes time and hard work. And also some clever planning.
And from what I’m seeing in social media and hearing in my social circles, too many women are rushing to start cookie-cutter, run-of-the-mill businesses. The story often goes like this: They hear of a friend of a friend who is making money selling X and they think “if she can do it, why can’t I?” So they rush to start what is essentially an (innocently) copycat business. Or they think that by buying an “off-the-shelf” online business (yes, they exist), they will be guaranteed success. Nope, not really true.
Starting a business while looking at someone else, rather than at yourself is, in my opinion, inherently risky to both your self-confidence and your finances.
So what do you do? Is it even worth starting a business?
Absolutely, yes it is! Starting a small business can be one of the most empowering, confidence boosting experiences of your life. For sure, it will be one of the hardest things you do and the learning curve will be steep. But, it will give you a feeling of forward-motion in your life that can often be lacking while you’re consumed with raising your family.
So, my recommendation is that if you’re wanting to start a small business that will hold your interest for the years it takes to grow a rewarding and sustainable business, it needs to be unique.
But why does my business need to be unique? It sounds like hard work to be original, doesn’t it?
A unique business doesn’t have to be based around a product you invent or something that hasn’t been done before. Certainly, there is space for innovation and change if you’ve got a fantastic idea that solves a problem for your ideal audience. But, if you’re wanting to make a reliable income for your family and reasonably quickly, it’s often wise to stick with industries or business models that have proven success.
When I talk about a business being “unique”, what I mean is that your business should have its own “personality”. Your business’s personality will be a combination of your personality, as you are the founder, and also traits that you believe your business needs to serve your audience. Just make sure you don’t adopt traits for your business that are hard to keep up. There’s nothing worse than have to check yourself at every turn.
And yes you should absolutely bring together ALL of the elements of your own unique personality to your business: your likes and dislikes, your shortcomings (yes, we all have them), your beliefs and your values. By bringing your “full self” to your business, you create something pretty magical.
Does this idea resonate with you? Does it sounds like a good basis on which to start your business? I hope so.
So, what happens when a business doesn’t have its own personality?
Your customers can tell and it doesn’t sit well with them.
I don’t know about you, but I quickly get a sense when I’m dealing with a business with personality. Perhaps you do too? I know that I feel positive after my interactions with some businesses, and not others. Some businesses seem to have more substance because they share their story, including their successes and failures. Their owners introduce themselves and ask you to contact them if you have any issues.
Off the top of your head, I’m sure you can think about one business you’ve dealt with this week that had “personality” and one that didn’t.
Being unique has other benefits
There are additional benefits of starting a unique business. By reflecting your own personality in your business, it’s very hard for competitors to replicate what you do. Sure, there will always be other businesses in identical countries, states, cities, industries and niches to you. And yes, there will always be others who choose the easy path of being a “copier” rather than a “creator”. But, there is one thing they can never do: they can never be YOU!
How can I be “unique” when I don’t even know who I am?
If you’re considering a career change to small business, you may be at a bit of an “identity crossroads”. Possibly still working in a career that no longer fulfils you, but not yet treading the uncertain path to small business ownership. Perhaps you’ve recently had children and are feeling that the part of you that existed before motherhood has been lost or somehow left behind in the repetition of daily mothering and housekeeping.
Such feelings of confusion and of “losing your way” are completely normal and, I would go so far as to say, I’ve never met a woman who wasn’t dramatically changed in some way by her transition to motherhood.
My recommendation for today, if you’re thinking of starting a small business, is to take some time to really sit with yourself and do some work on discovering who “you” are, before you start your business.
There are lots of tools available on the internet to find your strengths, interests and values and I’ll share some of these in my next article.
In the meantime, perhaps you could start making a list of the things you notice about yourself: what catches your interest, what do you like, what don’t you like? Ask your friends to describe you, as if they were describing you to someone else.
So, what I’d love to know is: will you be starting a “unique” business? I hope so.
[Images courtesy of the generous folks at Pixabay]