3 Questions to Ask When Starting a Business

by G.E. Miller on 17 February 2011 0 comments

I'm thinking of starting a business. And as I'm brainstorming ideas for this business, I'm focusing on three questions, and only three questions:

  1. Will there be a demand for what I would offer?
  2. Do I enjoy what I would offer (or at least a major component of it)?
  3. Is what I'm offering making the world a better place in some way?

I'm not worried about exactly how I'd monetize it, how I could fund it, logistics, marketing, or anything else. (See also: The Real Deal: What to Expect When Starting Your Own Business)

I simply want to know that people will want what I offer, that I enjoy it in some way, and that it will help make the world a better place. Maybe I'm naive in keeping things this simple, but I don't think so. If these three questions were asked at the outset of every new business, we would have a much more engaged and thoughtful capitalist economy. I want to dissect each of the questions to show you why.

1. Will There Be a Demand for What I Would Offer?

Most businesses start out with this one question in mind. You have to make money somehow, and the best way to do that is to give people what they want or need via a product or service. The really adventurous and creative entrepreneurs will anticipate demand before it happens or manufacture a demand that did not exist before. Either way, it's all about creating a value that people are willing to purchase. Any sustainable business has to make money, right?

Unfortunately, it's often the only question that is considered when most businesses are conceived.

2. Do I Enjoy What I Would Offer (or at Least a Major Component of It)?

Many business "gurus" like to give the advice that you should not create a business around something you love. Their reasoning often follows one of the following three paths of thought:

  • You can't make money doing what you love, otherwise we'd all be laying on the beach somewhere expecting money to show up at our doorsteps.
  • Your love for something clouds your judgment of anticipation or demand for that product or service.
  • You'll stop enjoying it once you do it for a living.

There may be some truth in these lines of thought, but how much fun is that? In one hour, I was able to come up with a list of 55 hobbies you can get paid for — things that people love doing and that there's a demand for. You can't tell me that making money and enjoying what you're making money from are mutually exclusive. I've seen too many people "have their cake" to believe that.

How many times have you dealt with business owners who seemingly hated what they did or were at least indifferent to it? Did you want to buy from them again?

Many people will disagree with me, but I'm of the opinion that there's more to business than just making money. I want to enjoy something, be interested in it, and be passionate about it. Is that expecting too much?

3. Is What I'm Offering Making the World a Better Place in Some Way?

There is presently a small, yet seismic, shift in how many businesses are thinking about their roles in society. Capitalism has always had the guiding principle of "make money and all else will be solved." Most of us are smart enough to know that's a dangerous philosophy.

Fortunately, a few businesses are catching on as well. They are realizing that "max profit" and "good for the planet" can co-exist, and max profit might even be MORE likely to exist if products and services are designed with "good for the planet" in mind.

What Questions Guide Your Entrepreneurship?

Like I said, I'm a novice at this, but I can't think of any other questions I should ask when dreaming up my business ventures that should have a higher priority than these.

What questions have you asked or would you ask when creating your business?

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