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Jeremy is the founder of ExploreStartups and a serial entrepreneur. He has started a number of businesses over the year and currently provides consulting to small to medium sized businesses. Jeremy also teaches business at Ohio Christian University.

15 Questions to Ask Before Starting a Business

Starting a new business is both an exciting time and a challenging time. When you begin forming ideas for a new business, do you take the time to decide if starting the business is the right move? With these 15 questions, you will determine whether or not starting a business is right for you – and whether or not this business is the right one for you.

1. Can I differentiate my product/service from the others in my market area?

Product differentiation is a big part of whether or not your company will be successful. What sets your product or service apart from your competitors? What makes you unique? Is there enough room in the market in your local area to start this type of business?

2. What is my Unique Selling Proposition?

A unique selling proposition (USP) is what sets your product or service apart and makes it unique. Cheapest price is often not a differentiator – you should be better, quicker, offer better customer service. Anyone can come into an area and offer a cheaper price and undercut the competition, you should not make this the goal of your new business. What will set your product apart and make it unique?

3. Do I have the right kind of business experience?

Some businesses require specific training or certification (like a CPA or attorney), while others may just require a certain expertise (consulting or medical equipment sales). Do you have the right business experience for this kind of business?

4. Can I learn or hire the business skills I may be lacking?

Starting a business requires you to wear many different hats from sales to accounting to customer service. If you don’t have experience in a particular area, can you learn it? Can you afford to hire it (or outsource it)? Make sure you have a plan in place to address all of these skills or the shortcoming may doom your business.

5. Will I prepare a detailed, credible, executable business plan?

A business plan is more than just a document you have to do before you start a business: if properly written and executed, a business plan can help guide the business to a successful start. Banks and investors require a business plan because it demonstrates the entrepreneur’s ability to explain the business concept in detail and prepare a financial estimate. If you aren’t willing to sit down and write a business plan, starting a business is likely not for you.

6. Am I ready and able to take personal responsibility?

Starting a business requires a tremendous amount of personal responsibility. You must be able to handle pressure, clients, employees, vendors, and more without cracking. You must be self motivated to get the job done even when you don’t feel like it.

7. Do I like to make my own decisions – sometimes with limited information?

Entrepreneurs have one thing in common: they are able to take limited amount of information and make a decision to move forward. You aren’t always going to have all the information you want before making a decision, but you’re often going to be asked to make a decision.

8. Am I a good organizer?

Being an organized person will help tremendously as you work through all of the tasks you have to do in your new business. Organization skills will help you manage time and juggle different priorities.

9. Am I ready to put in the long hours necessary?

A new business is not going to be an 8 to 5, 40 hour a week job. You’re going to find it takes a lot more hours to be successful and if you’re not committed to working a lot of hours in the beginning, your business will not likely be successful.

10. Am I ready to stick it out even during the rough times?

Your new business is going to get rough. There are times in my business where I find it difficult, but I know if I persevere through, everything will be ok. You need to stick through the tough times!

11. Can I handle rejection and not take it personally?

Not everything is going to work right the first time, not every sales call will result in a sale, not every business relationship is going to work out. You will be rejected at times – can you handle it? Can you brush it off and move on to the next client, next call, or next task?

12. Do I have the support of my immediate family?

A new business puts stress and strain on family relationships. The support of your family when you are working 18 hour days is crucial! If your wife or husband isn’t in, you will find the stress on your marriage is considerable. Find out where they stand before you commit to starting your business.

13. Do I have support systems in place for children, parents, etc.?

You will find your time is limited and you will need support mechanisms for children or parents. There may be times where you can’t be there to babysit, take your son to the doctor, or care for your parents.

14. Do I have adequate financial resources and good credit?

Insufficient investment capital is one of the biggest reasons business fail. Without the right amount of cash flow, you can quickly find yourself shutting the doors and closing down the business. You will need adequate financial resources to make sure the business can operate until it earns a profit.

15. Is my physical health up to the task?

Can you physically handle the hours and stress a business startup provides? Starting a business is a different kind of stress versus working full time for someone else. It can affect you physically and emotionally. Make sure you’re ready for these demands before you start your business.

Are you ready to start your own business? Once you’ve reviewed all of these factors, you will be better prepared to handle the challenge and find success as an entrepreneur.

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