The Why and What
When starting out building a business there are two one-worded questions you need to answer.
Why? and What?
The first question of Why was popularised by Simon Sinek in his 2009 book Start with Why. The concept is straightforward. If you’re going to be undertaking anything meaningful and challenging, your why is going to be the only real driver when things get hard and you meet with resistance.
In a lot of cases the why is more than financial. Most people want more money but this is often not enough of a driver to navigate the rough seas of starting a business. Money could be a factor, but it’s difficult to quantify how much is enough. A more practical perspective could be to assess what your life looks like now and then where you want it to be in two years.
For example, my why for starting a business looked like this:
I wanted to be able to earn money organising cycling trips, riding my bike and travelling during the summer so I can earn enough money to spend winters skiing and climbing in the Alps.
That’s it. This may sound simplistic and everyone will have a different take. My timescale was also simple, I knew that I would need to work a lot during summer (but still doing something I love) and earn as much as I could during this time so I could take some downtime during the winter months. Due to the way in which I set it up, I could still work on my business during my time in the Alps during winter, but the actual delivering of my services on cycling trips would happen only during the summer months.
I managed to achieve this goal within two years of systematising, refining the products I offered and building enough of a client base and referral rate to ensure a reliable enough income.
Which brings us nicely onto the What? of your business.
What you’re going to be doing day to day in your business is often overlooked. I’ve met plenty of business owners that started out as the practitioner or technician (read more about these roles in the classic book The E-Myth Revisited by Michael Gerber) because that was the thing they were good at and enjoyed.
Then as their business grew they employed staff (freelance or otherwise) and found themselves suddenly thrust into long days sat behind a desk sending emails and making phone calls. They no longer delivered the thing they started out doing. Yes they were potentially making more money but were miserable, effectively working as an office bod whilst people they employed were out doing the thing they wished they were doing.
This is fine if that’s your goal, but it’s important to be clear from the outset as to what you’ll be doing day-to-day in your business in 2 years, 5 years and beyond.
What does your actual day look like?
If we consider your Why of starting a business, it probably isn’t so you can work 60+ hour weeks sat behind a desk so it’s definitely worth not skipping the What.
Again, due to the way in which I set up my business, I like to think I have a good balance of office work (unavoidable in most businesses) and doing the thing I love, delivering amazing adventures throughout the world. It’s taken a lot of work to get here but it’s also completely worth it.
As a side note, your Why and What will undoubtedly change and that’s ok. Years ago I spent most of my life travelling, not spending more than a few nights in any one place and existing mostly out of the back of my 2001 forest green Fiat Punto. That was the lifestyle I had chosen and at that time of my life suited me down to the ground. Very little responsibility and ties, just new places and people each and every week.
Things have now changed and my Why and What have changed. I no longer wish to spend all of my time on the road and have a more stable base. That’s the beauty of running your own business (particularly one that you can technically run from anywhere), you can adapt and change as your life changes.
Your Why and What comes first so spend some time thinking about them, write down some ideas and what your perfect working day/week/year looks like. If you need to set financial goals then great, but begin with a good foundation and be realistic with the reasons you’re starting and what you’d like life to look like in the future.