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Thinking Through the ‘Why, How, and What’ of Starting a Small Business

At Joy Accounting, we LOVE working with small businesses. That may sound like an obvious point since the businesses we work with are typically fairly small. So why do we love the work we do with small businesses enough to capitalize and bold all letters of the word ‘LOVE‘? Among other reasons, it is because the business owners themselves are willing to step a bit into the unknown – with all the exciting and scary parts that implies – and we are able to share in that journey as a trusted adviser. With each new client we are humbled and thrilled to be a part of that process of getting a small business up and running.

Sometimes in the excitement to get work started, small business owners skip some critical steps. The typical owner is so overwhelmed by the tasks of today that they don’t spend a lot of time looking through the ‘big picture’ lens. Before they know it, small business owners can feel lost and harassed, even asking themselves why they took the leap in the first place.

In the initial phases of a small business, we’ve seen the most success when businesses spend time on the ‘why’, the ‘how’, and the ‘what’. Below are are a few critical steps; if you are thinking of starting a new business please don’t skip these! This is just a high level view, but each of these will require its own post sometime in the future.

Determine your vision (The ‘Why’)

Simon Sinek has been a pretty popular speaker and author in the past few years. His biggest theme is that all great leaders start with the ‘why’. If you don’t have a clear idea of why you started this journey then you are destined to fail. Small business ownership is not an easy path and you will need to lean on your ‘why’ in challenging times.

Where do you see yourself and your business in 5, 10, 15 years? Go on a weekend retreat and write down your vision for each point in time, and think about your ultimate vision of where you want to be and what you want to accomplish at the end.  Is your dream to sell your business and set sail in the Caribbean, ensuring that everyone in Africa has clean water, or something entirely different? Don’t be afraid to think about your day-to-day life. Do you want more time with family? Are you looking to avoid the commute? Do you want to be your own boss? Determine what is important to you, and ensure that your business will fulfill these things.

Once you’ve set some dreams and goals, work backwards from there to determine profit goals, employees needed to achieve that profit, and revenue goals.

Determine Internal Processes/Infrastructure (The ‘How’)

A lot of small business owners know what needs to be done but don’t take the required time to actually explain to others ‘how’ it needs to get done. It is critical to map out the processes that are in your brain (and often have been locked away there for many years). Bounce these processes off trusted advisers/friends and make sure they make sense. What worked 15 years ago may not work now! This is a critical step as you scale your business and train anyone that is associated with your business.

Getting the processes in place will also help determine the technology you need to move your business forward. What apps can help you achieve your vision and standardize your processes? You’ll need to do some research to determine what is a good fit and meets your needs. Do you need help with timekeeping and employee benefits? Or maybe you’d like an app to streamline your estimating process. Once you’ve figured out what collection of apps work well for your needs, you’ll need to implement them and train your employees on how to use them.

Determine Your Role as Owner (The ‘What’)

Of course, the first ‘what’ is what kind of business that you want to have. But assuming that you’ve made that decision, the next ‘what’ question is  ‘what role do you want to play in your business’? This is an important question that many business owners forget to ask themselves. All too often, owners fall into the trap of trying to do everything themselves, which is a one-way ticket to burnout. To avoid this, first determine what part of the business you’d like to manage yourself.

At this stage you’ll really want to hone in on how large you want your operation to be and what kinds of roles are needed to support the operation. And guess what – since you are the owner you get to decide what you end up doing! That is the beautiful and brilliant part of business ownership; don’t lose this opportunity to ensure that you operate in the space that will be maximally beneficial to your organization. It is a key topic to continually revisit as you grow so you ensure you are doing what you love and living the “why” of starting the business in the first place.

Bringing It All Together

Simon Sinek said “People don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe”. Of these three things, the ‘why’ is most important. If you don’t have a ‘why’, you need to go back to the drawing board. Once you’ve solidified your ‘why’, don’t skip the critical steps of ensuring you’ve thought about how you want to run your business and what you want to do from day to day in the business you are creating. And never forget that YOU ARE CREATING this business. Make sure that you don’t sacrifice any of these things things simply to accommodate what someone expects from you. This small business is your dream!