When all those false starts can be good

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Not spring just yet in Johannesburg. (Photo: Chesney Bradshaw)
Not spring just yet in Johannesburg. (Photo: Chesney Bradshaw)

It’s that time of the year. One day it feels like spring has already arrived but the next day its back to winter.

In Johannesburg the mornings are much lighter but the air still has that cold-old crispness about it. The nights are cold, so cold that the iciness clings to your jersey and you can feel the cold against your body.

With the light in the mornings coming early now the birds are up and about, chirping outside in the trees. For months you only heard them in the daytime. Now you can hear the Hadedas, Louries, Sparrows and Finches bright and early.

On days when it feels like spring has arrived the morning the air is warm and the sun is bright. By mid-morning it is so hot that if you are travelling in your car, you need to put on the air conditioning.

But in the evening it is freezing cold again with the gas heater a constant companion. In the mornings it’s back to that chilly winter feeling.

All these false starts can drive you crazy but at least you know that winter can’t stay forever.

With an idea for a new product or service you may have similar false starts. You decide that your new product or service will be a winner but when you start looking at the market and the competitors you realise that your initial idea wasn’t as great as you thought.

Paper piloting your business allows you to see all the possible holes. You can see on paper whether your market will be large enough to support your new venture. This is crucial because you need to identify risks in your business plan and determine how you can reduce or eliminate them.

Some entrepreneurs believe a business plan is unnecessary. But if you need to raise money, you will certainly need one. Even if you’re not going to go for a loan, piloting your business concept on paper lets you identify key risks.

A business plan usually includes these main elements: the product or service, the market, competitors, management, operations, marketing and financials. Yet none of this is worth a fig unless you can identify and quantify your market.

You must know the size of the market, your estimated market share, whether the market is growing or declining and the possible substitutes for your product or service. Only when you have established and verified your market can you move into the people section (you the entrepreneur) and other resources to execute your plan.

It’s far better to make many false starts on paper (or screen) than launch your business and discover rocks in the road you never anticipated.

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