First Step Prep
In my last piece I described the organizations and services available to would-be entrepreneurs here in Greater Sudbury.
This post will delve into what a would-be entrepreneur should (ideally) come prepared with for that first meeting.
1) Have a well articulated value proposition
Even at a very early stage, your value proposition should be clear. If you’re not able to tell me what your business is going to do, and why people will pay you for it, then maybe it’s time to spend a little more time brainstorming and/or word-smithing.
Value propositions are important because they inform the rest of your business. It sets the tone for what your goals are as a company, and explains how you are going to make money. As an organization that’s here to help, without this key piece of information, it becomes difficult to know what resources you need, and whom you should be connected to. That’s not to say you won’t get assistance, it’s just that that assistance will be more general in nature, and could very well be “go work on your value proposition and then get back to me”.
If you’re looking for some help with this, check out this resource from the MaRS Discovery District’s Entrepreneur’s Toolkit.
2) Market Research
Other than a value proposition, having an understanding of the market you’re looking to move into is crucial. It is literally the second question I ask when I meet with entrepreneurs/start-ups for the first time (1. What’s your value prop? 2. Do you have any market research to support your value prop?).
The reason being is that taking the time to conduct market research, and understand what that landscape looks like, often determines whether or not a venture will succeed. Do I expect you to know everything that’s going on in that particular market? Well, actually, yes. Is it realistic that you do? Probably not, but you do need to know more about it than I do, and should be able to speak to who your competitors are, how you plan on being different, and why your venture will work in that market. Google is your friend in this regard. If you come to me saying you don’t have any competitors, I’ll tell you you’re not looking hard enough.
From the perspective of an organization that is looking to provide assistance, we need to know that you’re going into this with eyes wide open, and you’ve taken the time to validate that what you’re proposing as a business is viable. It’s true that we offer a market research service, but it should complement the work you are, or have, already undertaken.
3) Business Plan (early edition)
If you have a solid value proposition and market research to back it up, you’re already well on your way to having an early edition of your business plan (and yes, edition, you’ll be updating that thing on the regular for some time). For an initial meeting, that may even be enough. That said if you can start crafting one sooner rather than later you will be better off.
A quick and easy exercise to get this process started is to fill out a Business Model Canvas. This exercise will help you map out the key components of your business, resources you’ll need to get started, and what actions you will need to take to get your venture off the ground. Once completed, the various compartments can be expanded into a larger, more detailed document.
Business plans are important because they’re the tool you will use to communicate your business idea to potential funders and/or investors, as well as future employees. Creating a business plan is building the bones of the business.
Finally, my last piece of advice, and is along the lines of being prepared, is to present yourself in a professional manner. Suit and tie are not required, but being on time and having done some of the work mentioned above will make a good first impression and set you up for getting the most out of the meeting.