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Yaneek Page | Resolutions for starting a business in 2017

Published:Sunday | December 25, 2016 | 12:00 AM

If starting a business is one of your resolutions for 2017, you certainly won't be alone. In a country that is known for ambitious risk-takers who are eager to take control of their financial future, it should come as no surprise that nearly one half of all adults have the desire to be their own boss.

In fact, unlike the USA, which has been seeing a steady decline in entrepreneurship activity in recent years, Jamaica has one of the highest levels of business start-ups in our hemisphere, and the Companies Office of Jamaica has been reporting consistent increases in new business registrations over the past several years.

The fact that so many Jamaicans have a strong conviction to start, business is great news. However, the not so good news is that most Jamaicans who do start businesses are largely unprepared and end up failing within the first few years. While failing is sometimes inevitable and even necessary for the best business ideas to come to fruition, there are some basic resolutions that when put into practice can catapult entrepreneurs up the learning curve and drastically improve their chances of succeeding with great business ideas.

 

Resolution 1 - Invest in yourself before devoting your effort to an idea

 

The most critical resolution for anyone planning to start a business in 2017 and beyond is to build your own capacity to manage and lead. The best business ideas will come to naught if the person leading the charge lacks the knowledge and skills to execute. Prospective entrepreneurs need substantial knowledge of marketing, people management and team building, business strategy, finance, networking, new product or service development, customer service, business operations or production, business law, technology for business, risk management, logistics, ethics in business, and more.

It's a lot of ground to cover for one person, but that is the nature of building a viable venture from the conceptual stage upwards. The goal is not to master all these areas as that would prove impossible for most people, but instead, to have enough business knowledge, especially in this highly competitive, globalised, digital age, to better manage and lead. Enrolling in a short entrepreneurship training course is one of the fastest and lowest-cost methods for advancing your knowledge and developing your skills. However, the most effective approach is continuous learning via research, reading, strategic networking, further education locally and internationally where possible. Finding a suitable mentor or business coach and joining strong business networks can provide infinite value throughout the entrepreneurial journey, particularly in the earlier stages.

 

Resolution 2 -

 

 

Study the market.

 

You won't be ready to start a business until you have fully studied the market. By that I mean researching the existing business environment, potential high-growth industries, social and economic trends and projections, and so on. Having a fulsome view of the external business and social environment gives important context for identifying the ideal target markets to pursue and the needs to fulfil for them. Your business will have a better chance of succeeding if you know as much as possible about the prospective customers you want to serve, the challenges and desires they have, and how you can solve their problems, make their lives easier or better, or simply satisfy wants.

For example, if your target is Jamaicans living at home, some helpful publications are the Economic Update and Outlook, Jamaica Survey of Living Conditions, Economic & Social Survey of Jamaica and Labour Market Information Newsletter, which are produced by one of the country's leading agencies for research and policy formulation, the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ). It is also advisable to do your own first-hand research such as surveys, questionnaires, and focus groups, etc, where possible, to test ideas or validate product and service concepts, and so on.

Many people are determined to make a business out of what they have a passion for without any reference to existing social and economic realities and what the market needs, appreciates, and is willing to pay for. Passion is useless without a viable market opportunity.

 

Resolution 3 -

 

 

Don't be a copycat.

 

I noted earlier that Jamaicans have a penchant for starting businesses. However, our Achilles heel is that we lack innovation in our business ideas. Most businesses are started out of need rather than opportunity, and local entrepreneurs gravitate to what is easy or simple to replicate. Blindly copying a business model handicaps your ability to compete. when in business, you should always be striving to create a strong competitive advantage.

If you can't satisfactorily answer simple questions like "why should a customer choose you over an established competitor?" then you aren't yet ready to start a business in 2017. You need to create products and services that are unique, can be clearly differentiated from the competition, and are highly valued not in your eyes but explicitly by your prospective customer.

If you include these simple resolutions in your strategic planning in 2017, you will be well on your way to building a viable business.

One love.

- Yaneek Page is an entrepreneur and trainer in entrepreneurship & workforce innovation. She's also the creator & executive producer of The Innovators TV series. Email: info@yaneekpage.com Twitter: @yaneekpage, Website: www.yaneekpage.com