Book extract - The Bizness book: Building a business that fits with your life (not the other way around)

Borne out of the hugely successful Bizness Babes program - which has been igniting the entrepreneurial spirit of women across Australia for the past five years - The Bizness Book empowers ordinary women to shape and dictate their own future.

‘I have always found that my view of success has been iconoclastic: success to me is not about money or status or fame, it’s about finding a livelihood that brings me joy and self-sufficiency and a sense of contributing to the world.’ Anita Roddick, founder of The Body Shop.

Why do you really want to go into business?

You have picked up this book or joined our program for a reason. Maybe you want to start a business using a skill or passion, you might have a hobby you want to make money from, or perhaps you’ve seen a gap in the market and want to explore if your business idea is viable.

The Bizness Book

Before you quit your day job and sink all your savings into your ideas, you need to be crystal clear about what you want to achieve, for your business and for yourself. (If you have already quit your day job don’t be alarmed, as the content of this book will help you improve, by challenging all aspects of your business offering.)

Starting a business is not the easiest road to travel. You will need to invest time, effort, money, resources and emotional energy into developing and building your business. You will have to make sacrifices and it takes time to be successful. Being clear about why you want to go into business will help you focus during the bad days and give reason to celebrate the good ones.

Business is not something you go into lightly. You need to be passionate and committed. Starting and operating a business is a big responsibility. Your decisions affect not only you and your family, but also impact on the lives of those who work for you and supply to you, your customers and your community.

Each business is ultimately a reflection of its owners. Once your business gets going you can be so busy on the doing, you forget to take time to reflect on why you’re doing it.

Ask yourself:

  • Why does business appeal – are you moving away from a boring job or are you keen to explore unchartered waters?
  • What do you want to achieve through your business? What are your personal goals and business aspirations?
  • Why is business the best path to achieve what you want for you and your family? Could there be other ways to get what you want?
  • Being clear about your motivations will influence the way you set up and run your business, and will help you stay focused as your business grows.

 

Some common reasons for starting a business are to:

  • Be your own boss (or ditch a bad boss)
  • Gain financial independence (or have some extra money in the bank for special occasions)
  • Become a role model for family (Mummy is a business woman)
  • Work hours that suit (around personal preferences and kids’ timetables)
  • Make money (you don’t have a business if you don’t make money)
  • Move away from welfare
  • Create a job for yourself (self-employed)
  • Create jobs for others (employer)
  • Use a great business idea (or one of many)
  • Meet market demand (you see a gap in the market and know how to fill it)
  • Tap into a new market (something totally new)
  • Use unique talents (you have many)
  • Support the local community (local business)
  • Meet great people (and create friends for life)
  • Improve lifestyle (through extra time or money)
  • Pass on a legacy (kids from families with a business usually end up doing the same)
  • Gain personal rewards (unique to you)
  • Feel proud (you are a successful business woman)
  • Live a passion for business (you’ve always wanted to run your own business)
  • Try something new (what if you never try?)
  • To support a personal cause or charity (through your business or using your profit)

It’s important to capture how you feel right now, as this helps you create a vision of your business. Your vision helps to form your goals and can keep you on track.

Think about where you want to be in three to five years time. Imagine what it feels like, what it looks like, how it smells and tastes. Try to be as specific as possible about what will define success for you, as we are all different. The more concrete you are about your dreams, the more likely you are to succeed.

If you want to start a business to spend more time with the kids and in three years time you find yourself working 24 hours a day and growling at them, then you haven’t achieved your vision and you need to refocus your energy on making a change.

If you desire to run your business from a beach in Tahiti and the closest thing you get to Tahiti in the first five years is your screen saver, then you need to have a long hard look at your business to see if it’s ever going to get you to that beach.

The Bizness Idea

‘If life hands you a lemon... juice it!’ Janine Allis, Founder and CEO of Boost Juice

Taking it from now to wow

You might be in business, kind of, or you’re about to take the leap (really you are). You may have hundreds of ideas, a hobby you want to make money from or a business you want to turn into a profitable one. Whatever your story, a business can always be given a little more panache both at start-up stage and as it grows into the future.

Now is the time to forget anything you have ever been taught. Business is not like school. There is always more than one answer to a question, more than one solution to a problem and more than one way to achieve your dreams. Let go of right and wrong and go into a space where you can think wildly and creatively. You will need to be creative in many aspects of your business so start right now.

You might be going into business in an area you have worked in before, have a skill in or are passionate about. Maybe you’ve just seen a gap in the market and you want to seize the opportunity to build a business around it.

Whether you have a unique talent, a great idea or just want to start a business for work/life balance, there are techniques you can use to further develop your concept and create a more successful business.

How to brainstorm

A brainstorm is a creativity technique designed to generate a large number of ideas or solutions to a problem. You can brainstorm alone or with others. You may have a preference for one over the other or you might choose a combination of both depending on the subject matter and your personal attachment to a problem or idea.

If you’re better at brainstorming alone, go to your creative space where you usually have those ‘aha!’ moments. This could be the bath, the park, the train, running or gardening. Take a notepad so you don’t let the ideas slip by.

If you work better when you can bounce your ideas off others, then a brainstorm with friends over tea or tequila could be right for you. In that case, you will need a whiteboard or butchers’ paper.

There’s only one rule to brainstorming: there is no such thing as a bad idea. Brainstorming is not the time for feasibility or analysis. Everything is a possibility during a brainstorm. There is no editing. If you’re on your own, you simply jot down everything that comes to mind. If you’re in a group, jot down everything everyone says. Leave the culling for later, as often one idea will bounce off another and you end up in a totally different place than where you started. Allow plenty of time but don’t squeeze it too dry.

After you have collected all the ideas or solutions, start narrowing them down to themes or group together similar thought patterns. From there, prioritise the top three to five and take them to the next level of ideas that might be feasible or doable in the real world.

Turning your talents into business

Whether you are developing a business or buying into a franchise, your business will be unique purely because of the skills, talents and experiences you bring to it.

If you are not clear about your business idea, or you have many options to choose from, a starting point could be to identify your interests, your talents and your experiences.

Think about the things you love doing. What are the skills you have that other people admire you for? Do you have any particular talents? What are your interests? Do you have hobbies? Is there anything you do for fun you could make money from? What do you jump out of bed for? What feels like fun for you but work to others? What did you love doing most as a child?

Maybe you are passionate about something you know nothing about but would love to learn.

These are all the things I am good at:

These are the things I love to do:

These are talents I have that I have made money from in the past:

Are there any patterns emerging? Are there things you can see yourself doing day in and day out that would never feel like ‘work’? Do you see any business opportunities arising from these lists? (You might want to develop a vision board to help you narrow down your passions.)

While there may be no feasible business to be developed out of the things you love, use these lists to inspire your views for the next exercises.

Pia and Tish

Pia has loved dressing up in 40s gear since she can remember. The 40s to her is a lifestyle. She lives it, breathes it and looks it. Her personal representation of the decade is immaculate: perfectly groomed white hair, impeccable make-up, vintage dresses with petticoats, wedged shoes and a basket on her arm to match. People stop her in the street to photograph her, and one day she decided she needed to make money from her love. She sings, dances and performs and so created Vintage Allsorts, a business that offers a growing range of services from vintage styling to event management and modelling.

Tish developed her business after successfully recovering from breast cancer. She creates a range of beautiful and stylish head scarves designed specifically for bald heads. Her website not only sells the scarves, but also provides advice and support to women with cancer.

[B] Opportunities are everywhere (you just need to know how to find them)

Entrepreneurs are opportunists. They see opportunities where other people see challenges or problems. As the budding entrepreneur you need to train your brain to be opportunistic.

At the moment, you may be set on one particular idea or have a notebook full of great ideas. Be assured your great idea or ideas can, and should, always be made better by opening up your mind to new possibilities.

Many people believe they have a totally unique business concept until research uncovers direct or indirect competitors. There might be businesses with similar products who are not delivering them in the way you intend. Perhaps the product or service is currently popular overseas but hasn’t launched in the Australian market yet.

To successfully launch a new business you need to have something unique – a part of what you do or make that is clearly different to what is out there in the market place. This is your USP (Unique Selling Proposition).

A good idea remains just that, a good idea, unless you are able to turn the idea into a business. Successful implementation requires research, a receptive market, the right timing and the right people (all of which we go more into later).

As well as creating a business from your talents, sometimes business opportunities are created out of need (personal or market-based) while others can just seem to appear when the time is right. There are a number of methods you can use to come up with new ideas or strengthen your current ones. These strategies include Problem Solving, CREATE and Trend Analysis.

While you might be 100 per cent decided on your business idea, the following exercises can help train your brain to think like an entrepreneur, exposing you to new opportunities for making your current idea even better, either now or in the future.

These techniques should be used every six to 12 months after you have started your business to help you grow or strengthen your customer offer.

[B] Problem solving for new ideas

Ideas and opportunities are everywhere, but you need to know how to find them. One way to find opportunities is to identify ‘problems’ that occur all around us and find business solutions to these problems.

Generally people love to have a good whinge and can’t wait to tell anyone who is willing to listen about their frustrations. While other people rave and complain about their problems, an entrepreneur will ask, ‘Could I make some money if I solve that problem?’

Many good businesses operate from a very simple notion: business is only ‘problem solving at a profit’.

Problems defined in this way do not have to have to be negative. A ‘problem’ can be not being able to find chocolate ice-cream at 10pm, hence the emergence of 7-11 stores!

Pam’s problem solving:

Pam Grant is passionate about the environment. While she applauded supermarket shoppers taking up ‘green’ shopping bags, for her there was still something missing. Many people continued to use individual small plastic bags to hold their fruit and vegetables. Pam undertook extensive research to create a lightweight, yet durable, fruit and vegetable bag to solve this problem. Not only are the bags good for transporting your fruit and vegies, but they are also good for storage. After a couple of redesigns and manufacturing issues, the greensacks reusable fruit and vegie bag made it into G Magazine's list of the year's ten most innovative eco-products.

 

Time for some more brainstorming

Get your creative juices flowing by thinking back over the last week or month and consider those occasions when you were annoyed, surprised or delighted.

Answer the questions below and then challenge yourself over the next week to stop complaining and start using your creativity to develop business ideas. It doesn’t matter if your problem solving is feasible, realistic or even in the realm of possibility, but try to think differently. Think like an entrepreneur.

Train your brain to think outside the square. Business is not like school where you typically have one answer to each question; there are myriad possibilities and you just have to let your imagination go and find them.

By finding problems, you are halfway towards finding an enterprise (the other half is finding the solutions!). As there can be a range of potential solutions, you need to work out which ones are the most feasible.

Consider the following questions (the worksheet can be found online at http://www.biznessbabes.com.au/worksheets.aspx

What made you mad?

If something makes you mad, it probably makes many other people mad. If you can find a way to resolve it, maybe a business can be created from it. Think about all the inventions developed to resolve anger (including anger management classes!)

Pei-Shan and Sophia

As a mother of three young kids, Pei-Shan Wu was horrified to hear about the potential impacts of toxic plastics used in food and drink containers. Kids need unbreakable cups, bottles and bowls, and at the time there were not a lot of affordable alternatives to plastic. Pei-Shan researched a range of toxic-free products for children and created Ash N Juls, an online store with an ever-increasing selection of products.

Sophia is a dog-lover and it made her mad that traditional boarding kennels did not offer the loving home environment that dogs are accustomed to. She created an alternative holiday concept, taking dogs into her home and the homes of her workers, where they are cared for as they would be in their own homes.

What took too long?

Generations of people suffer from ‘hurry sickness’ and don’t want to wait too long for anything. The Hills Hoist was invented to speed up clothes drying, the sewing machine to replace hand sewing. The entire fast food industry was born from satisfying our need to have food fast. The growth of the courier business was a result of the post taking too long. Why do some things take so long to do?


Chantelle’s stories

Chantelle has two autistic children. She found it extremely frustrating that every time she introduced her kids to new people or new environments she would have to tell their ‘story’ again and again. Her first business idea developed as a result of that frustration: ‘My Story Special Story Books for Special Kids’ reduce the time taken to explain all the unique characteristics of special kids to everyone new they meet. The books raise awareness, inform the child’s support network and celebrate the child, highlighting that they are so much more than a ‘diagnosis’. Each special story book is customised with photos and themed pages of information on every aspect of who they are and what they need to ensure they are treated with respect and care.

What was the cause of complaints?

What have you found yourself complaining about? Is it a shared complaint among the people you know? Stop yourself complaining by coming up with solutions. The call centre industry flourishes because they handle other people’s complaints.

Jackie, Fiona and Stacey

There is an ongoing debate in our community about breastfeeding in public. Jackie and her business partner developed a breastfeeding cover made of designer fabrics, providing privacy while still enabling mum and baby to maintain eye contact. Their product was featured many times when the media discussed breastfeeding, and three years after they launched their covers, a multinational company made an offer on their business.

Fiona created her business after the birth of her daughter at 27 weeks gestation, weighing 861grams due to pre-eclampsia and HELLP syndrome. While coping with the reality of life with a premature baby, she discovered a lack of support and information for women like her. She also realised there was a lack of available products, such as clothing and pacifiers, specifically designed for premature babies, despite the increasing numbers being born. She was horrified by the suggestion of putting her baby girl in doll clothes and so developed a website featuring safe products, advice and inspiration for parents who share her experience.

After becoming a mum, Stacey discovered motherhood could be negative and competitive with pressure to be perfect. Wanting to be sunny rather than yummy gave her the motivation to create a platform to inspire, motivate and support mothers to look after themselves first, in order to look after their families best.

What cost too much?

Everything costs too much, right? Well there is always room in the market for a low-cost version of good quality products and services. There is a now a competitive airline market because air travel was perceived to be too expensive. New TVs and furniture are perceived as too expensive and because of hurry sickness you can buy them upfront with an interest free period. Christmas clubs help us deal with the cost of Christmas, and credit cards delay our debt. What costs too much and is there a way of reducing the price to be competitive in the market or to open up new markets to a product or service?

Cassie’s art

Cassie Clark felt beautiful art that matches your home decor was beyond the reach of most households. She uses your house paint to create beautiful works of art to suit any decor in your home or business.

What was wasted?

Many products are created with a built-in redundancy, designed to be used for a while before being thrown out or upgraded. However, recycling, repurposing, reusing, up-cycling and the many variations of these words are increasing with popularity. As well as rubbish turned into art or jewellery, there are fruit and vegetable shops using bruised produce to make jam, chutneys and pasta sauces. On weekends, many carparks and school ovals are a wasted resource so markets appear on them. What do you see wasted by your community and can you create a business out of it?

Claire’s sock monster

There was a sock monster in her house. We all have one. But Claire’s son had so many odd socks she had to do something about it. After reigniting her passion for sewing when she was pregnant and nesting, she found a way to keep the sock monsters at bay after her son was born: she now sells sock softie toys, kits to create sock softies and patterns for things to do with baby socks.

What was too complicated?

Some things are just too hard when they don’t need to be. Time-poor and information-rich, we have no time for complications. There is a reason there is currently a ‘dummies guide’ for almost everything you can think of, from child-rearing to community giving. What is complicated in your life and could you make money from simplifying it?

Helen’s dress-ups

Helen loves her children to dress up but found the costumes available to be too fiddly and not suitable for big hands or busy little ones. Her business was built around creating dress-ups that are easy to get on and off, and for children to move in and have fun.

What was just plain silly?

Some things are just plain silly and people make money from them. A lot of people enjoy silly things from movies to restaurants. You can still buy the classic whoopy cushion, as well as modern electronic and remote interpretations.

Catherine and Donna

Silly string or crazy string is just that, and Catherine frequents the markets with her array of fun products for children (and the occasional adult!).

Donna has a love of colourful windmills and sells them at the markets to equally delighted children.

Problem solving to improve your business

To ensure you are providing the best possible service to your customers, you can apply the same questions to your current business idea or to your business after it is up and running. A business committed to continual improvement has the greatest potential to stay ahead of the competition and keep customers happy.

What made you mad?

What made you mad or what made your customers mad? How can you alter things to reduce your frustrations or those of your customers?

What took too long?

Have a look at your current systems and processes. Are there ways you can improve your operations to be more efficient? Are there unnecessary steps that occur from the supplier to you or from you to the customer?

What was the cause of complaints?

It is really important to have a way of capturing customer feedback (both the good and the bad). You need to record complaints so you can make decisions about improving your business. Typically, people are loathed or too lazy to complain, so you need to treat negative feedback as a gift. For every complaint you receive, you can be guaranteed many of your other customers feel the same way but have not bothered to contact you – they just won’t shop with you anymore.

Group the complaints together to see if there are any patterns emerging. What can you do about eliminating the cause for complaints? How can you communicate with your unsatisfied customers to let them know they have been heard and you have rectified the issue?

What cost too much?

You should constantly be monitoring all of your costs to see if you can reduce them. Negotiate better deals with suppliers or look for new suppliers. Examine your Cost of Goods (more on that later) to see where you can make savings. Go through your operations and examine the opportunities for savings. Are you providing something unnecessary? For example, your packaging may look fantastic but perhaps it is adding no value to your customers but adding cost to your bottom line.

What was wasted?

By examining your operations, you may find you are wasting time, energy or money in the production or sales of your product or service. Can you use what is wasted? Can you utilise wasted time more effectively? Is there a way of diminishing shrinkage or loss?

What was too complicated?

Are you over-complicating your communication, systems, processes or procedures? Do you find customers are asking a lot of questions? If so, perhaps your communication can be improved. Research your enquiries to see if they provide some clues into things that may be too complicated. Perhaps invoicing or purchasing is too time-consuming and tricky?

What was just plain silly?

You want to have fun in your business or you won’t be able to sustain the bad days. Find ways in the day to have a giggle and make the people around you laugh. Customers respond to you as a person. Use your business Facebook page or tweet interesting things about your life.

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