Are you sure you can build a successful side business? It’s smart to start thinking along this line while you have a full-time job. Your side business has the potential to become a long-term solution to your financial needs and give you an enriching life experience.
Answering the questions below should give you enough information to create a clear path forward, help kick-start your new venture and help you decide whether or not to go “all-in.”
Are you passionate about the business?
Starting a business isn’t easy, especially when you’re adding it to the effort you’re already giving in your regular job. Making money can’t be your only motive – it won’t be enough to sustain you when you face challenges. You must be truly passionate about your business and its potential in the world. If you want to succeed, you need to love even the process of building that dream from the ground up.
This is a simple but very important question. If you can’t imagine yourself working on your business idea and loving it – less than 10 years from now, you need another idea. It is also important to know the difference between being motivated by something and being passionate about it. The obvious difference is that passion is fleeting and one should strive to find long-term motivators in one’s business.
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What finances and other resources are in hand?
What might you already have that can help advance the groundwork? Many people think immediately of cash or other capital, but relationships can be crucial resources, too. Perhaps you and a business partner could share resources or maybe you know someone who could act as a mentor to advise you during the startup phase. You’ll be surprised how resourceful you can be even when you feel limited. Create a list. Include everything from the people you’ll need on your team to expenses you can’t escape, then calculate the financing required to bridge the gap. Give this question a careful thought and write down every asset you can put to work for your new business.
Another question people ask themselves before they start a business is, “Is this the right time?” The trust is that there will never be a time that feels totally right. But when you want something badly enough, you make time for it no matter what. Starting a business isn’t about the stars aligning and you feeling 100% confident. Starting a business is about your passions and excitement outweighing your fears and doubts.
Who is your ideal customer?
Creating a customer persona is an important step to help you communicate your message clearly, stand out from the crowd and connect with people because you already “know” them. Craft a detailed profile to describe their demographics, their characteristics and their motivations. What’s their age range? Does gender matter? Can you find research to back up your preconceived notions about their psychographics? Do everything you can to discover what they love. At the end of the day, if there’s no audience, there’s no million-dollar idea.
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Which problem(s) will your business solve?
If you’ve done your homework on your ideal customer, it shouldn’t be difficult to identify your customer’s problems and pain points. What are their motives for wanting to resolve these issues, and what might they already have tried?
Answer like this: My product will solve ________. If you can’t answer that, stop there and go back to the drawing board. It’s important that your product solves some needs because that’s what determines the value. The “itch” is your customers’ problem, the scratch is your solution.
Who else has done it and how did they accomplish their goals?
Find someone who already has attained a few milestones on the way to startup success in your industry or a similar market. It doesn’t need to be in the same niche, although that certainly would be preferable. The simplest way to locate these people is to tap your network. Ask around in related groups or do a quick Google search to create a list of names and then work to find degrees of connections you might share in common. This step could take some time, especially if you’re entering a new market or otherwise are unfamiliar with your niche’s online communities.
It is important that before you start your journey as an entrepreneur, you find out about your competition and see what they are doing, and how they are doing it. The information you will collect in this search is of insurmountable value. It will help you create a roadmap for your own business and avoid the otherwise pitfalls in the path.
You can’t play the game if you don’t know the players. Do a simple Google test to see who else is out there doing what you’re doing. Just because someone else is out there selling chocolates doesn’t mean you can’t sell it, too. However, you need to see what the competition looks like in order to decide if you can offer something better.
What’s my ‘special sauce’?
Speaking of differentiating yourself from the competition determines what your “special sauce” is. According to Shark Tank’s Mark Cuban, your special sauce is a quality about your company that stands out from the rest. Your own special sauce can come from a lot of different areas of your company: where it’s made, the unique quality of the product, how it’s made, competitive pricing, a charitable component or your stellar customer service.
Ask yourself, “What is going to make someone purchase my product over my competitors’?” Your answer is your special sauce and should always be included in your marketing.
How will this business make money?
All too often, entrepreneurs and creative individuals come up with grand ideas. Sometimes these ideas even solve important problems. While the good of the world is a great motivating factor, the most important element is whether or not it can be monetized. If your idea can’t generate income, move on to another that can and come back to your goodwill project once you’ve made money elsewhere.
This might seem like a no-brainer, but take some time to think about it. Are you selling a product? A service? Ask yourself why a person would make the decision to give your business money. What are they actually buying? A tool that makes their lives easier? A skill they can use in their future career? An emotional experience? The more you know about your business’s unique selling proposition or USP, the better prepared you’ll be to sell the USP to potential customers.
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What’s my plan for growth?
Where do you want your business to go, once you get it started? What does realistic growth look like over the next year? The next five years? Knowing what a realistic success path looks like for a business like yours can help you set SMART goals and benchmarks to help you get there.
You need to determine if you can afford to build out this business idea and whether you have the drive and determination to go the distance. It often is just about the idea, with little thought to reality. Most entrepreneurs think they can just figure it out as they go. In reality, they need to know in advance.
Does It Work Within the Life I Want to Have?
“Building a business can be a huge time and energy sink and before you enter in, it’s important to be clear about the implications it will have on your life. Are you willing to put in the hours and energy, to suffer the ups and downs, say “no” to other things like time with friends and family or your hobbies? Make sure it’s worth it to you before you dive in.” – Darrah Brustein
What are you going to lose by spending time on a new project instead of your existing business? How much are you prepared to lose by shifting your focus to something else? Either way, you’re losing something, so is it worth it?
Can I Get a Complete Stranger to Buy My Product?
People lie. People lie to their close friends and loved ones. People lie for convenience and to avoid conflict. Your family and close friends might not tell you the truth if it means crushing your dreams. Try selling your product to complete strangers. The absolute best way to hear true feedback is from a stranger who is paying you their hard-earned money.
What Is the Legal Landscape?
Never was the old adage that “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” more true than when pursuing a new business idea. Before you invest any time and money, first check-in with a lawyer to make sure you understand what you will be legally required to do when pursuing your idea and the ongoing legal costs and risks.
It’s not enough to have a good idea, even one that’s potentially very profitable. Your idea has to arrive at the right time and be so persuasive that it’s hard for customers to say no to.
Let’s sum this all up into a short checklist:
- Can you describe how to turn your idea into action in one sentence?
- Is there an obvious way to make money with this idea?
- Does this idea solve a problem for someone?
- Can you figure out how to make this idea happen quickly?
- Is it relatively low maintenance?
- Can you get paid more than once for this idea?
The more “yes” answers you have to these questions, the more potential your idea has. And the more potential it has, the faster you should get to work.
As Lao Tzu said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.” Don’t be afraid to start somewhere because one day, you will get to where you want to be.
Emergency Fund: Can you raise N50,000 cash tomorrow?
Focus on building up your emergency funds before building a portfolio of assets.
Can you raise N50,000 cash tomorrow? Yes cash, without selling any asset of yours; Can you? This is a very important question you need to ask yourself. One generally accepted lesson from the 2020 economic downturn for both corporations and individuals is to always have an emergency fund (EF). So, what is an Emergency Fund? How is it set up? How is it used? Let us explore.
What is Emergency Fund
An EF is a savings account set up to pool and hold a minimum of three months of calculated Non-Discretionary Income (NDI). The EF is advised as the first activity any investors should undertake. Specifically, before even investing a cent, set up and maintain an EF because this fund acts as an “insurance” or stop-gap for your income or investment portfolio.
How is an Emergency Fund set up?
An EF captures a minimum of three months of Non-Discretionary Income (NDI). What is NDI? These are expenses incurred that must be settled irrespective of income. For instance, rent must be paid, groceries must be paid, we cannot simply stop paying utility bills because we lost our job and thus income.
Once we decide on an investment plan, the first thing to do is to list out all expenses we will incur and attach a cost to them per month or annual basis but corresponding to the period of payment. We do this to identify the necessary expenses which we refer to as the NDE.
List of expenses
- Rent N1,500
- School fees N500
- Camping/Holiday N300
- Go to Movies N100
- Groceries N400
- Cable TV N200
- Gas for cars N200
- Phone Bill N300
- Eating out Dinner N200
Total expenses for the month are 3,500
Next, decide which of the expenses listed above are Non-Discretionary. In other words, which of these expenses must be settled irrespective of income? Let us assume our client chooses the following as NDE:
- Rent N1,500
- School fees N500
- Groceries N400
- Gas for car N200
- Phone bills N300
These expenses above come to a monthly NDE of 2,900, with a three months minimum of 8,700. This minimum sum means that should the client lose his job or suffer any other income interruption, these necessary expenses will be paid from the emergency fund, without the need to sell down investment assets at fire-sale prices just to raise income.
How is it used?
The Emergency Fund is simply a piggy bank. Once it is set up, you can increase the minimum saving from 3 to 4 and as high as you want to go. What is does is insulate your investment portfolio from losing any compounding or dissipation in principal because you must sell. So, if there is income interruption due to job loss or you simply want to take a long holiday and write a book, you can do so and still meet your expenses from these savings.
An EF is not only for downturns, as it is also good for opportunities. A friend of mine bought an almost brand new car from a work colleague that was emigrating abroad because he could pay cash immediately in short notice. Cash is always king when you are in a tight negotiation with a seller.
Your Emergency Fund should be kept in cash or near cash investments. Return on investment for the EF is secondary to access to those savings. Also, you want your EF in an investment class with fixed income with no variation in returns. this means in practical terms do not invest your EF portfolio in equities that pay a variable return or even any asset which may need documentation and visits before you can access your funds. I am also wary of a commodity like gold, which does hold value, but cannot easily be converted to cash. The recommended asset classes to invest your EF are:
- Call or Fixed Deposit in Banks
- Sovereign Treasury bills, they are easily discounted and converted to cash
- Certificates of Deposit with bank
If the asset call cannot be converted to cash in one activity should be avoided. Also, ask the institution if they charge fees for early withdrawal and what those fees are.
What can I do tomorrow?
- Start an emergency fund immediately. Do the expense exercise, determine your Non-Distortionary Expenses, start to build up a savings pot.
- Focus on building up your emergency funds before building a portfolio of assets.
What bad stocks have in common with bitter relationships
The feeling you get from marrying the wrong partner is similar to that felt after buying the wrong stocks.
I have always argued that stocks cannot be summarised into one statement for a newbie, until recently when a friend told me that it could.
“Simply put, buying stocks can be likened to relationships,” he said.
I did not immediately agree, but over the next few minutes, he explained to me what he meant, and drew several analogies to back his claims.
While he is no expert, I understand that he has drawn his conclusion from his experience buying stocks for himself over the past 5 years, so I took his points seriously. These points have been summarised in this article.
When it crashes, there is no telling how far it can go
My friend mentioned of some company’s stock he bought in 2016 in the hope of selling short-term. At the time he bought, there was a dip and he expected things to pick up within some months so he could sell-off.
Two years later, the stock price had plummeted 50% down from the price at which he bought. Without saying, he became a long-term investor because he was not ready to sell off at a loss.
How does this liken to being in a bad relationship?
As the value plummets, you keep hoping it will rise again and then before you know it you are stuck for the long haul. Same thing can happen with a wrong partner. You remain there hoping things will be better but it gets worse.
It could happen sometimes that a company’s stock market price comes crashing and it never goes back to where it was again. The factors which triggered its fall, may not even be able to return it to its starting price.
The stock price is not indicative of the company’s profitability
For some reason, there are company stocks market prices that remain low year after year despite the billions declared in profits, and the dividends paid out to shareholders.
Sometimes, the stock market price could still slump even when the company has positive records in its financials. Market experts are not always able to explain this, but it remains true. Some of the most profitable stocks are undervalued.
You can never take stocks at face value
That a stock has been on an upward trend in the last few months does not mean it will remain so. One must always consider several other factors before purchasing a stock.
While it is important to look at past performance, there are other things that could point to the likely future of such stocks.
Say, for instance, the company has just announced a new board chairman who was implicated in some fraud cases in the past. It doesn’t matter how well the stocks have performed in the last 365 days, or the chairman’s competence, the stock prices are most likely to slump due to loss of investor confidence.
There was a recent case where the CEO of an internet service provider company was alleged to have been involved in sexual harassment, and was eventually pressured by shareholders to resign. The pressure came not necessarily because they thought he was guilty, but because of the implications on the company.
You have to probe to discover the real qualities.
The most expensive stocks are not necessarily the best.
If you ever heard a stock described as under-priced or over-valued, then you should understand that the price you pay is not necessarily suggestive of the value.
Some great stocks, with good potentials, high liquidity, good company profile and adherence to corporate governance ethics, are not as expensive as they should be. While some other stocks are ridiculously overpriced, even when they do not have as much promise. Some of these overpriced stocks could still be basking in past glory or just positive media hype.
This explains why investors must conduct due diligence before putting in their hard-earned money. Sometimes the media hype around a company’s stock might not be giving you all the information you need to make a decision, so you necessarily have to go the extra mile.
Subscribe to newsletters from financial news websites if you need to, take courses if you have to, but ensure to learn all you can.
Remember price is what you pay for the stock, but value is what it is really worth, and there is no law stating that one must justify the other.
When you get the wrong stocks, you get stuck!
You know that feeling when you are sure that you have made the wrong choice, but also know that there is no way out? That’s the feeling you get when you marry the wrong partner, as my friend said. And that’s the same feeling you get when you get the wrong stocks.
You simply get stuck.
No returns. No dividends. Probably, no way to sell either because no one else is interested in buying from you. And if you do succeed in selling off at this point, you would most likely be doing so at a loss.
If you study trends in the stock market, you will see some dormant stocks that have remained stagnant for long periods of time. No rise in share price, no fall in share price, and no share is being traded either.
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It is not a nice position to be in, and that is why you want to be sure of the company, its management, and board members who take the decisions before you decide to buy or not, even more so when you are a long-term investor.
And even then, with the wrong stocks, you could suddenly find that your proposed short term investment of 6 months will run into years because you keep waiting for things to pick up before you sell.
130 farmers to receive seed funding of N100,000 each
The target of the programme is to adopt farmers in 774 LGAs across the country.
The National Information Technology Development Agency has kick-started a job and wealth creation programme where 130 farmers will each receive seed funding of N100,000. The programme will be supervised by the Federal Ministry of Communication and Digital Economy.
According to a statement from the agency, the National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA) programme is in line with the government’s drive to lift 100 million Nigerians out of poverty, and it will start with 130 farmers in Jigawa state.
In line with President @MBuhari's administration drive to lift 100m Nigerians out of poverty, @NITDANigeria, under the supervision of @FMoCDENigeria kick starts job and wealth creation programme by adopting 130 farmers on National Adopted Village for Smart Agriculture (NAVSA). pic.twitter.com/Z4cWdrlQgs
— NITDA Nigeria (@NITDANigeria) June 29, 2020
The target of the programme is to adopt farmers in 774 LGAs across the country, open the platform to all agriculture ecosystem players with access to information, facilitate and improve productivity, reduce the cost of production, and facilitate access to local and international markets.
With all of this in place, it is expected that the farmers will be able to build sustainable business models and digital business opportunities that will create not less than 6 million well-paying jobs in the next 10 years.
“NAVSA Platform is aimed at digitalising agriculture to drive Digital Economy, as part of President Buhari’s agenda to leverage on technology and innovation to revolutionise the agriculture value chain,” the statement read.
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Among other things, the farmers will be empowered with a digital platform, smart devices (tablets), connectivity for data and calls, Digital agripreneurship skills, and enrolment with telecom operators and the National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) for identification.
All of these will be given to them at the end of the programme, which will last from July 1 to July 13, 2020.