Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : January 5th 2017 Contents JANUARY 5 • 2017 guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG13
Will people buy
what you're selling?
Q.: I'm 22 years old and I follow your
blog closely. I'm inspired every time I
read a post and your good advice has
been on my mind lately. I've always
wanted to start a business in my town.
I'm passionate about this enterprise,
and I have a great idea that involves
bringing in goods that people here
don't generally have access to.
A recent post you wrote about how
no one is too young to start a business
made me realise that I have to start
now. I need to work on raising capital
and acquiring reliable suppliers and
begin to make things happen.
What else should I consider doing
at this point to make my startup a
Alfred, thanks for writing to me.
It's great to hear that you're
feeling inspired to start your
You're right to consider
the variety of elements you
listed. But too often, people think that capital
is the most important component of starting
a business from scratch. And while there's no
doubt that having a reliable source of capital
can be extremely helpful, cash injections won't
magically transform a bad idea into a good one,
nor will they make up for not knowing your
market inside out. Remember: Some of the
world's biggest and best brands (including
Virgin!) started with just a small amount of
money, but an abundance of passion and drive.
Ensuring that you're going to provide a prod-
uct or service that people actually want should
take priority over securing capital. At Virgin,
we've always kept this prerequisite uppermost
in mind when developing new businesses.
We're not always inventing new products,
but we're always spotting gaps in markets and
determining where we might disrupt an indus-
try. When we find opportunities, we want to
swoop in and make the most of them to delight
and surprise our customers.
Simply put: A startup can be flush with cap-
ital and create the best product in the world,
but if there's no demand for it, the enterprise
Also, it can be tempting to want to open your
business sooner rather than later because you
fear that somebody else will get there before
But first you need to measure demand. This
could be as simple as asking potential custom-
ers what they'd like to see offered and what
price they would pay for a certain product or
service. You could even just start your business
small, with a few core products to test the wa-
ters before you deal with capital and suppliers.
In addition, it's important to remember that
startups need to work as efficiently as possible.
You want to be extremely wise with your time,
especially when just starting out, since you
might be balancing another job while trying
to learn quickly about how to run things on
your own. Even now, I try to use my time as
efficiently as possible to get maximum returns.
I multitask a lot, and I try to keep things fun
--- in fact, whenever possible, I hold most of
my meetings while walking. Also, I use my
travel time to organise my notes, sort email
and write. (I even interviewed Josh Bayliss, our
Virgin Group CEO, in the backseat of a car on
my way to another appointment.)
This leads me to my next point: Surrounding
yourself with the right people is vital. I always
say that you should hire people who are better
than yourself at certain facets of business, then
let them get on with running it. Not only does
this make your company run more smoothly, it
also frees you up to think about the big picture,
or even your next business.
Of course, the most important thing you
need to have when starting up is passion for
your idea, more even than capital. So I'm happy
to read that you're passionate about your plan.
Starting up is often tough, and having a great
deal of passion means that you'll persist when
things seem like they're not going your way.
Every budding entrepreneur needs to ask
himself what's at the heart of the business;
what's the thing that drives you? If the an-
swer is simply "to make money," I can tell you
now that it's probably not enough to keep you
hanging in there.
To finish off, one thing we've always found
hugely important when starting up new Vir-
gin ventures is to have fun and remember that
business itself is an adventure. Running your
own enterprise gives you an unrivaled oppor-
tunity to do something you love while enjoying
the journey. Good luck!
@2017 Richard Branson. Distributed by the New
York Times Syndicate
Measure Your Market
Before you launch your business,
you want to make sure that there is
a market for your product or service.
• What do potential customers want
in your particular market?
• How much are they willing to pay
for your product?
• Have you considered starting very
small, then scaling up, to test the
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