5 Questions Every Entrepreneur Should Answer Before They Start Up

“Love what you do and do what you love. Don’t listen to anyone else who tells you not to do it. You do what you want, what you love. Imagination should be the center of your life.” 

Ray Bradbury

Every entrepreneurial and business dream has to begin somewhere, and it’s often in the unlikeliest of places. If you’re on the road to living out your biggest goals and dreams, you’ll soon find that it rarely takes a linear path. Everyone’s journey is different, and even when we have a solid plan, we often find ourselves doing work or trying things we never would have imagined.

Part of this is the simple reality that we have no control over external circumstances. When we’re just starting out, or even in the middle of our journey, we have the ability to influence outside factors, but we only truly control our attitude and our effort. We have the ability to always embrace positivity, to believe in ourselves and to hope that things will work out in our favor.

We have the ability to work hard and to keep going in the face of adversity, failure and mistakes. Never compromise that which you can control. Always use it to your advantage. But know this — despite your best intentions and best plans, you may find yourself on a course that doesn’t seem to make sense at the proverbial 10-foot level.

It takes time, experience and an ability to see things from a much higher-level that helps put things in perspective. It takes feedback, honest, truthful feedback, from people who care about you to help you make better sense of things. And what you do with that feedback will help determine your destiny. It’s the questions you ask yourself that define success and help build your foundation for what comes next.

In my work with CEOs and senior executives, I’ve found one common thread — successful people and high-achievers always take the time to ask themselves the philosophical questions. They don’t just get on the treadmill and run away without ever stopping to ask, “Why am I doing what I’m doing?”

They’re always self-evaluating. Not driving themselves crazy. But always questioning their approach and wondering what they could do to make incremental, even minor, improvements. Here are the 5 Questions every entrepreneur and business person should ask before starting up.

1. What will make me most happy?

Isn’t this always the most important question? Then why do so few people ask it of themselves? Maybe they don’t know to simply look around them. Take this remarkable research from Harvard University professor, Daniel Gilbert:

“People believe that the best way to predict how happy they will be in the future is to know what their future holds, but what they should really want to know is how happy those who’ve been to the future actually turned out to be.”

So much of what enables us to understand what will make us happy comes from empirical observation and the stories of others. We may be drawn to certain things through our intuition and curiosity, but we also want to know what others experienced on their journey and how it made them feel. Here’s further context from the Harvard Gazette:

Previous research in psychology, neuroscience, and behavioral economics has shown that people have difficulty predicting what they will like and how much they will like it, which leads them to make a wide variety of poor decisions.

Take the time to ask yourself this question. What makes you happy? What makes the people happy that you admire and respect? Find yourself a good baseline and continue asking yourself this question throughout your life, as your tastes and opinions change, and the world changes around you.

2. What skills am I most drawn and attracted to?

We’ve heard a lot in recent times around many “in-demand” skills like carpentry and other skilled trades. What about skills like writing, communicating, marketing and a plethora of others? I implore you to determine what skills you have AND what skills you’re most drawn to.

Once you have your list, put together your Venn-Diagram of the two lists to see which skills form the melding of what you have and what you love. It’s absolutely vital that you do this as early on in your career as possible, as it will help you get on the right track to launching the career, passion project or start-up that you really want.

Take an awesome tool like Gallup’s StrengthFinder and discover what things you’re good at, and while you’re doing it balance those strengths and skills against what you love to do most. Maybe you’ll have an epiphany. More than likely, you won’t have the information you desire overnight. But with some effort, application and deeper thought, you’ll keep moving toward that intersection of passion, talent and proficiency.

3. Is this something that can sustain me in the future?

“Passion helps us accelerate. We can work with the energy passion gives us and move ourselves into position while infusing our goals with vitality. It’s our commitment that sustains us over time so that we steadily build the skill and competency that will ultimately bring us success. “ — Dr. Jennifer Howard Source: HuffPost

In other words, is this just a fleeting thought or daydream, or is this something that burns like fire inside of you that you can commit to? I start with this question around passion and enthusiasm as it’s imperative that you begin there. Please, please don’t start with money. Don’t start with, “there’s a market for this!” Don’t start with, “I’ve seen other people succeed at this.”

Those are absolutely important observations. They are. But they’re not where you should start. When I talk about sustenance, I begin with launching a dream toward something that truly has deep, powerful meaning in your life. Something that you love, draws you in and gives you the goose bumps just thinking about it. This passion will carry you for a long period of your life, or maybe even for all of your life.

It will invigorate you when you feel tired. It will vitalize you when you feel down, dejected or fearful of success and failure. When you build around your passion and make a mental and emotional commit to following through on what you’ve started, you begin to develop perseverance which is essential to helping you continue with your dream.

4. What are all the possibilities I see branching out from this direction?

It’s not always how we start, but what we learn along the way and how things finish. I close with this question because it’s vitally important to think “long game” but ask these early questions up-front to bolster your creative imagination and thought process. Think about the possibilities that couldcome from the launch of your new business, job, idea, experiment or venture.

Then, reflect back on those things, and as you add on continue to expand your mind to think of new possibilities. Start with a plan, too. Entrepreneurs looking to launch their dream should be especially encouraged by this from HBR:

“We found that it pays to plan. Entrepreneurs who write formal plans are 16% more likely to achieve viability than the otherwise identical non-planning entrepreneurs.”

Put together your plan. It will become so much easier to identify new opportunities and build powerful, synergistic relationships. Go ahead and get started. Do the work and move forward in growth to reap the results.

5. Am I truly doing this for the benefit of others?

In order for you to succeed, you must go “all in” with this. Otherwise, you’re only in it for yourself. And that never works out well. Live with an altruistic mindset and watch the opportunities blossom around you.

Four Secrets To Success As A Midlife Entrepreneur

Pursuing entrepreneurship later in life can be extremely rewarding if you follow these four tips.

The stereotypical midlife years used to inspire visions of buying flashy sports cars or maybe splurging on that dream vacation. What used to be considered a time to experience a midlife crisis has slowly turned into an opportunity to explore midlife entrepreneurship. The number of midlife entrepreneurs is surging in the U.S. According to a new research report by benefit outsourcing supplier Paychex, entrepreneurs over age 50 increased by 50% since 2007. Duke University scholar Vivek Wadhwa says, “The average age of a successful entrepreneur in high-growth industries such as computers, health care, and aerospace is 40. Twice as many successful entrepreneurs are over 50 as under 25. The vast majority—75 %—have more than six years of industry experience, and half have more than ten years when they create their startup.” There are several advantages to becoming a midlife entrepreneur including self-awareness, strong networks and financial stability. While starting a business midlife can be extremely rewarding, there are certain factors to keep in mind if you are going to succeed.

1. Start with the end in mind

Launching a business midlife means that you have fewer years to build it. Therefore, your strategy to grow the business needs to be very well thought out. Consider starting with the end in mind. Do you plan to sell the business someday, take the company public, pass it down to a family member or just liquidate it altogether? While it may seem counterintuitive to consider an exit strategy while building the business, it’s important because this choice will impact many other decisions you make along the way. Next, you’ll want to put your strategy in writing. The U.S. Small Business Administration has valuable resources to help you with writing a business plan, calculating startup costs, funding the business and much more.

2. Minimize financial risk

Midlife entrepreneurs also have to evaluate risk differently because you don’t have as much time to recover a substantial initial investment. In that case, you may want to avoid business ventures that require large capital costs. Determine how much money you can invest in starting your business without dipping into your retirement savings. Seek out funding options like loans, grants and crowdfunding. If you think you’re too old to start a crowdfunding campaign, think again! Pearl Malkin, an 89-year-old grandmother, launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise $3,500 in startup capital to help launch Happy Canes, a line of walking sticks she decorates with artificial flowers. Most importantly, be cautious when investing your own money in the business and don’t overextend yourself.

3. Embrace technology

You don’t have to be technical to build a business, but you do need to embrace technology. No matter what type of business you launch, having an online presence is a must. Think of your website as your online business card. These days it’s easy to build a simple website from scratch using tools like Wix, Weebly or Squarespace. For an e-commerce site, Shopify provides an easy-to-use platform to set-up an online store. In terms of digital marketing, social media can’t be ignored. Depending on your audience, you may consider advertising on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn among others. The benefit of sites like Facebook is that you can create highly targeted ads for a fraction of the cost of traditional advertising. Embracing the online world also means that you’ll be able to more easily experiment with different marketing tactics to see what works and what doesn’t.

4. Find support

Know what you don’t know and seek assistance when needed. Leverage the help of accountants, lawyers, graphic designers and other professionals. If you feel lost building a website or don’t have the first clue how to set up a Facebook ad campaign, find someone who can help. This is where “reverse mentoring” can come into play. With the speed at which technology changes it can be easy to feel overwhelmed by all the tools and platforms out there—especially if you remember a time when there were no computers! Having a younger mentor can help you to close the knowledge gap and stay ahead of the curve. Hiring freelancers can also give you access to people with high-quality skills without having to hire full-time employees. This approach will help you to contain costs and scale the business efficiently in the short-term. Finally, virtual assistants are becoming almost a staple among early-stage entrepreneurs. You can hire them by the hour so that you only pay for what you need and location is not a limiting factor.

It’s never too late to become an entrepreneur. Midlife entrepreneurship can be fulfilling and profitable if you plan carefully. Do your homework, leverage your experience and most of all, enjoy the ride!

Why consider entrepreneurship?

Becoming a successful entrepreneur requires business planning, innovation and risk-taking. It is a lot of work, but there are also many benefits to being your own boss.

Put your own ideas to work

Being your own boss can allow you the freedom and independence to use your own ideas. As an entrepreneur, your time and energy can be spent creatively by putting these ideas to work for you and the future success of your business.

Decide what type of business you want

Your business should complement your experience, interest and knowledge. Before you put too much work into planning your business, make sure that the industry you choose is the right one for you. You may want to consider what hobbies or interests you have, as well as what experience and skills you could apply to a new venture.

Make the decisions for your business

Starting your own business can be risky; however, desire, persistence, and innovative thinking can work in your favour. Believing in yourself and basing your decisions on knowledge and experience can lead to the success of your business. However, knowing the limits of your own abilities and not being afraid to ask for help from others will help you make informed business decisions.

You have the ability to establish the policies for your business and to set the tone for its culture. You can build a business that meshes well with your own personal values, rather than working for someone else whose policies or values may differ from your own.

Choose the location for your business

You can choose a location for your business that suits your needs, whether that means working from home, working close to home, or taking the opportunity to travel and see different places. You might choose a trendy downtown office, or a place outside the city to avoid traffic or a long commute. While you have a lot of flexibility in choosing a location, you should take into account access to customers, employees and suppliers.

Have the potential to earn more

As an entrepreneur, you have the luxury of working your own hours and stretching your earning potential. Usually, this success comes with real hard work and long hours. If your business is successful, you could potentially make more money than you would working as an employee. However, the downside is that there is no guaranteed paycheque and your hard work can cut into time for personal and family obligations.

Have the freedom to work less

While some people go into business to make more money, some people go into business for themselves in order to work less. When you are your own boss, you have the flexibility to decide how much vacation time you want, to delegate responsibility to others and to work part-time, if you wish. Of course, you need to ensure that you are making enough money to support yourself; there may be times when you will need to invest more time and effort into your business, particularly in the beginning. However, in general, being self-employed gives you more flexibility to set your own schedule.

Be involved in the total operation of your business

Running your own business can provide you with a tremendous source of satisfaction and pride. You will be able to see your business grow from the ground up.

However, you will also be responsible for the initial capital that will be required for your business and the costs involved with the day-to-day operations. There are tasks involved that you may not be trained for, such as purchasing, inventory management, or  accounting. It never hurts to get professional help with the running of your business. Focus on the areas where you can provide the most value.

Turn the business into a family asset

Owning your own business sometimes means providing your children and other family members with a place to work, and a way to finance their future. It is an opportunity to teach them valuable skills and spend more time together. Depending on your children’s career aspirations, you may be able to pass the business on to them when you are ready to retire.

This Entrepreneur Wants Us to See and Record the World in a Whole New Way

Who are you and what’s your business?

I am Lawrence Greaves, co-founder and CEO at OPKIX. Created specifically for a social-first generation, our first of its kind OPKIXOne wearable camera boasts a uniquely compact size, and pairs with an integrated app that allows you to edit your footage with the addition of filters, music and AR, and share across your favorite social platforms. 

What inspired you to develop it?

My business partner, Shahin Amirpour, came up with the original idea one day while snowboarding when he realized that there was a need to capture video content hands-free. I had a similar “a-ha” moment when my wife came to me and said, “If you could capture video of the kids without looking at them through the screen of your phone, it would be a game changer.” That’s when we knew we were really onto something.

How is it different from other cameras in the category?

We are defining our own category! This is truly the first wearable camera that can be integrated into everyday life as well as adventures — it’s not just for action sports. The OPKIXOne is available in a set of one or two cameras with the accompanying Egg that charges the camera and also wirelessly uploads content to your smartphone device almost instantly. The camera can integrate into a variety of wearable accessories including sunglasses, rings and even a necklace, allowing the user to capture content 100 percent hands-free. With the lenses just 1.4 inches long and the Egg measuring just under 4 inches, the whole system is the smartest compact device on the market.

What is your marketing strategy? Who is the customer you want to reach and how are you going about it?

We launched this year direct-to-consumer, leveraging our incredible team of brand ambassadors and their followings. Our camera fits into so many different lifestyles, and we work with a diverse pool of ambassadors that we’re proud to have representing the brand, from a musical artist using the camera onstage while headlining rock concerts to a professional boxer using it in the ring, and even a celebrity makeup artist filming beauty tutorials. This word-of-mouth approach has helped us reach a vibrant audience of potential creators.

What does the word “entrepreneur” mean to you?

It means leading by example, running through walls, and being the first among equals.

How did you fund this? What advice can you share about the dos and don’ts of funding a company?

We have closed a Series A and Series B fundraise that brought our total funds raised to $11.8 million. We have raised from private investors, including my own personal investment. My investment was one of the first ones in the business because I truly believe we are doing something revolutionary. A majority of our brand ambassadors have been on board as initial investors as well. 

How did it feel the first day you began running this business? When did you feel like “Okay, this is real, we’re doing this!”

From day one this has been the most exciting journey. The opportunity to start OPKIX brought me out of retirement; I couldn’t wait to get involved and help build this incredible brand. What we’ve created truly sunk in for me when we had a digital clock countdown to launch day, February 19, 2019, on the OPKIX website. When the clock hit zero, we truly felt how our vision for this brand was officially a reality, and it was surreal when the orders for the cameras started pouring in.

What was your toughest challenge and how did you overcome it?

The toughest challenge was having industry-leading experts tell us that our vision was not possible. Through hard work, determination, and never taking no for an answer, we made the impossible possible.

Is there a particular quote or saying that you use as personal motivation? 

“Family over everything and never give up.” This is my own personal quote and mantra, and I really take to heart that you should treat everyone you meet and work with as a member of your family. You never know how much someone’s support will mean to you down the road.

How to Succeed: Bangkok’s hotel intelligence expert and entrepreneur, Wimintra Raj

The world is full of successful CEOs, innovative entrepreneurs, and risk-taking business owners, but every person follows their own path to the top.

If you work at senior level in some of the top hotels in Bangkok, or spend a lot of time in them or analysing them, chances are you probably will have come across Wimintra Raj. Under the banner of her company, WIMINTRA Company Limited, of which she is managing director, her world is linked to the hotel business in more ways than one. Having developed an acute understanding of good service and also studied fashion and dressmaking, she has for some time been making uniforms for big hotel names like Anantara, Hyatt Regency and most recently Rosewood Bangkok.

On top of that, she also is the founder and editor-in-chief of Hotelintel.co, a comprehensive and international online publications that captures hotel intelligence, for hoteliers and informed travellers looking for information that goes far beyond a google review. Indeed, it’s information for the experts, and many consider it to be a hotel bible, of sorts. Wimintra is your classic example of a Thai female entrepreneur carving her own way in this chaotic world. Find out how she has succeeded thus far in this exclusive interview.

I think it really started to grow on me while I was working on a human trafficking project with my then boyfriend, now husband, and we got to stay in a lot of places from 5-star hotels and villas, to no-star places with no TV all over Southeast Asia. I remember starting a Facebook album titled ‘Collection of hotels’ and telling him that one day I would be doing something in relation to this album. I didn’t know exactly what, but I knew it would be something.

I started out by doing the uniforms for my friend’s restaurant around the same time that I was leaving my job so I thought I could make a career out of that. I love white shirts and always wear them to work, and I studied all kinds of materials. This friend of mine asked if I could make shirts for his staff so I agreed, and that’s how my uniform business started really. I went to a fashion design school to learn how to draw, and later I attended pattern-making classes and dressmaking classes and so on so that I could know what I’m doing and know what I’m talking about.

The next step was looking for a place to promote my uniforms. I came across this one website and wanted to buy an ad. The business owner suggested I come and write for them in return for getting exposure to hotels, and that’s how I became their editor-in-chief. I loved writing and I’d always been writing my own blogs, but to have that position was huge. But after a while I found I wasn’t selling any uniforms because I was so in love with hotels. Later, I left and I started my own website, Hotelintel.co.Explain the part you play within the hotel industry.

I keep people informed and help them to make connections – hoteliers and suppliers, customers and hotels – in short, I bring good people together. I also provide a focal point for sharing ideas, promoting best practice, exposing problems, and uncovering solutions. The people in this industry tend to be passionate about what they do, and they love to read about themselves just as much as they love to find out what everyone is doing and how they cope with challenges.Was there something like Hotelintel.co. when you started? What were things like before it was born?

I believe that there were many B2B2C publications in the industry but I would say none in Thailand at all. You would get many B2C publications both online and offline – hotel reviews, where to go, what to do – but never something like how safe is it if I stay in this place considering their food and safety policy, or how can I benefit from their loyalty programmes, or why service at this place is better for your children than at others, or how your food can actually help local communities, and how your hotel is managing food wastage. We want to share hotels’ activities that will affect guests or community life as well.Why did you think it was so important to create something like Hotelintel.co.?

Like I said, it had always been about hotels, the physical buildings, but it has never been about the people behind them, how they work, how companies take care of them. You can look at a hotel but you never think why it was built this way, or why the entrance has to be this way, so we want to share that there are some interesting reasons behind things like that, such as the owners believing in Feng Shui, or that being the only way they could get the government to approve it, or sometimes company policy taking over. This is why it’s not just a B2B but B2B2C because customers can learn some interesting things too.

What made you decide to go for it?

I could never work in an office, nor would I want to. I always wanted to run my own business so I never really had much choice but to go for it and make it work.What helped with growth the most in the early days?

I don’t think we made any money at all at the beginning. The only growth we had was in pure connections and branding. I would go everywhere – hotels, events and conferences as an attendee. I made enough connections that it became easy for me to approach people for an interview, write it up, and ask them to introduce me to more people. My network became my asset, even more important than making money. The network and connections have been everything.What were the major initial challenges?

Self-doubt. I was 25. I didn’t know anything. One minute I was full-on, fired with passion, and the next I’d be questioning why I was doing this. Will this work? Will I become rich and happy? You have all these questions and there would be people telling you that most start-up companies fail in the first year. It does your head in and once you start questioning yourself, you keep flipping between ‘Yes, I can do this’ and ‘No, I can’t do this’ – it’s horrible.

What would you say helped make Hotelintel successful?

People in the industry. I owe it to the industry. When I started it, I was a kid, nobody knew who I was. I told them this is what I do, and they helped me. They didn’t need to.Are there any changes/developments happening with Hotelintel?

It definitely gets better with age. The content is better defined now than it was when I started. We have weekly and monthly sections, special features, etc. In the beginning it was just whatever content I could get my hands on because I’d never been in publishing or media so I didn’t know how it worked. I wanted to build a website and I just did. Then it’s a natural process of refinement as you become older and wiser.

The latest project is the launch of our new interview series. Instead of interviewing people inside the industry, who all share the same knowledge and passion, I’m going outside the industry to interview people who stay in hotels a lot because of their occupation: F1 drivers, CEOs, business owners, athletes, and so on. That gives the industry a chance to hear what their customers want, as well as some insights into lifestyles that can be quite different.What challenges do you foresee these days in the industry you are in?

A shortage of quality staff. We have staff – but those staff have so many choices available to them today, they can go anywhere anytime. The opportunities in hospitality can be fantastic, but they demand more advanced skillsets than ever before, so hotels are competing with other industries for the best talent. Hotels need to develop and retain their staff. Everyone who works in hospitality should have a knack for customer service – that’s obvious – but we should also teach them other skills so they can do more and there will be room for them to grow.What else do you do outside of Hotelintel?

Run my uniform business.How is your uniform business going?The uniform business is doing well but I can always do more [laughs]. We have been working with Anantara since the beginning of our company especially Anantara Chiang Mai which we did a fashion show for a few months ago. I love that hotel and I love how we work together as a team. A few years ago we helped them dress the staff for the opening of 1921. We did Charcoal for SOHO hospitality that was one of my very first clients and they have brought me more clients from there.

We have worked with Shama Lakeview Asoke, Aloft, Anantara Sathorn, Amari, Hyatt Regency, Renaissance Pattaya We did accessories for the newly opened Rosewood Bangkok which for us, is a great opportunity to showcase something out of the ordinary. Handmade ties and bowties, top-class material, but most of all the team there has been very professional. We have been blessed with amazing clients.What have you learned most about yourself while on this journey?

I’ve learned that I used to take things very personally because work is all I have. I can’t go find another job at this age! So, if I get a ‘No’ for an answer I’m very hard on myself! But as I’ve grown. I’ve begun to take it less personally. It’s not always about me. Or because I’m a woman or because I don’t have the right last name. Sometimes it’s simply just because my product or service is just not for them. And I have to improve on that.
I used to have people telling me that they couldn’t use my company for uniforms or give interviews to Hotelintel because I’m a nobody. So, I had to accept it and work hard to get that acceptance! You can’t blame them for not using you because you are a nobody. It’s your job get yourself out of that situation.Do you have any advice for people looking to do what you do?

First of all, I do a few things. I have Hotelintel.co and my role in that is editor-in-chief and managing director. I happen to enjoy writing and interviewing people but my degree isn’t in journalism so I wouldn’t call myself a journalist because that would be disrespectful to them. I also have a company that does uniforms. I did some design classes, fashion drawing, and dressmaking and pattern-making classes but I wouldn’t call myself a designer either. I have a great team of people who work with me and my role is to make things happen. So, for someone who wants to do what I do, which I think is being an ‘entrepreneur’, the secret is to never doubt yourself (within reason of course) and always be willing to learn. I didn’t need to learn how to make a dress but I did have to learn how to explain it to my clients, and then communicate to my team better.

If you want something bad enough, you will get it. You will find a way, you will start seeing opportunities, and surprisingly people will start helping you. Whether it’s publishing, media, fashion or whatever you want to do, just go and do it. But, first, know exactly what you really want in life. See the bigger picture and then work your way there. And be careful when you listen carefully to advice. Not all advice is good advice.