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21 Questions to Ask Yourself When Starting a Business

What you need to know before committing to entrepreneurship.

Stylized/filtered image of Rodin's The Thinker
May 20, 2024
Amir Deen
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Reading time about 9 min

So you’ve decided to start a business and you’re wondering what you should know before you begin. As you’ve probably gathered, starting a business can be an exciting and fulfilling venture that allows you to watch your ideas come to life. At the same time, it can also be stressful, confusing, and complicated, but there are ways to reduce your uncertainty - namely a strategic and honest assessment of your current circumstances and resources.

If you’re considering starting your own business, begin by asking yourself the following pertinent questions to help guide your next steps.

1. Why do I want to start a business?

As fulfilling as starting a business can be, it can also be incredibly challenging, emotionally taxing, and exhausting. Having a clear vision of why you’re starting your business can help you power through the hard times and stay focused on your goals.

If your reason for starting a business is to make money quickly with little effort, then entrepreneurship may not be for you. Whatever your reason for starting a business, having clarity on your “why” can make navigating life as a new business owner easier and more fulfilling.


2. What are my goals?

Entrepreneurial ideas can be intoxicating, and it’s okay to be excited about starting your new business. However, rather than rushing into a new business without thinking it through, it’s important to establish what your goals are and how you intend to reach them.

Whether you’re starting a new business to make money, pursue an interest, or affect change, being clear about your goals is an important part of creating a new business.

Dial showing on time

3. Am I able to commit to starting a business?

Starting a business will require you to dedicate a considerable amount of your time, money, and energy to the start-up cause. It’s important to be aware and able to take on the commitment and sacrifice that is necessary to get your business off the ground.

If you find that you just don’t have the time and resources to give to your business, then you may want to put your business idea on hold until a more apt time.


4. What kind of business should I start?

If you’re intent on starting a business, but unclear about what that business should be, you may want to wait before rushing into this new venture.

Creating a business takes thorough planning, and this planning should be specific to your particular business idea. Make sure you’re clear on what type of business you want to start before forging ahead. Changing the course of your business can cost you an unnecessary amount of time, money, and personal sacrifice and there is no need to rush, especially considering how important timing is when it comes to new-business success.


5. Is now a good time to start a business?

Depending on the current market, you may want to wait to start your business. Before diving headfirst into your new entrepreneurial venture, it’s important to make sure that now is a good time to start the type of business you have in mind.

For example, if gas prices are steadily rising and only expected to continue to increase, it may not be a smart time to start a business that is centered around a delivery service or reliant upon a roadtripping culture. Starting a business becomes far easier if you’re able to become profitable sooner rather than later. As such, making sure that the market is poised to support your type of business before you start can make a world of difference.


6. What should I know before starting a business?

Now that you’ve decided you want to become an entrepreneur, you may be wondering what things you should know before actually starting your business. This answer can vary greatly depending on your particular business.

Before beginning your new business venture, it’s important to establish the key elements of your particular business. To do this, you may want to find others who have started similar businesses and ask for advice that could be useful as you begin to embark on a similar path. It is often extremely beneficial to network with other entrepreneurs in both your location and business type.

7. Do I need to do research before starting my business?

Research can play a crucial role in creating a successful business. Whether it’s finding a market or identifying competitors, conducting research offers you a chance to avoid unforeseen challenges and develop an effective business strategy.

Though it can be tempting to bring your idea to market as quickly as possible, taking some time to research your particular industry and market will help you make informed decisions that make your business more likely to succeed.

Person reflecting in a casual work setting


8. Do I have to quit my job to start a business?

If you’re like most people, then the prospect of leaving the security of your job to start your own business can be a daunting idea. Typically, starting a business will require long hours and a full-time commitment. However, the type of business you’re starting and the goals you have for it can impact whether or not you need to leave your current job.

If you plan on starting a business that requires you to be there in person to make decisions, then it’s likely that you’ll need to quit your job to pursue your new business venture. However, if you’re intent on creating a small, easy-to-manage business – such as a niche e-commerce store — then you may be able to keep your current job and outsource aspects of the operations such as marketing and customer service.


9. Do I have enough experience to start a business?

Starting a business can require expertise in several areas such as accounting, marketing, and management. Being honest with yourself about where you lack experience offers you the opportunity to fill in the gaps and set your business up for success.

If you find there are some areas in your business that you’ll need help with, finding others with the particular expertise that you lack can help bolster your chances of achieving success.


10. How much should I have saved before starting a business?

Different businesses will take different amounts of time to become profitable, and different levels of investment to get off the ground. You should have a clear idea of what this will look like for your particular business before you begin.

Depending on what your expenses are, you’ll need enough money to hold you over until your business starts picking up steam and eventually realizing a profit. Knowing how long it will be until your business becomes profitable– along with how much you’ll need for personal expenses during that time – is vital to being a successful business owner.

11. Should I go to school for business before starting my own?

Obtaining a degree in business can be a significant advantage when starting a business; however, it’s not necessary for everyone. Whether or not you should gain a formal education in business before starting your own business will depend completely upon you.

If you have access to others who have started businesses of their own and have developed an understanding of the business landscape through your research, then you may not need to go back to school to earn a degree in business. Knowing where you stand and your expertise will help you determine whether or not returning to school to earn a business degree makes sense.


12. Do I need a business partner?

Everyone has their own sets of strengths and weaknesses in life and in business. Knowing where your expertise lies — and more importantly where it doesn’t — can have a tremendous impact on your ability to create a successful business.

Being clear about your weaknesses can help you decide whether you need a business partner, and if so, what traits your partners need to possess.


13. Can my business make money?

It’s easy to get ahead of yourself when you have an exciting new idea. Though these ideas can be stimulating, it’s important to determine if your idea can make money before you commit to starting a new business.

Whether you find answers through doing research, talking to other business owners, or testing your idea – having clarity about the potential to make money cannot be overstated. It’s also important to remember that just because an idea solves a problem or fills a need doesn’t necessarily mean it is capable of turning a profit and maintaining that profitability over time.


14. Who is my target market?

Once you’ve determined what type of business you will launch, it’s important to define your target market. Without a target market, you will struggle to effectively market your products and services to a receptive audience.

Even though you might have a certain target market in mind, it’s important to do some research to confirm your hunches. By mistaking your target market, you could potentially waste money on ineffective marketing campaigns.

Someone counting money and calculating

15. How do I fund my business?

For many entrepreneurs, the most challenging aspect of starting a new business is finding funding. Whether you need an office, employees, or inventory, it’s more than likely that your business will require a significant amount of funding before it can get that first sale.

Knowing how to find funding is an important aspect of starting your own business. Whether you intend to invest your personal savings or take out a business loan, having clarity around how your business will be funded is critical.


16. How do I market my business?

Your business won’t be very successful if no one knows about it. As such, it’s important to ask yourself how you intend to market your products or services before starting your business.

Becoming familiar with contemporary marketing practices can help you develop a clear marketing strategy that will effectively grow your business. Whether it’s text marketing or a combination of word-of-mouth and social media campaigns, having a clear idea of how you intend to market your business is vital to its success.


17. How long will it be until I start seeing profits?

Turning a profit will vary depending on a couple of factors. These can include things such as your business’s market, industry, and location.

It’s important to be honest with yourself about how long it’ll take your business to become profitable. Having a rough idea of this timeline can make the early stages of starting your business less stressful, as it allows you to temper your expectations and budget your personal finances accordingly.


18. Will I be able to compete with my competitors?

Though self-belief and enthusiasm are admirable traits in an entrepreneur, these characteristics alone won’t be enough to outpace the competition. Before you start your business, you should know who your competitors are and whether you’ll be able to keep up with them. This will involve comparing pricing, resources, and overall offerings.

If you find that your business won’t be able to compete with competitors, then it’s probably time to make some adjustments to your business plan. Having foresight about how your business will fare against the competition can help you avoid some of the dangerous pitfalls of being a first-time business owner.


19. How can I differentiate my business from others?

Getting a business off the ground can be difficult as it is, but if your business does not offer something unique or valuable, then it can be even harder.

Before starting your business, it’s important to know how you’ll be able to provide consumers with a product, service, or experience that is unique and in demand. Without something to differentiate your business from your competitors, you’ll have a hard time converting customers and getting the sales that you need to become profitable.


20. How will my taxes change?

For many entrepreneurs starting their first business, navigating business taxes can be a stressful and trying experience. If you’re getting ready to start your first business, then it’s important to be clear about how your taxes will change once you become a business owner.

Knowing what is required when filing your taxes will allow you to plan accordingly and keep organized records of all of the documentation that you’ll need to produce, come tax season. Whether you research the subject yourself or consult a professional, having an understanding of what your business taxes will entail will make the process of starting and running your business far less stressful.


21. Will I be okay if my business fails?

Though no business owner wants their business to fail, it’s important to understand that failure is always a possibility. Starting a business can be challenging, and sometimes things don’t work out. All the research and forecasting in the world cannot ensure that your business will succeed.

If business failure would catastrophically derail your life, then it might not be the right time to start a business. Though you should plan for success when embarking on any entrepreneurial venture, you should be aware that failure is a possibility. Many successful entrepreneurs fail at their first business attempt, but go on to be highly successful entrepreneurs despite their initial failure.

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