By Jacob Freedman
Starting a business can be scary. Uncertainty and the possibility of failure can paralyze the best of us and keep us from ever taking the first step.
For years, I made resolutions and set goals to no avail; I was just as apprehensive as everyone else. With the onset of the COVID-19 virus, and a directive to shelter in place, I ran out of excuses, pulled myself up by the bootstraps, and began making headway on what is now a small but profitable business in the healthcare field.
I think a lot of biomeds have similar aspirations. I would be hard pressed to name a fellow biomed who hasn’t muttered about designing a better medical device or starting their own service company after being charged an extraordinary fee (plus travel) for a two-hour repair. After some quick arithmetic, we’ve all come to the same conclusion: I could make a killing starting my own service company!
After a good night’s rest, we come back to the same workplace to realize we don’t even know where to start. This is generally followed by a slew of perceived obstacles and uncertainty which, by anyone’s calculation, seem to far outweigh the potential benefits.
But we’re in luck! And that’s because we live in the age of bountiful and plentiful information, which is easily accessible from any phone, tablet, or computer. Today’s abundance of resources (and a little thing called the Internet) helped me gain the confidence and the know-how to start a business.
In this article, I’ll cover how I came up with my product idea as well as some tips and general advice I found helpful when crafting the foundation for my business in hopes that I can inspire you to take the same leap of faith.
Starting a Business with the End in Mind
Before you start anything, envision your life while running your ideal business. How many hours a day are you working? How much profit is your business generating? If things go well, you could be running a successful business in a few years—or less. But if you fail to keep the answers to these questions in mind, what was once your lifeboat, carrying you slowly toward bliss and early retirement, could turn into a boatload of resentment when you’re faced with 80-hour work weeks and constant stress.
Be as realistic as possible when envisioning your new life. Don’t be afraid to dream big but understand everything comes at a price. Ten-hour work weeks are possible, as is full autonomy, but buying back your time using distributors and fulfillment centers can eat at your margins.
How much money is necessary to sustain your ideal lifestyle? When I started pd1 medical, I wasn’t attempting to create the next Apple or Patagonia; I merely wanted to generate enough passive income to live comfortably and save for a home. Knowing what you’re working for can help you stay grounded and create realistic and achievable business goals.
The Criteria for Success
One of the more difficult tasks involved in starting a business is coming up with an idea. For the lucky few, inspiration falls into their lap. For the rest of us, it takes time and experience to recognize opportunities in the market. However, using a methodical process to define your idea can provide a shortcut and increase the likelihood of success.
Select a niche market, preferably one that you have expertise in. The healthcare market is a great option because healthcare organizations have buying power and you likely already have insight into your potential customer.
Once you target your customer, create a product for them. Understand their needs and spending habits; don’t speculate about what people are willing to buy. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and reach out to people in your network for their opinion. Do you find such and such a problem? Would you pay for a product or service like this? Some people pay a lot of money for this information and here you are with it at your fingertips!
Define your unique selling proposition. If you’re selling a service, why would someone choose your service company over someone else’s? Is it because of your product’s craftsmanship or does your product boast a feature that no one else has? You should be able to explain this in one sentence.
When Stating a Business, the Proof Is in the Pudding
Mitigate your risk by micro-testing your product or service before investing. Don’t just rely on reviews from close friends and family. Doing so can leave you financially upside down, with a garage full of product and an upset wife. Before you go to the trouble of manufacturing and purchasing inventory, make sure that there is real intention to buy.
You can get honest feedback by reaching out to your extended network and asking for their opinion. Have them answer several questions ranging from perceived need to ideal price point. Another free option is to write articles about a need (insert product or service idea here) in the healthcare space with encouragement for feedback and comments. E-mail inquiries and site traffic can help show interest in a potential product. Use data from your testing to justify an investment before taking the plunge.
Jacob Freedman is the founder and owner of pd1 medical LLC, which specializes in security solutions aimed at helping healthcare facilities prevent equipment loss. Questions and comments can be directed to 24×7 Magazine chief editor Keri Forsythe-Stephens at firstname.lastname@example.org.