For those who dream of starting their own business, firing their boss, and taking control of their life the path has never been clearer—or crowded. Today’s technology means that in many cases, making the jump to starting your own business requires little more than a decent laptop and a reliable internet connection.
That’s great news for aspiring entrepreneurs but it also means that seemingly everyone is taking a shot at transforming their dream business into a reality.
What does it take for a new business to stand out from the crowd? How do you safeguard against your awesome business idea becoming just another statistic? What separates good opportunities with the potential to be successful from those that are doomed to fall short of expectations?
This post is a review of a book that answers those questions and more. At about 250 pages, author Ken Colwell’s new Starting a Business QuickStart Guide tackles the answers to those questions and more.
Colwell doesn’t pull any punches when it comes to smashing common entrepreneurial myths. His direct writing style injects a healthy dose of reality into the business planning, launching, and execution processes while providing a high degree of hands on, actionable value along the way.
Who is Starting a Business QuickStart Guide for?
This book is definitely written for individuals who are new entrepreneurs. That includes people who have already started their first business, been in business for a few years, or who haven’t even started yet.
First-time entrepreneurs will find a wealth of information that resembles an express micro MBA course and a clear outline of what it takes to be an entrepreneur. This includes “soft skills” such as authenticity, mindfulness, and passion that are often not associated with the startup culture’s “rise and grind” mentality.
Experienced entrepreneurs and current business owners will find no shortage of tips, tricks, and helpful summaries of some of the most critical aspects of their business.
Who is Ken Colwell?
Ken Colwell, PhD, MBAis a new venture veteran. He has spent over 20 years working closely with small businesses, high energy entrepreneurs, and high growth startups. Dr. Colwell is currently dean of the School of Business at Central Connecticut State University.
What’s Inside Starting a Business QuickStart Guide?
The book is divided into 5 key parts.
Part I – Thinking Like An Entrepreneur
These first chapters set the stage for the concepts that are explored throughout the book.
Chapter 1 “Your Big Idea” covers the following key concepts:
- The difference between an idea and an opportunity
- Not all opportunities are created equal
- How to evaluate opportunities to identify those with the highest chances of success
Chapter 2 “What Are You Afraid Of?” tackles some of the fears first time entrepreneurs face and explores why those fears are often largely unfounded. Key concepts include:
- Understanding risk
- Busting myths
- Breaking false belief patterns
Chapter 3 “What You Really Need to Succeed as an Entrepreneur” explores the soft skills that entrepreneurs benefit from. Spoiler: they are all things you can learn. A common theme in this book is that if you want to become a successful entrepreneur, there is really very little stopping you.
Key concepts covered in Chapter 3 include:
- The intangible aspects of starting a business (and how these often have a higher impact on success than many people realize)
- Work/Life balance
- The importance of achieving a flow state
Part II – Getting Started
Part II of Starting a Business QuickStart Guide shifts gears from the intangible to the tangible and starts right off with Chapter 4 “Your Company – The First Steps.” Key concepts include:
- What to focus on in the first steps
- What not to focus on in the first steps
- Legal entity classifications
Chapter 5 “What Are You Selling” covers essential details relating to developing your product or service. Key concepts include:
- The solution-oriented nature of products and services
- Pricing methods (and the subtle art of pricing)
- How pricing fits into larger goal completion
Part III – Your Value Proposition
Colwell spares no space on the page driving home the importance of having a strong value proposition for your business. It is a common theme of the book and an important part of any new venture.
Chapter 6 “Markets and Customers” explores the people who your business will rely upon for revenue—your customers. This chapter covers key concepts such as:
- Identifying and defining your target customer (very important)
- Researching your target market
- How to segment your target market to make the most out of your marketing dollars
Chapter 7 “Industries and Competitors” takes a look at the ways in which your new business will interact with competition. A common misconception Colwell puts to rest along the way is that no matter how new or unique your product is, you have competitors! Key concepts include:
- The difference between direct and indirect competition.
- How the forces of competition shape industries and the organizations that do business with them.
Chapter 8 “Your Value Proposition” drives home the importance of the value proposition concept and looks at strategic positioning as a method of building and sustaining market share. Key concepts include:
- Crafting your value proposition
- Strategic positioning explained
- Tying together value proposition elements within your business
Part IV – Your Business Model
Chapter 9 “Operations” is jam-packed with key details that come together to form the backbone of your business. This chapter explores the following key concepts:
- Your new venture’s value chain
- Outsourcing (what to outsource and why)
Chapter 10 – “Marketing” – explores how to make sure your product or service is seen and purchased by people within the target demographic. No matter where your business is in its lifecycle, you will find value in this chapter. This chapter covers the following key concepts in depth:
- The marketing mix (the 4 P’s of marketing)
- Distribution channels and strategic distribution
- The sales cycle
Starting your own business necessarily means wholeheartedly embracing change. Chapter 11, “Planning for Growth and Change” exposes readers to one of the few absolute truths about life in today’s business world: the only constant is change. This chapter covers the following key concepts:
- The factors that impact growth
- Planning for (and embracing) change
Chapter 12 tackles the heart of your business, literally. “Building Your Team” discussed management, staffing, and the founding team. Key concepts include:
- The founding team
- How you should go about distributing equity
The part everyone has been waiting for comes in Chapter 13 “Where Does the Money Come From?” It seems kind of surprising that such a critical part of starting a business is so far into the book but when you read the chapter Colwell makes it readily apparent why this section is included where it is.
The simple truth is that many businesses don’t receive angel or venture capital funding. And that’s okay, many businesses have been very successful without that cash infusion and the strings that come with it. Key concepts include:
- Understanding funding requirements (knowing how much you need)
- Understanding funding sources (understanding where to get it from)
Part V – Writing Your Business Plan
The last section of the book is composed of a step-by-step guide to writing your business plan. Despite what you may think Colwell makes it very clear that if you are starting a new business, you need a plan. End of story, simple as that.
This section is four chapters and it is really well presented. As you look at the overview of the business plan elements and sections you realize that the entire book is written in the same sequence. From introducing your venture to discussing your customers, industry and competitors, to your value proposition and your management and staffing plan—the chapter layout in the first parts of the book are constructed in the same sequence.
Published by ClydeBank Media, Dr. Colwell’s Starting a Business QuickStart Guide is a great read and an even better resource.
Anyone who has ever dreamed of making their dream business a reality will find value in the pages of this book. It is an ideal resource for new business owners, soon-to-be business owners, and even veteran entrepreneurs.
Colwell’s clear and concise style makes even the more advanced topics easy to understand and internalize and he does a great job keeping the writing fun and engaging. Five out of five stars.