Before starting a business, make sure your idea is unique, have a good business plan and secure investors’ backing – these are some of the cliché advises new entrepreneurs get before launching out. This is why some businesses never get started and others die trying to start.
While there is nothing wrong with having a novel idea, a good business plan and investors, you can do without them and still go on to building a bankable business. There are hugely successful businesses today that have proven that you don’t need a great idea or a perfect operational processes at inception.
As Nicholas Hänny, the co-founder of a fast-growing Swiss fashion label – NIKIN, said, “It’s not about the idea, it’s about the implementation”.
When starting the NIKIN brand, Hänny said he didn’t have a business plan neither did he have an investor. He also did not have all the answers but he and his partner, Robin Gnehm, launched out anyway. They made mistakes along the way, they made amends where necessary and now the brand has grown steadily and has become popular in Europe, especially for its social drive of planting one tree for every item of clothing or accessory sold.
In a TED talk, Hänny gives five tips on how to start a business without investors and the headache of searching for that great idea. Hopefully these tips would inspire you to get started as soon as possible.
1. It’s NOT about the idea
Hänny says many people come to him asking for business ideas and he tells them that ideas are not the most important thing they should be worried about but implementation. He gave examples of successful companies that didn’t have a great idea but built on an existing ideas. He cited Facebook, which he described as a “terrible idea” at the time, because ‘MySpace’ already dominated social media. But Facebook started with Harvard students and implemented better ideas to improve its service, and now Facebook is one of the biggest companies in the world. He also mentioned how ‘Google’ was not the first search engine but the company made the algorithm better which improved its search engine, and now they are the biggest in the world. So, you don’t have to invent a new idea, you can reinvent existing ones – find out how it can be better and implement it, then don’t stop until your product/service becomes consumers’ favourite.
2. Don’t strive for perfection
Mostly, new businesses don’t have the financial capacity for the required manpower, so the founders would have to take on multiple roles temporarily. And because of this, making mistakes would be inevitable and that is totally okay. According to Hänny, one of the first mistakes his team made while building his brand was that; the first set of T-shirts they manufactured was from Asia but they didn’t know that the sizes from Asia was different from European sizes. For example; Extra Large in Europe is Medium in Asia. He said customers gave the brand bad reviews but they took the feedback in good faith and fixed the problem subsequently. The CEO also mentioned how the company improvised a lot to save operational cost. He said some of the brand’s initial product photos were horrible but it got them started as it would cost more to shoot professional photos. He suggests that it’s better you do it with what you have than waiting or funding a perfect photoshoot.
3. Ask for help
Hänny advised entrepreneurs not be afraid to ask for help from family, friends and strangers, as the worse they would get from them is a NO. He said his partner’s parents once helped them manufacture some of their products when the company had too much demands for Winter hats. He said some of their friends also helped them with the production for free. They also got help from strangers when the company put out on social media that it needed used furniture for its new office. Hänny said they eventually got more offers than they needed.
4. Be Really flexible
Again, you will do many things yourself in the beginning. Hänny said before they were able to rent their own office, he and his team members had meetings at bars and restaurants, they would meet after their regular jobs. He said they did this for one and half years before the company could afford to pay for an office space.
5. Read the best book in the world
By reading books, Hänny did not mean an actual book but Google. He said the search engine has answers to virtually every question you have. He said people ask him a lot of questions about how to do one thing or the other – he refers them to Google, as simple as it might sound. And in the case you don’t get a satisfactory answer, which Hänny believes is uncommon, he advises that you go back to tip number 3 – ask for help!