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ReConnect Africa is a unique website and online magazine for the African professional in the Diaspora. Packed with essential information about careers, business and jobs, ReConnect Africa keeps you connected to the best of Africa.

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ImageDear Career Coach

I want to start my own business but there's so much information out there that when I try researching, I just get very confused. Can you give me just some basic straightforward advice about what I should put in place and think about before I get started?
Johnson L.

One of the blessings of the Internet is that it provides access to a wealth of information and advice. And, with the increasing recognition that entrepreneurs and small businesses are the backbone of any economy, a raft of agencies, organisations and business groups have proliferated. The downside to all this is that we are surrounded with so much information, it becomes a major challenge trying to make sense of it all.

That said, there are still some basic questions you need to ask yourself in your goal to set up a business. The first, I would suggest, is being clear that you have the personality and skills needed to run a business i.e. do you have the ability to be focused on setting up and growing an enterprise? Can you cope with working alone and putting in the time and energy needed? Can you take advice, work with professionals, make the right hiring and firing decisions and manage staff?

Your business idea is obviously also going to be crucial. Some people try to start a business with what is fundamentally a hobby or an interest. This is not necessarily a bad thing but you have to be sure that you have a product or service that people are prepared to pay for, in sufficient numbers, to enable you to make a profit and a living.

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If you have determined what your business idea is, don't just go with your gut instinct and assume it will work. Do your research – many people may already be implementing your brilliant idea and there might therefore be far less demand for it than you think. Research your target market – if it's a restaurant, for example, is it located in an area that will bring you the right customers? Are your prices reasonable for the customer base you are targeting? Have restaurants in the area been successful or do they never seem to last more than six months?

Be clear about the unique selling points of your proposed business. Do you plan to beat the competition on price, on quality, on service or on your range of products? What are the risks if circumstances change? How will you address them?

When starting a new business, it's unlikely you will be making an instant profit. You need to plan your finances carefully and ensure you have enough funding or savings to keep you going while the business develops.

The best way to review all these issues is through a well thought through business plan. Writing a plan will force you to put all your thoughts down on paper and help you identify and challenge your business strategy and any assumptions you may be making. The Internet can be of great help in finding some guides to writing a business plan and what you should consider within the plan. A good business plan is also crucial for potential investors if you plan to raise funds for your business.

Running your own business can be fulfilling and financially rewarding but it does come with risks and by failing to plan, you are planning to fail. Being clear about your goals with a good business plan will help you navigate the maze of information more easily and find what you really need.

All the best!

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