Starting a business is exhilarating. You’re super excited about your new idea and you want to yell it from the rooftops. Since this isn’t Fiddler on the Roof and your friends aren’t hanging around outside waiting for your echoing proclamation, you decide to use your cell phone and call everyone instead.
And the feedback? Is 100% positive! Your friends think you’re a genius. They assure you that you’ll be the next Mark Zuckerberg. The problem? They are lying to you. LYING.
They’re your friends and they love you (or at least want to stay in your good graces so they can keep crashing on your couch when they can’t pay their rent). So they tell a white lie or two. What could it hurt? Your bottom line, that’s what. Maybe your friends won’t tell you these five things about your latest business venture, but we will.
1) No one wants what you’re selling.
You’ve designed a hand-painted, fully customizable painted rock that every office worker on the planet will want to order! What will they do with it? Use it as a paperweight, of course. Um… how many paperweights are needed in this age of computers? Your friends will say, “Oh yes… everyone could use another cute paperweight,” while nodding vigorously. But they’re thinking to themselves, “When was the last time I even saw a paperweight?”
2) Everyone is already selling what you’re selling.
You’re going to make a fortune on little hand-painted wooden plaques that are painted with cute sayings like, “Love Makes the World Go Round,” and “Home is Where the Heart Is.” To make rent, you just need to sell 12 of them every month at $100 each, which is certainly what they’re worth, since they have those great motivational sayings on them and all. The problem is, those same plaques are available at the Dollar Store. For… a dollar.
3) Your business plan comes from the Land of Fairies.
Your business idea sounds kind of promising, but if you’re relying on magical thinking you might have a problem. Your friends at the bar are nodding and smiling while you down another pint and blather on, “This is the latest, greatest thing! I’m gonna sell thousands of these every month for sure!” You assure them that, thanks to The Secret, all you have to do is just put that positive energy out there and you’re guaranteed to be successful!
Your friends? They’re secretly hoping you’re not about to ask them for money. Because hope? Is not a strategy. A business plan (on paper, organized neatly into a three-ring binder) is a strategy.
4) Your website sucks.
You got a fabulous deal online… a fully-functional website for just a hundred bucks! Trouble is, it’s ugly. And unusable. When your friend’s eyeballs are seared by the fuschia-pink background and white reverse type on your homepage, you might be clued in that there’s a problem. If he’s screaming in pain and frantically groping for the eyedrops, all the while saying, “No, dude… it’s great. Really…” he’s lying. If you want honest feedback about your website, find some strangers to take a look and give you their opinions. Then hire a real designer and developer and start over.
5) They’re avoiding your “motivational meeting.”
You’ve been trying to call, email and Facebook stalk everyone you know in order to help them get in on the ground floor of your latest MLM scheme. Funny how they all seem to have lost their cell phones, broken their computers or disappeared to Third World countries for extended humanitarian trips. What they don’t want to tell you is this: they invested once (or, in the case of particularly gullible friends, twice). They were burned. Now they have cases of Xannoni juice in their basements, collecting dust. Your friends really wish you’d give up those get-rich-quick schemes and use that accounting degree already.
6) You should get a professional opinion.
So, here’s a bonus idea that your friends are thinking but won’t say to your face: They wish you’d ask someone who knows better than they do.
Your idea might be brilliant. It might suck. Regardless, your friends aren’t the right ones to be asking if what you want is honest, helpful feedback. Contact your local Chamber of Commerce and find a mentor that you can trust. Take your business plan to a bank that specializes in small business financing. Hire a focus group to test out your latest idea.
And when your business succeeds, let your friends do something they are great at: take you out to celebrate!