WWe need to spend more time thinking about what kind of business we want to own and run. But exactly what things should we consider before starting a business? We're not talking about whether you choose to be a plumber, beautician or social worker.
The question you need to ask and then remember the answer to is; "What kind of business will I start?" What will it's ethics be? Will it be a force for good in the world?
Ethics for startups
The question, crudely put is; do you adopt a "take the money and run" approach or genuinely give a monkey?, take smaller profits and hope that calamity doesn't strike before cash runs out- giving you enough time to build a loyal cusomter base? Or rather- cut corners and hope customers don't find out? Or build trust so that customers start to rely on your new business?.
What will your business values be?
Take it from someone who has worked for some of the largest companies in the world; big business drives the wrong behaviour in people. Endless meetings, herd mentality, fierce competition and "corporate governance" do not do much for creativity.
Our first advantage is that as startups we can choose to "over-deliver".As entrepreneurs we care more than anyone in a big company will ever do about our customers. While big business concentrates on "EBITDA" or some other measure of profits, in small business we can ensure that our cusomters are trusted friends and give them the personal touch.
Our second advantage is that our customers shop and communicate through social media and technology. We have the ability like never before to reach a wide audience. Whereas once a shop lease might have been beyond the reach of many a market stall holder, these days setting up a website is a simple enough affair. This access to technology puts small and big business on a equal footing. Sure, you might not have the marketing budget of a large corporation but this can be offset by investing "sweat equity"- good old fashioned hard slog!
Our claim to moral superiority over big business is that small businesses pay more collectively in tax and employ more people. We should have a close allegiance to our valuable customers by solving their problems and identifying and safeguarding their causes.
Do your customers care about the rainforest? Do they want to support businesses that build prisons for repressive regimes?
A sense of business identity
If digital technology is to have a positive effect on our lives then it must give decent people decent choices and phenomenal service. Whether consumers choose to become our customers or not largely depends on the choices you make before you launch. Deciding on your culture, values and ethos is an increasingly important part of your decision making process.
Will you donate a percentage of profit to charity? Will you offer courageous discounts for the homeless?
Whatever you decide, at least make sure that you give some thought to the culture, ethics and persona of your business. These things will help to shape your culture, ethos and values and ultimately contribute to your success. It's all about getting the balance right.
Why not give your startup some culture and make it something worth following?