I recently recalled a conversation I had with a friend when I was at university, who told me that I wouldn’t be able to run a successful business without prior business experience. My friend may be right in some ways, but not others.
For example, having experience in a fashion business would help you when you launch your own. Yet stories such as those of Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerburg or Microsoft's Bill Gates, who established leading and innovative ventures without prior experience in the business world, prove otherwise. In fact, experience in a traditional company may not be relevant when launching a business in a completely new industry.
If you feel hesitant about starting your dream business because of your lack of experience, here are three things to keep in mind.
Customers usually have the answer
A business acquaintance once told me how every business venture she launched was inspired by a need that she and her friends faced. For instance, neither she nor her friends could find the right nursery for their children, so she started her own.
If you are frustrated with a certain service, or feel that there’s a gap in the market, the chances are that a lot of other people feel the same way and their input can help you refine your idea.
Have a look around, conduct focus groups, and speak to as many people as you can so that when you launch your business solution, you can easily win them over. Richard Branson once wrote in a blog post: "Think about changes you'd like to see as a customer – even if you've just noticed little details that need tweaking. Those little changes may add up to a big idea that leads to a new and truly disruptive product or service."
If you don’t know, surround yourself with people who do
You could be sitting on a million-dollar idea, but you don’t know how to run or manage some aspects of it. This is where mentorship and surrounding yourself with people who can help come in handy. You can even bring an experienced business partner on board who could help you build your company. Also, you can work with a mentor in the same or a related industry, and ask them for guidance in some areas. Alternatively, join a networking group, or online forums where you can find like-minded individuals and discuss ideas with them. When I first started my entrepreneurial journey, I thought that I’d sound like a failure if I didn’t know the answers to the questions I had. But then I knew that my business would be in jeopardy without them, so I approached experts - and those with more experience than I in certain areas. The wider your support network, the better for your business.
Make use of the resources available
From online courses to mentorship programmes and talks, there are so many resources available for you to learn about any industry, develop skills, help you raise funds and reduce your costs.
Abu Dhabi’s Hub71 network of venture capitalists invest in innovative start-ups. Social media also helps in connecting us with entrepreneurs and industry leaders where you can ask questions or seek guidance. There are also a number of accelerators and business centres with experts that can help you develop and further focus your business idea. Sheraa Entrepreneurship Centre in Sharjah organises different events and programmes that help start-up entrepreneurs. The Sheraa Idea Lab, for instance, helps start-up entrepreneurs understand their customers’ behaviour and problematic areas that the right product could help to solve.
A lack of experience in business doesn’t mean you won’t run a successful company Researching, listening to your potential customers, tapping into the right resources and partnering or surrounding yourself with the right people all provide helpful steps in the right direction.
Manar Al Hinai is an award-winning Emirati journalist and entrepreneur, who manages her marketing and communications company in Abu Dhabi