One of the best ways to really get creative and therefore entrepreneurial – is to practise reverse thinking. There is nothing quite like turning something on its head to see another point of view!

This is the approach that Business Mentor, Paul Petersen, frequently introduces to start-up businesses he works with as a volunteer mentor for Business Mentors New Zealand.

Start-ups can access six months of accelerated mentoring. To begin with, he asks them to ‘really carefully consider their exit strategy.’
“It seems counter intuitive but in a lot of cases going to the end helps clients reframe how they want to start,” says Paul. “They need to establish very clear objectives from the get go.”

“Start-ups are motivated to go into business for a variety of reasons,” he adds. “And they aren’t always aware of what’s really motivating them until we ask questions like ‘are you building to sell, to create a lifestyle, or to replace a job?’”

It’s also helpful for start-ups to know their customers and market really well. This might mean researching, talking to others in the industry, interviewing potential customers or trialling the product or service with small test markets. Often a start-up begins with an idea of who their customer is and as planning and activity progresses, finds that the target profile has changed. “It pays to talk to your customer, it will help you define your business,” says Paul.

Paul’s experience with start-ups has highlighted that for most businesses in the early stage of developing their concept, the real effort is in working out what will be the most suitable, scalable, repeatable business model for the owners to establish. This includes clearly defining the problem that is being solved by the business, for its customers.

“You need to be fixing a problem for your market, then your solution has value, “says Paul. “Are you confident that customers will be prepared to pay money to fix the problem, and are there enough people prepared to pay for this problem to be fixed? You need to be sure that you have a real market.”

Paul explains that a start-up business has to operate in a very abstract space to begin with. “You are dealing with the concept for the business and hypothetical scenarios. Start-ups need to be prepared to do quite a lot of groundwork to get the right information together to inform their concept - and to test it. It’s a case of filling the gaps.”

Paul also emphasises the need for start-ups to have a good support system including one or two who are less risk averse – peers, family, networks, mentors.
Mentors with experience in business start-ups offer guidance, act as a sounding board, test your thinking, help you to validate your idea and support you in the development of a robust business plan.

“You can tell quite quickly when a person is serious about succeeding – and I’ll feed the fire, feed the passion. We want to see them succeed because they’ve made a great start,”enthuses Paul.

Right now Business Mentors New Zealand is looking for new mentors.

“It is a great service and of course, every mentee has an opportunity to teach the mentor too,” finishes Paul.