David Stringer-Lamarre, Managing Director, Fortis Consulting London.

I have been involved in several discussions recently about starting businesses and whether or not now is a good time.

According to my 1993 copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary an entrepreneur is ‘A person who undertakes or controls a business or enterprise and bears the risk of profit or loss.’ Rather a wide definition so I will limit it to somebody who decides to set up a new business in the hope and expectation of making a profit at a future time….

At the present time, sitting in London, there can be said to be a number of factors creating some instability. To suggest a few: Brexit, the economic performance of parts of the EU, the recent results of the USA election and suggestions that the economy of China may underperform.

Starting a business, with or without external funding, is a major decision and not to be taken likely given the statistics relating to new businesses not surviving their first few years, let alone hitting the five years milestone.

In any time period entrepreneurs need to approach the commercial environment carefully and thoughtfully.

At the foundation of a decision to ‘press the launch button’ should be a robust business plan which has been ‘tested’ by external parties, for example an investor, a bank, a mentor or a trusted (independent) work colleague. Financial modelling and indicators, supply chains (where relevant), talent attraction strategies, operational structure, competitor analysis are all essentials.

A key element to focus on is the future customer or client if you prefer.

Why, who, where, when, how?

Why should a person &/or business buy your product or service? Who are they/what do they look like? Where are they? When will they buy, often or infrequently, quickly or slowly? How will you interact with them? Do you know how to effectively engage with them (cross cultural knowledge….)?

A business may ‘in the eyes of the entrepreneur’ have the best product/service ever, but if nobody (or too few people) buys it, failure will result.

How will the new business adapt to the changing and developing landscape? This includes economic, legal, competitors, technical etc. Use any of the business school acronyms that you favour.

Can your product/service be part of the XXX-Tech revolution where XXX might stand for Fin, Reg, Med, Ed, Fash etc?

A business plan has to be flexible as do the entrepreneurs and the other people in their team. To misquote an old phrase ‘business is what happens to you whilst you are busy making other plans’.

If and when the potential entrepreneurs and their support network are able to satisfy themselves that their responses to all the above are sufficiently strong to proceed then they will be ready to ‘bear the risk of profit or loss’.

Returning to my 1993 copy of the Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, risk is defined as ‘… (exposure to) the possibility of commercial loss…’

The prevailing (uncertain) environment is one of a multitude of factors that have to be addressed when deciding whether the time is right ‘to press the launch button’.