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If the thought of starting a new company scares you, then what I’m about to suggest might terrify you: Consider starting a new company in a realm in which you have no experience. Before you run for the hills, keep reading. When done the right way, this risk can pay off with big rewards. I’ll illustrate how — and how not to — succeed when venturing into the unknown when starting a business.

Meet John
John has been working the same job for years, and he’s ready for a change. He decides to start his own company; he opts to take the additional risk of starting a business in a realm with which he has no experience.

Lured by quick profits, John rushes to open an agricultural equipment store. Although he doesn’t know a scythe from a sickle, he’s heard that farming is the next big thing — in other words, it’s a foolproof business full of opportunity. Here’s the catch: He’s lived in New York City his entire life, and he’s never visited a farm.

In John’s haste to open the store, he failed to address several parts of the process. Perhaps most damaging was that in addition to John’s lack of agricultural knowledge, he had absolutely no desire to obtain it. He was unable to answer any of his customers’ questions and didn’t know which type of people to hire.

Flash forward two years: John’s business tanked, and he’s down $60,000 because of it.

How to succeed
I was a bit more fortunate. I’d always had a desire to learn about the eBook business, so I started companies that focus on writing and publishing eBooks. In doing so, I was able to satiate my desire to learn while putting some cash in my pocket — while never having written an eBook myself.

My genuine interest in this new venture led to several benefits you could experience yourself:

  • The ability to learn with customers. The majority of the time, your customers will know little to nothing about your product or service. If you’ve experienced the learning curve yourself, you can better connect with your customers and address their concerns.
  • No preconceived notions. If you’ve been making the same thing for 30 years, change is tough. Many times, however, even a small tweak or change can greatly outsell what you’ve been making for years.
  • A more varied opinion. With no prior knowledge, you’re more likely to seek advice from several different sources. In doing so, you pick up a more varied and well-rounded perspective of the service or product you now provide.
  • Continuous learning. Chances are you’ll stay on top of the newest trends in the industry if you’re new to it yourself. If you’re in the same field for some time, you can develop an “I know it all” mantra and fail to stay current.

Take advantage
These benefits gave me an advantage that continues to make my companies successful. I’m now able to focus on listening to my authors and customers and growing from their suggestions, rather than getting stuck in a routine. To get to the place I’m at today, I took a few steps:

  • Study and know the industry. This is a no-brainer. You can’t expect to succeed in a new field if you don’t make an effort to learn.
  • Ask the experts. You want to focus on developing trends, so ask the people who know what those trends might be.
  • Hire the best. You might not know how to do something, and that’s okay. Leave it to the experts while you focus on growing your business.
  • Scope out the competition. Want to open a coffee shop? Go to Starbucks and Dunkin Donuts and see what they’re doing right — and wrong.
  • Talk to customers. Find out what they like and what they don’t like, as well as what improvements they want to see, and find ways to encourage honesty.
  • Put yourself in the customer’s shoes. Go through the purchasing experience yourself, from start to finish.

Fear can stop us from doing something, or it can propel us toward it. Follow the steps outlined above, and you’ll turn your fear of the unknown into profits.