Man Holding His NoseHere in the UK we have a show called the Apprentice, just like in the US. The main difference being the UK version is hosted by Alan Sugar, a famous entrepreneur and business personality. On an episode of the Apprentice not so long ago he used a phrase that has stuck with me ever since: “smell what sells”. It’s quite simple, because in business you need to sniff out what sells well, in other words, find a market with huge demand and plug your business in to fulfill that demand.

Don’t be confused into thinking that “smell what sells” just applies to products – it doesn’t, it applies to services too, literally anything that people have a demand for. I’ve found from personal experience that selling to a market that doesn’t exist, is as you’d expect, impossible. It doesn’t matter how cheap your prices are, if there’s no market for a product, it just won’t sell.

A common mistake people make when entering business is to research out a niche market that’s so minute, there’s no demand for the products they stock. Seasoned businessmen and women will all warn you off setting up a business in a saturated market, but don’t listen to those warnings. A saturated market often means one thing; there’s a massive demand for a product.

When starting out in business I was warned against getting into the electronics and games business, due to how competitive it is. The reason it’s so competitive is that there’s simply so much money to be made out of it. I didn’t listen to the warnings of those who told me I’d never last setting up a business in such a market place – and I’m glad I didn’t.

Operating in a saturated market is immensely hard, but if you do it right you can slowly chisel out a small chunk of the market for yourself. As things progress in your business you can think about expanding, and you can also think about packing in your day job – and even incorporating. The thing to remember when starting a company is that Rome wasn’t built in a day – you won’t get your company to where you want it overnight, it takes time – you need to set yourself gradual, but realistic goals.

Next time you’re considering starting your own company, remember the phrase “smell what sells”. Find a market with lots of demand, and find a way in which you can quell that demand. Don’t be put off by competition from bigger companies, but don’t be unrealistic (remember the chances are they’ll have far greater resources than you!). Starting a business is easy when you know what direction you want to go in, the hardest part about it is being persistent, and getting your business off the ground. It might not all be plain sailing, and you won’t be running a mega company from day one – in fact you may even have to keep up your day job to subsidize your new company, but if you put in the effort it will be worth it in the long run.