Everyone’s asking ChatGPT to do something for them — which is no surprise, since artificial intelligence is expected to be a game changer for business in 2023.
If you’re unfamiliar with the tool, imagine typing a question into Google’s search bar, but rather than sending you to a highlighted answer followed by pages of search results, it talks back in a private chat window. It uses stored information from books, articles, and websites to give you an answer, in complete sentences and paragraphs.
ChatGPT, which is free to use, launched in November as a research prototype. Professionals have used it to write cover letters, and students have used it to write their papers — then New York City banned the app from public-school devices and networks.
ChatGPT may be able to write an English essay, but there are some things it can’t do, like help you start a business.
While it’s very smart, ChatGPT is only a chatbot; I knew it couldn’t physically start a business for me. But I wondered if it would at least walk me through the initial steps.
So I asked this AI program a series of questions about starting a business.
Here’s how it went.
When I initially visited the site, ChatGPT served me a 404 page — regular outages are a side effect of its sudden popularity. I refreshed the page a few hours later and was finally able to log on.
ChatGPT doesn’t do much heavy lifting. Its responses tend to be formulaic and broad, lack inspiration, and leave out a lot of useful information.
When I asked ChatGPT how to start a business, it gave me the following eight generic steps:
Starting a business can be a challenging but rewarding process. Here are some steps to help you get started:
Starting a business requires hard work, dedication, and the ability to adapt to change. It also requires a good understanding of the market, the competition, and the legal requirements. It’s important to have a solid plan, a clear vision, and the right team in place to increase your chances of success.
After asking the chatbot how to start a business, I tried more specific questions, like “How do I start a vending-machine business?” and “How do I start a laundromat business?”
These prompts led to slightly more detailed answers catered to the type of business, though they still fit within the same eight-step format. It suggested identifying potential locations for the vending machines and hiring staff for the laundromat.
Finally, I tested ChatGPT’s knowledge of startup costs. It told me the average cost to start a laundromat was $200,000 to $2 million or more, then outlined six overhead costs such as equipment, legal fees, and renovation.
In conclusion, ChatGPT is not a great source for answers to your deepest business questions, but it could be a helpful starting point to gather ideas, get cost estimates, and outline your business plan.