Are you thinking about starting a new business?
It seems that every time we read the news, there’s a new start-up emerging and yes, it is true that many new businesses are started in times of economic uncertainty. When the economy stumbles, job insecurity tends to follow and this leads to people thinking of taking back some control of their lives, to steer their destiny, instead of being steered. They are no longer content with leaving their long-held dreams sitting on the back burner, they now long for them to become a reality.
These days it is possible to start your dream venture, almost overnight, with the smallest amount of money. E-Commerce businesses for example, seem to be popping up everywhere and for good reason. The trend has for some time now been leaning towards online shopping, but many experts predict that the coronavirus has pushed that trend forward by 5-10 years.
So, what does it take to start and run a successful business today? Well, some of the old rules have not changed but there are some new attributes that you need to consider if you want to succeed in this competitive business world.
Firstly, you need a plan!
Depending on your intentions (big idea or micro biz) and resources (self-funded or externally funded), a business plan can be as simple or as complicated as the audience requires. The simplest plan is, ‘in the owner’s head’, which will probably not be sufficient if you are trying to sell your idea to investors / financiers.
Your plan should include a basic feasibility assessment which addresses questions such as, what is the problem/gap and how will I solve it? What is the evidence to back me up? A set of financial reports like a budget, and a break-even analysis should round off a basic plan. Business plans will get more detailed and complicated depending on things like, how the business will be financed, the partners and structure, assurances and advice from external stakeholders like financiers, suppliers, accountants and lawyers.
There are numerous other elements in planning a successful business so I would strongly recommend having someone review your plan to validate your assumptions before you commit your valuable time and money.
Test and develop!
Once you are confident in your planning, it is time to test your idea. In the start-up world, developing a Minimum Viable Proposition (MVP) is the process whereby you validate your product or service by building a basic prototype/app, conduct research, speak to your potential customers by presenting them with the concept you intend to launch to gauge interest, and doing a competitor analysis to see who they already use and the price they are willing to pay.
By this stage, you should be able to determine how much money you need to set-up your venture, and analyse what your breakeven point is, so you have a sales target to aim for and understand what positive cashflow look like. Understanding these numbers will inform your decisions about the sources of funding your idea. Will the money come from friends, family, credit card, savings, commercial loans, partners, crowdfunding?
If you prepare a proper business plan that is independently validated, the people you seek money from will have the confidence to invest in you and your business.
Will your business be purely an online venture, or will it include a bricks and mortar strategy? Online might often be the cheapest to set up but depending on what you are selling, it may be difficult to attract the right customer. If you do decide on the online route only, remember, while it may be cheaper but is not any easier. Standing out from the millions of other websites is no easy task. Things to consider are;
- good web development that prioritises the online user experience,
- a seamless navigating journey,
- choosing the most appropriate eCommerce platform,
- testing your UX design,
- consistently making tweaks based on user feedback
- keeping on top of emails, blogs, and
- developing a social media presence and digital marketing are essential.
Bricks and mortar businesses may be seen as old school these days but not only do some businesses need to operate this way (food, health, hospitality, manufacturing), some online stores begin this way by setting up a pop-up store in high traffic retail spaces to expose their brand and establish a customer base.
Building the dream team.
Another important consideration for any business owner is work out who they will need in their corner to help them achieve their dreams. Family and friends might provide the emotional support to encourage you. You may have a business partner who will have complimentary skills to yours. You may have staff, who will do the operational tasks as per the systems you’ve developed.
Remember you don’t need to do it alone, in fact most successful businesses rely heavily on help from external parties. There may be many areas of your business with which you need help. You may not have all the skills to develop a growth strategy, marketing plan, system processes, staff retention strategy, etc. Who will hold you accountable to take the actions required to achieve the goals you’ve set? Remember that as with any good accountant, lawyer or financial planner, a good business advisor can add a dimension to your business that could take you from ordinary to great by providing either one off advice in times of need (as a doctor would to a patient) or on a regular basis (as a coach to a successful athlete).
All successful people attribute their success to advice they’ve received along the way, whether it be from a close trusted friend, a book they’ve read, a manager they worked with or someone they’ve reached out to for help. How will your success story be written?