Getting Your Own Business off the Ground
1: An Idea is Only the Beginning
Every business starts life as a good idea. After that it’s a matter of finding a way to turn it into reality. It can be daunting to turn your idea into something real when there seems to be so much to do, but you can make this mammoth task easier by creating a simple plan.
2: Business Planning
If you are starting a small business, then your business plan doesn’t need to be long. It’s really just an overview of the factors which will affect the growth of your business and where you see it going, so 2 or 3 pages should be enough. The plan needs to contain your mission and your vision, a budget, and a selection of achievable targets which will contribute to your overall goals during the first year. And that’s it. There’s no need to waste lots of your precious time producing a huge document.
If you do need to create a more comprehensive business plan later to attract investment, consider paying a professional to help you. There are plenty of freelancers out there who are experienced enough to help out.
Marketing connects your business to your customers. It helps you to understand if what you are selling has a market at all, and if so, how best to bring your product or service to the attention of customers.
As the owner of a small business you may only be able to afford to do the marketing work yourself, but there are so many marketing resources available, many of them free of charge, that in the beginning you should be able to quickly learn enough to handle your own marketing. Again, there is lots of practical guidance online.
Unless your business is very simple, you are going to need to spend money on staff, equipment, premises, and training, among many other things.
You can get hold of capital by approaching lenders, so start with your own bank. The personal account that you’ve had with them for so long should mean that they have evidence that you will be a responsible borrower.
Another option to get finance is crowdfunding. Sites like Kickstarter.com exist to let businesses showcase their products in the hope of attracting small amounts of money from large numbers of people. This pooling of resources means that on the strength of a good presentation, you may be able to solve all of your funding problems quite quickly. In return, investors have come to expect bonus experiences or items related to your products or services. But if you do want to try crowdfunding, then you will need to put some time and expense into creating a promotional video and pitch deck. Freelance creatives may be able to help you with this.
The last resort for finding investment is friends and relatives. Many businesses have started by using loans from loved ones, but it’s best to go into this kind of arrangement with your eyes open. If your business fails and takes their money with it, you could damage some of the most important relationships in your life. With that in mind, lay it all out for them. Don’t hide anything. Be honest and upfront about the risks.
Unless your business is just you and your laptop, then you’re going to need to put a roof over your head, and the heads of any employees that you may be taking on. When you start out, it will cost less to rent than to buy, so that is what you will need to do until you can afford somewhere better.
The same goes for buying equipment. Spend a little as you can start with, but don’t spend less than you need to.
6: Look after Your Customers
Your customers are extremely important because without them you don’t have a business. Bearing that in mind, you need to take every opportunity to deliver a good service to them. You need to respond to the complaints or suggestions that they post on social media, and never let anything spiral out of your control. It’s all too easy these days for customers to voice their unhappiness publicly, so you will have to spend at least some of your time making sure that you manage their displeasure effectively.
Prevention is better than cure, so do everything that you can to ensure that your products and services are created to decent minimum standards, and that you invite feedback wherever possible, using it to continuously improve what you produce.