Want to earn more and have more fun? Ever wanted to run your own business? If you have the courage, energy and determination, starting your own business can be one of the most rewarding things you ever do. But it’s not for the faint hearted. Startups can be tricky to both start up and sustain, but if you’re successful you’ll never have to work for anyone else ever again.
Let’s look at the 7 main steps you need to take to fast track your startup to success.
1. Know Your Market
There is no point opening a restaurant if you’ve never worked in one. Similarly, if you want to start a graphic design firm, you’ll need experience in that industry. So, do your research to check your business is viable. Questions to ask include:
- Who is the target market for my products/service?
- How will I reach them?
- Who are my competitors and how do they operate?
- Can I offer something better?
- How much demand is there for my products/service?
- Can I make a big enough profit from my business?
2. Write A Business Plan
A business plan is your guiding light for navigating the road ahead. It doesn’t have to be a fancy 30-page document of statistics and flow charts. At its most basic, it’s a statement of what you want to achieve and how you’re going to achieve it. Ensure you include financial projections because these will force you to really think through the chances of success. A good business plan will also help you to secure loans and investment.
3. Stay On Top Of Finances & Funding
Few startups are halted by lack of finance. There are lots of creative ways of financing the business, including crowdfunding, friends and family, bank loans and even the BBC’s Dragon’s Den! Bear in mind that around 80% of the most successful start ups are self-financed. Work out how little money you need to survive for the first year and how to achieve it. You might have savings, your partner’s income or a redundancy pay-off.
4. Register Your Business
You will need to register your business with HMRC as either a sole trader, a limited company, or partnership, however this is relatively straight forward. Depending on your area of business, you may also need special licences or permits, for example if you are selling food or playing music. Import and export businesses need to be aware of relevant current regulations. Also, don’t forget to look into insurance policies you may need to protect your business activities.
5. Activate A Marketing Strategy
Use your market research to help define your brand. Imagine your brand as a person. Are they cool and creative? Or friendly and warm? The brand personality must be reflected in the language and imagery across all of your marketing materials, along with the way your business operates. There are many channels you can use to engage with your customers, including:
- Getting online – A website is a powerful marketing tool, so make sure it’s professional, reflects your brand and has good Search Engine Optimisation (SEO).
- Use social media – Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn etc are a great way to spread the word about your startup.
- Join any relevant professional organisations. Use networking opportunities with those who can help you. Attend conferences, write articles, run workshops to increase your credibility and expertise in your chosen field.
- Use both traditional and digital media to run advertising campaigns.
- Organise a competition to help promote your company.
6. Build A Team
Even if your business does not need actual staff to operate, do build a good team of professionals around you, such as an accountant, a solicitor or a mentor. This team will help with general and specific business advice and problems. If you do employ staff, remember that these are the people who will help your business to grow. Do not try and do everything yourself. Delegate to those in a better position to do the job and create a working culture that makes your staff want to come to work.
7. Stay Organised
The way to really grow any business is not to work in it, but to work on it. To do this, you need help with routine tasks that can bog you down. These include keeping on top of accounts, managing cash flow and paying your staff. Thankfully, there is now a new generation of business apps that can make running your business simple. Planday, for example, is cloud based software that makes communication and scheduling easy for managers and hourly employees. There is no system to be installed and everything can be accessed online or via an app. Whether you want to organise staff schedules, communicate with staff or pay them, today’s software makes staff management simple.