Startup? 9 tips for starting a business
Starting a new business can be very exciting, and daunting at the same time. For the best chance of your startup being a success, make sure your business follows a hobby, passion or something that you care deeply about.
What is the most important thing to do? Act now and get started! If you are someone that keeps putting it off, you may need to reconsider your dream and focus on something else.
So, grab your laptop, notebook or whatever your weapon of choice is, and get started. Chunk the tips into manageable sessions and you will progress well to starting your new venture.
If in doubt about your options, take the simplest path – you can always change or update later. Remember, you will make mistakes, but action is the only way forward.
Tip 1. Consider if you possess the personal attributes required
After watching many people start and fail, or talk about starting for years and never doing anything about it, I’ve recognised a few essential personal qualities that are necessary. This isn’t all of them, but a good start to determine if you will have the ‘right stuff’. People that are more likely to succeed in starting their own business:
- Are not afraid of failure
- Have an awareness that talent isn’t enough
- Are persistent – they don’t give up
- Are good listeners
- Are happy to proceed with a ‘less than perfect’ approach
- Have the ability to compartmentalise.
Tip 2. What is your vision of success and what are you offering?
This is where you need to put pen to paper and start to commit. To have a successful business you will need to make a positive difference to others, believe in yourself, and work really hard to be the best.
- Define what success will mean to you and what you want out of your venture, as this will determine some critical issues later on. Write down sentences such as “Success will be when I have …..” “Success will be when I can pay myself ….. per week.”
- Write a number of goals and 4 to 5 things to achieve each goal.
- Define your ethics and values.
- Understand what will be your ‘unique selling point’ – what sets you apart from others.
- Remember to have fun.
Tip 3. Understand your competitors and customers
Understand who you will be competing with: their location, how they market their business, their customer segments, branding etc. This will determine a whole raft of issues such as whether you will be wanting to compete directly with them, filling the gaps that aren’t being serviced, or developing better value etc. What you thought was a good market may already be saturated. Remember, in the current climate of selling, you may well be competing against someone in another state or country as well as local suppliers – it all depends on what you are selling.
To be successful, you have to create value for your client. To do this, you have to determine how much your potential clients will pay, their buying patterns, quality and service they are wanting, and turn around times. Do some research to understand the type of things your potential clients like to do – what makes them ‘tick’, what influences them, the other things they tend to buy and like, and how busy they are.
This will dictate the types of processes you will need to set up, packaging, whether you should offer deals, the way you provide a ‘purchase’ experience. There is also a whole art in understanding the ‘touch points’ so that you develop your service and product experience to take advantage of these.
Tip 4. Understand your strengths and weaknesses
None of us are perfect. One business owner might be great at all the IT bits and pieces required these days, but be hopeless with quoting quickly and getting accounts out efficiently. It is important to look at yourself critically and:
- Be aware of any avoidance issues you may have.
- Be honest about what you’re not good at.
- Do a skills inventory on yourself to recognise your attributes.
- Determine what you will need to outsource / the number of staff you’ll need.
Tip 5. Organise your foundations
So, now that you’ve got things a little clearer in your head and you have committed to paper, it’s time to make some other critical decisions:
- Decide what business set-up you will need: sole trader, company etc. Talk to your accountant and if you’re still not sure, take the simplest path – you can always change things later.
- What are you going to call the business? There are whole books on this topic, but as a starting point, keep it simple and memorable and note the other factors below before getting too excited and locked into your choice.
- Register your business name with Australian Securities & Investment Commission, remembering to:
- Check the domain name is available
- Have a look via ABN lookup to see if someone else has the name already
- Consider if it is SEO friendly.
- Organise your ABN – they’re free and essential.
- Document your intentions: simple business plan and/or a strategic plan (they’re not as difficult as you think and can be quite simple documents, just to get you started).
- Do the math: what will your ‘break even’ be?; how many to sell to make a profit?, advantages of scale, consider cost flow to ensure you will have enough money; consider turn around time for stock; how you are going to fund the start up?
- Think about the billing process and how you will get paid? Trading terms, methods of payment etc.
- Where are you going to work from: online; home; business premises?
- The types of insurance you will need such as Public Liability Insurance and Professional Indemnity.
Tip 6. Establish branding and marketing
Consider your branding – this is the sort of ‘feel’ and ‘look’ you want to portray to others. It will need to be evident in your marketing collateral, the fonts and logo you have, phone and email messages, photos on your website and your processes and actions. Once you get the branding right, the marketing collateral will follow.
Your options when creating these can be quick and cheap with lower quality and possibly needing to be altered or upgraded in the near future, through to quality items with long-term usage. The choice will depend on your budget, timing and how important it is to make choices based on longevity. No matter what your branding is, professionalism is the key when carrying out your marketing activities.
Practice being able to pitch your story to others in just a couple of sentences. It needs to be clear, simple and memorable.
At the very least you need to consider the following marketing elements:
- Business cards
- Brochure or flyer
- Social media.
A little note: while it is important that first impressions count when marketing or networking, always be mindful how you handle problems and negative situations as this will be very insightful about your brand and the value you have on customer relationships.
Tip 7. Organise your squadron
You will need a range of people to help you unless you are multi-talented and are able to do everything. Start looking for people that will match your needs, but don’t get caught out paying more than you can, or being caught with someone who can’t deliver the quality you need. The types of people you need will likely include:
- Graphic designer
- Website developer
- Copywriter for all your business writing
- Bookkeeper and/or online accounting system
- IT Support
- Business coach.
Start gathering quotes and save money with some of them by giving them examples of what you want.
Tip 8. Drive traffic to your website
It is important to give people a reason to sign up on your website and visit regularly. This is where your customer research will come in handy. If you’re in retail, this can include new ranges of products and specials. For service industries it can include:
- A newsletter with valuable content.
Make sure your web content is well written so that it it clear that your products or services will provide a solution for potential clients, will give value and meet their needs. People really don’t care about your life story and how you have grown the business over time, they just want to know what you can do to help them.
Tip 9. Network well for best startup outcomes
To be successful, you need to be visible. Networking is critical as it allows you to mingle with other business people and potential customers. You will be able to understand what customers are looking for, learn new information, hear about industry and economic trends, meet people you may be able to partner/collaborate with, promote your services, and learn what other people do – potential suppliers for you.
Various networking opportunities can include:
- Events, forums, workshops and information sessions put on by: Chambers of Commerce, regional development organisations, industry groups, government, non-profit organisations
- Breakfasts, lunches, social occasions
- Training events
- Offering to speak at, or be a part of events
- Attending or displaying at expos and conferences.
It is important to be professional. Chat with people, showing genuine interest in what they have to say, then ask for their business card and give yours out as well, rather than going up to a group of people and just handing out cards. Follow this up with an email a couple of days later if relevant, especially if you promised them information.
Link with them on LinkedIn if appropriate, The most effective and memorable way to do this is by crafting and sending them a specific message as an invitation (not available via phone apps), not the generic one created by LinkedIn. They will remember you much better if you have taken the time to personalise the invitation.