Those who are entrepreneurial-minded are never short of business ideas. Often it can be a case of having too many, and not knowing which idea to pursue first! But getting a new business idea off the ground can be extremely tough and rife with challenges, and if this is your first business, knowing where to start is often the most difficult bit.
Serial entrepreneur Richard Branson, says: “When somebody comes to me who’s interested in starting a business, I think my first question is, ‘Do you have an idea that’s going to make other people’s lives better?’ If you do, you have a business.”
“And my second bit of advice would be, ‘Screw it, just get on and do it…I’m a great believer in just getting out there and trying. Sometimes you fall flat on your face; sometimes you succeed.”
But without the right planning and support you’ll be winging it, and chances of survival will be tough. If you’ve dreamt for some time of setting up your own business and believe 2017 could be the year you take the plunge, there are several things you can do at the start to tip the scales in your favour. Here are our top tips on how to jump start your business in the right way, to give you the best chance of prospering…
1. Be passionate about what you’re doing
Richard Branson says “we spend roughly 80% of our waking lives at work, so it’s important that we do what we love and love what we do.” He stresses the need for entrepreneurs to be passionate about what they do, and also argues the importance of honing in on the areas of the business operation you’re best suited to, and enjoy the most. So once you’ve identified your weaknesses or aspects of the business that you have less enthusiasm for, it’s important to try and hand these over to someone better suited, at the earliest opportunity.
Getting a new business idea off the ground requires hard graft, and often undertaking a lot of grunt work until you can afford to bring someone in to help with this. So it really helps if you’re passionate about what you’re doing.
2. Know your market
Market research is an important part of setting up a new business. While you may be certain that your idea will fly, it’s crucial to do your due diligence and understand what your competition is, how they’re faring and what you can do to differentiate your business or product. This will also help you to clearly define the business or product that you want to build.
3. Write a business plan
Thinking long term, beyond the first year, is critical, for business survival. According to a recent study by Ormsby Street, small business survival rates are as high as 91% after one year of trading, but after five years just four in 10 will still be trading. This is where the importance of having a business plan comes in.
In his business book Will It Fly?, author Pat Flynn uses the metaphor of a paper airplane to bring to life the importance of having a business plan. He describes how he and his son were making paper airplanes. Pat neatly folded his plane, following a simple but tried and tested design. His son, however, was so eager to get going that he dived in without any plan, following his paper any which way. When he was finished, he had something that resembled a plane, but it didn’t fly.
A business plan can take many different shapes and forms, but ultimately it shows you how to build a plane that will fly now, and for several years to come.
4. Seek out a mentor
If this is your first business, it can be sensible to bring onboard a mentor who has successfully set up a business (or three) themselves, and is willing to impart their knowledge and wisdom. There are some common mistakes entrepreneurs often make in the early stages, and a mentor may help you to avoid some of these pitfalls. Furthermore they can offer a useful sounding board when key decisions are to be made, and can hold you to account for meeting the financial targets that you’ve set yourself. Such a person will hopefully have a good instinct for business success and will help you to gauge how well your new business is performing in those critical first few months.
Furthermore, there are some fantastic resources out there for individuals wishing to start a new business such as start-up camps, business retreats, training courses, online resources, etc. Tap into those that suit your personality and needs.
5. Move quickly
Once the above elements are in place, avoid being distracted by administrative tasks such as setting up an office and getting payroll in place, for example, when really the only thing that matters is going to market with your product or service. It’s important to move as quickly as possible with this, networking and meeting with as many relevant contacts as possible, as well as continually refining your proposition. If everything seems calm and is well under control, you’re not moving quickly enough!
6. Write things down
In the early stages of setting up a new business, you’ll be rushed off your feet, meaning that inspiration and solutions to issues or problems can often hit you at the most inconvenient of times. If you’re lucky, conversations may also lead to helpful advice, which you don’t want to forget.
“Take a notebook with you wherever you go,” advises Richard Branson. “I firmly believe that anyone who aspires to lead a company must develop a habit of taking notes. I carry a notebook everywhere, and am an avid note-taker and list-maker. This helps me to focus on what I need to get done and encourages me to be productive – and discourages me from procrastinating!”
7. Take a bird’s eye view
To begin with, it’s easy to focus on the individuals job that need doing, and lose sight of the bigger picture. Remember at all times, whatever stage of business growth, to take a bird’s eye view on how your business is performing. Look at cash-flow, customer feedback, business metrics, web analytics, sales, etc. Whatever’s most pertinent to your business.
In the wise words of Steve Jobs, “Listen to others…but trust your numbers.”