Do you want to start a business? There are many people who have a great concept which they feel they can turn into a fantastic, long-lasting business – and if you’re reading this, you’re likely one of those innovative people. But people with great business ideas (this could be you!) are often discouraged by thinking that the world of business might be too ruthless for them to survive, or that they just simply might not be able to pull it off – but we’d like to tell you that you can put the fear away.
Yes, you can start a business – and yes, you can make it work. It all begins with the right idea, and what separates a business that works from one that doesn’t is how that idea gets implemented. If its implemented, promoted and handled in the correct way, people will naturally take to it – they will make use of your product or service, recommend it to your friends, and the business that once started as just an idea will suddenly soar.
Here’s the no nonsense guide to how to start your business and run it successfully.
Making the leap to business
First you have to know where you at in life and what your finances look like before you make the leap to starting a business. There are a couple things you need to know and a few questions you will have to ask yourself first. Will you be quitting your job and starting your business with your savings, or will you start and run your business part time first, while keeping your day job as extra security? Do you have the capital available to start your business or will you have to source it through crowdfunding, loans or other investors and partners? What service or product will you be offering, how will you be offering it and what is the demand for your product or service?
Then, you have to start thinking about things such as product pricing and promotion: And this is all before you’ve started your business and sold your first item! A leap into starting your own business and becoming an entrepreneur should never be a leap of blind faith – it should be a careful jump of calculated circumstances, otherwise you will find yourself risking far too much and this alone could negatively impact the way you approach your business.
Before you make the leap, ensure that you’ve thought of how your life will be going inbetween running your business, and what you’ll be doing with your time and money while your business gains speed. Remember: Getting a business going takes time and patience – plenty of it. But we’ll get to that later. First, let’s talk about registering.
Registering your business
Your business will have to be registered as a legal entity before you begin trading as one. This varies from country to country and state to state, so make sure that you are familiar with the laws and legal requirements where you live. When registering your business, you will usually have to provide basic documentation along with it, like your social security documents, your basic particulars (such as your businesses’ address), and then other important details like the name of your business – which, it’s important to remember, isn’t allowed to infringe on any existing copyrights. You should also consider the tax implications and responsibilities of registering your business.
Setting up everything else
Once your business has a name, you can officially consider it in existence. Congratulations! Now you will likely have to start setting up everything else. We’d recommend starting with an official business website. Why? Because there isn’t a professional business, a mega-corporation or a media personality in the world taking themselves seriously who doesn’t have one. Your official website is where people will be directed to find out more about your business and what you do; they will also go there to get in touch with you, find out more about special offers – and some people might even end up there by accident and decide to get in touch as a new client! Your website is your official online representation, and it’s one of the first things that a new business needs if it wants to achieve success.
The new businesses’ rule
It’s estimated that as much as approximately 50% of new businesses will generally fold (or not) within the first year of their existence. In terms of business, you can look at the first year of your business as your proof period. This is the part that will make or break your business, and this is where you have to proceed with careful calculation and establish your product or brand as a new, exciting one and get clients to trust you as a newcomer to the business. We’ll call the first year the New Business Rule for now, and it’s something you have to constantly keep in mind during your first year. It’s worth mentioning that most business will take a while before they start showing a profit – so don’t be worried if your business does take some time to build up speed in the beginning. It happened to everyone, even those who appear to be successful corporate businesses today.
To start a business, and often to find investors and the best entrepreneurs, you will need to set up a business plan to tell interested parties and clients just what you are, what you do and where you will see your business going in five years. The best business plans are comprehensive though brief: You don’t want it to seem overly lengthy, just long enough to get the necessary points across. It’s worth getting a professional business plan writer to help you set up your business plan – that way you can only worry about your business instead of stressing about small things like how you should format your business plan for the market.
Your business plan should contain more about the vision and mission of your business, the personal details of those who have already invested in your business (this will include you and your business partner too – yes, you are an investor as much as you are a business owner now), more information about your offered product and service, details about your business such as the registration details, name and contact details, and a long-term financial projection, usually for the next five years: This helps tell investors that you are financially responsible, and that you have the foresight to know, at least more or less, where your business will be going in the future. This also helps to tell investors what will be happening to their money if they invest it in your business – and, it kind of goes without saying, business owners and investors want to see their businesses and investments grow.
Sample business plants downloaded from online can also help you when it comes to setting up the format of a business plan.
Choosing the best entrepreneurs
You should choose your entrepreneurs, investors and business partners carefully. Remember that these are the people you will be doing business with, and these are people you will be spending a lot of time with and giving near-complete trust of the financial well-being of your business. That’s why it’s generally ill-advised to choose family to start a business with: Yes, it seems like a great idea at first, but once you really get down to it and hit a snag in your business, it’s the family relationship that suffers.
You should pick financial partners who share your vision in the business world and who want to see your business go in the same direction as you. (You don’t want to have to iron out creative or financial differences in your business five or ten years down the line when it really matters and places your business at a massively high risk.) Get these things sorted out early, and make sure that you are on the same page with all your business partners and investors.
You should also choose investors who are financially trustworthy – and yes, sometimes this means having the foresight not to hire friends in your business. The same that’s true for family in business is true for friends, and while there are successful business relationships between friends that work wonderfully well, there are many that have tanked because they tried to mix their friendship with the world of business and failed.
Don’t pick the first investor who offers. Do your research and decide if you can see eye to eye on every level of the business. If at all possible, it’s acceptable to ask for completely transparency, and almost a given that you’ll have to do at least some form of research on your investor before you accept them into your business: How have their past clients felt about dealing with them during previous business deals and would they do so again? Do they have a record of financial success in their previous business ventures, and how are their current business ventures (if there are any to mention) doing in comparison? And, most importantly, can you trust them enough to make them part of your business?
Finding your funding
Let’s talk about choosing investors – or more specifically, finding funding. You need capital to start a business, and simply, that means that you need money. Your business plan should have, by now, given you a fairly clear idea of just how much money you will need to start your business, how much it should take to break even (that is, ensure that your income has surpassed what it cost you to produce the product or offer the service) and more or less where your business should go from here in future.
How do you find funding? Well, there are several ways – and all of them take time, patience and proper preparation. In modern times, a popular way to secure funding for a business with a creative concept that is likely to be in high demand is through crowd-funding. Uploading your concept onto a popular crowd-funding site and getting interested people to donate money to the cause – for a return, of course, usually an exclusive offer on your offered product or service once you manage to start your business and it’s officially up and running.
Funding can also be secured by tracking down single investors to invest large sums of money in your idea or concept, rather than several people and smaller amounts of money as is the case with crowd-funding. This can sometimes be easier if you manage to hook the right investor and pitch your idea to them; if they like it, they might agree to front a percentage of the money to get it off the ground. In the case of angel investing, that’s exactly what you’re looking for. There are plenty of websites that categorize angel investors and put you in touch with them to hear your ideas.
Funding for a business, especially if it’s a particularly large bulk amount, can also be secured by applying for a business loan with your bank. Here, your business plan will again come in handy, and it’s likely that you will have to make an appointment with your bank to discuss why they should offer you this loan and what will happen to the money. (Remember that your bank here can be viewed as just another investor, and they have exactly the same interests in your business any other entrepreneur would: They want to see it succeed and grow, and they want to be able to recoup the money they are lending to you as a result of your success.)
There are other times where a bulk sum of money comes from another source and it happens to be enough to get your business off of the ground. Sometimes this is money gained from inheritance or a large bonus from your company; other times people pour their life savings into a business venture – which is exceptionally risky, but has proved to be successful for some in getting their business to the point where they can profit from it.
What makes a bad investor
We’ve gone over what makes a good investor. Now, what makes a bad investor in your business? Someone who doesn’t share the same business values as you do – if you clash in the first ten minutes of a business meeting, you’re going to clash over small things for the next ten years, and it could mean the destruction of your business from the inside out. You should also take a very close look at the track record of your chosen potential investor: How have past businesses competed in the market? If they have done badly and other clients and investors have horror stories of dealing with him or her, then you know that they make a terrible investor and won’t have the best interests of you or your business at heart.
Investors to avoid also include those who are too controlling right from the beginning: Those, honestly, are the kind of investors who overtake your business when you can least afford it, often leaving you to pick up the pieces.
Only choose investors that you absolutely trust, and investors that other people are willing to vouch for; investors with a proven track record as successful are those that you want on-board to start your business with – and run it for the long term. A seasoned investor can always provide you with the best startup advice.
Doing your market research
Don’t underestimate the value of doing proper market research; many successful business owners will tell you that market research has been the single key to their success. Marketing a business to your potential clients means that you need to know what they want, and the only way to figure this out is by doing market research on a constant basis. You also need to know what similar products or services are being offered by your competitors, and how their product or service is viewed in comparison to yours according to the consumers.
Your market research should start even before you’ve officially opened the door to your business. Go out and ask people what they would like to see offered, ask consumers what would put them off about your business – or what they like or don’t about the competitor’s business. Ask them what would make them make the switch between the competitor’s business and yours: You will likely find that customers appreciate small, thoughtful things from a business and that will stick out in their heads above your competitor.
Market research can be conducted on a smaller scale – you don’t have to ask thousands of people for an opinion, you just have to ask a couple. Decide on your target market and know exactly who will be interest in your service or product: This is how you know who you are marketing and selling to at the end of the day.
And market research should be continuous. You should always be on a mission to improve your business and keep your mission in line with the wants and needs of your clients and consumers. That ensures your business keeps going for a long time into the future. Happy customers are customers who will be more than happy to tell other customers about the excellent service they experienced from your business – and that’s the start of word of mouth, the best kind of promotion that you can’t buy with money.
Ask clients that don’t come back to you why they haven’t done so – and if there’s anything you could do to swing their opinion. Again, people are more than happy to tell you what they would like offered, at least most of the time, and this gives room for your business to improve. Also ask returning clients what they would like to see in the future, as your business should never stagnate – you should always be offering something new, something fresh, something your competitors don’t.
The internet is a great way to conduct market research, but if that doesn’t work for you, the next best way is to go out into the world and ask people who you view as your target market what they think.
Seek startup advice
We’ve already mentioned that a seasoned investor can provide you with advice that can make your business soar, but it’s deemed important enough that we made it a separate point on its own. Remember that a successful investor has a lot to offer someone new to the world of business: They have already made all of the mistakes you are likely to without the advice, and they can stop you from making them before you do. The things they can practically offer your business is broad: You just have to connect with the right investors.
Financial seminars are a great place to connect with other investors who have more experience in business than you do; you can also often find them on forums.
Promoting your business
Promote your business – it’s one of the many secrets to business success, and it’s something we can tell you that you absolutely can’t do without. If you don’t promote your business, how on earth are people going to know that you exist and can offer them a service? Most of the time, people who are looking for a product or business will go out and search for something that fits their needs, either by asking someone they know, responding to an advertisement they noticed somewhere or by heading to a search engine – where they will hopefully be interested enough in your business to get in touch. That’s how you get clients.
A strong web-presence is essential. Make sure your website says everything about what you can offer clients, how much this will cost them and where they can contact you if they would like to make use of it. You can also advertise on some social media pages and forums. We’d also recommend that you set up official social media accounts for your business: Not everybody will be directed to your website, so you have to have other ways to connect with people. Social media, in the modern age, is easy – and most people will be able to find you on there.
Business cards are a more real-life approach, but they still have a definite place in today’s world. Business cards give you the opportunity to hand them out at every occasion, and people will remember if it’s something that catches their eye – you can even write a note on the back as a special touch. You can also have your business cards placed at locations where clients might frequent, all you have to do is seek prior permission from the owner of the venue or business beforehand. The same is true for flyers. It’s worth hiring a professional to undertake the design for your business cards: It’s often a better looking end-result, and it’s a hell of a lot less stress than trying to do it yourself.
You can also advertise your business by taking out advertisements in local newspapers and bulletins, or taking it online and paying for sponsored advertisement through social media channels or websites. This is perfectly fine, as long as you’re not spending more money in advertising than you will be getting out of it by the end. Advertisements catch people’s eye, but should never waste people’s time – and should never, ever contain errors. (Can you imagine how many clients you would lose if you sent the contact details in the ad with a misprint?) Again, here it’s best to hire a professional to write and design your advertisement for you: Ad professionals know very well what’s eye-catching and what’s not, and they know what will draw new clients your way.
There are more extreme forms of advertising that offer plenty more reach – but are often more expensive and beyond the reach of a new business. But there’s no reason you shouldn’t choose it if you can earn the money back. These forms of advertising include channels such as video and television advertising and taking out large billboards to advertise your product. Here, you’ll most definitely need to hire a professional advertising company to suit your needs – but if you can earn the money back and reach the clients you need, there’s no reason this shouldn’t be part of your business plan from the beginning.
Your businesses’ website
Your businesses’ website is where people will go to find your business; here, they’ll find out what you do and why they should hire you to do it for them. When you think of your favorite business or brand, go and take a look at their website. Take note of what works and what doesn’t. What features make you click on something and read the content behind it? What features make you avoid the website instead? Apply this criticism to your own website, whether you’re setting it up yourself or working with a web designer to get it up and running; compare yours to a competitors website and make sure that yours is easy-to-use.
Business websites should have a few absolutely essential elements. First, an About Us page that tells the customer more about your business. Then, you want a page that showcases your product or service – and it’s great if you have some previous customer testimonials from happy clients to include here; this, for a potential client, highly increases your trust levels and the likelihood of them getting in touch. Your website should also contain links to your social media profiles and a hit counter – either visible or in the back-end of your website so that only you can see it – to see how much traffic comes your way. Optional (though recommended) is a page for news and new announcements from your business, and you can also set up a mailing list that keeps clients informed of new special offers – this is a great way of always keeping in touch with your base of customers.
You can choose to sell advertising space on your website, too, and depending on just how many hits you website and clicks the ads get, you could get an additional side-income from selling advertising.
Obviously, your website will also need a contact page – otherwise people can’t get in touch!
Go to the trouble of registering a domain for your website: It’s cheap, and it looks much more professional than a domain that belongs to someone else – customers will often consider a professionally set up website with its own domain far more trustworthy than one you quickly threw together through template software.
Make sure that your website runs effortlessly on all platforms, including PC, Linux and mobile. If you’re hiring a professional website designer to set up your website for you, this is one of the things you won’t have to worry about.
The power of word of mouth
Word of mouth is one of the most powerful forms of advertising available to you as a business owner. Why? Because people talk about things they like and don’t like; people share opinions in person and via social media. If they’re talking, they might as well be talking about your business – this helps to promote you far more than any ad would, and it’s advertising that millions of dollars wouldn’t be able to buy.
People listen to friends they trust, they listen to reviews, they listen to what people around them think – so if they’re talking about the excellence they got by dealing from your business, they will likely be inspired to get in touch with you once they are in need of what you’re offering. The same is true for terrible service, so you always want to keep in touch with your clients and make sure that they are completely satisfied with what your business has offered them – the consequences can be bad news!
How do you get people to talk? First, offer an excellent product or service. Sometimes, you can ask for testimonials or reviews and some clients will be more than happy to provide them to you. Showcase these on your website. You can also become involved with the community by using your business to launch or sponsor events in your community – this is another great way to get people to talk and refer! And, contributions to community and charity can give you a tax break as a business.
Environmentally conscious businesses and you
In the 21st century world, it really pays to be environmentally conscious – as a person, but especially as a business. What’s your businesses carbon footprint? It remains your responsibility to know this, and to ensure it stays to an absolute minimum – if not, you will likely face backlash from the community you are trying to establish your business in, or you will downright be fined by environmental rights groups for contravening environmental laws.
The bottom line there should be to always remain environmentally conscious as a business owner: This holds many benefits, and it’s another way of making sure that you keep in touch with your customers and inspire word of mouth.
What makes you better?
The world of business is a competitive one, and you always have to strive to be better than competitors. Get into the habit of always doing your market research as thoroughly as possible and asking yourself how you can be better. Yes, you can even walk over to clients that are rather using your competitor than you and asking them why they choose to do so. From here, you can decide what you can offer potential clients which will top what’s already being offered – that is, at the end of the day, the only way to stay on top and meet the needs of not only your current customers but the ones you still have to reach.
Being trained in business
Running a business isn’t easy at all, and anyone who tells you that it is, is lying. We can tell you that becoming trained in business lingo and practice could do you a lot of good, especially if you have never started or run a business before by the point you are starting your new venture. Undertake at least one good course in basic financial planning, and take at least one course in business: No, you don’t have to go and spend several thousand dollars on a business degree: Just learn the basics and make your time in the business world much easier on you in the long run.
There are literally thousands of free courses available online covering business and financial planning: Once you really get started, the possibilities are endless and you can always afford to learn something new. Even if you think that you have more than enough experience in business, still consider taking a course and expanding your knowledge – after all, it can only go uphill from there.
Networking is key
Networking with other business professionals is key to a businesses’ long-term success. There are many times where businesses are in need of collaborative efforts, where businesses could use another investor to come on board or where you could simply use some advice to keep your business on the straight and narrow. Here’s where other business-people and investors can again offer you invaluable advice.
Great ways to network with other professionals are by attending business and financial seminars on a frequent basis, making sure your business is well-represented at industry events and frequenting forums and websites aimed at business professionals to add your two-cents and connect with others. There’s also no rule that says you can’t cold-call another business and introduce yourself if there is some way that it could be beneficial for both.
Keep abreast of business news
If you want to be a smart business owner that’s always a step above the rest, keep your finger on the pulse of developing business and financial news at all times. This includes news that affects your business and news that doesn’t: What the financial condition is like in various parts of the world, what the current stocks and commodities are going for on the global markets, what’s happening in the sector which affects your business or demographic, too.
The world of business is one that’s constantly changing and you have to keep your eye on the hows and whys of the change. It is very likely that you, as a business owner, will be affected by this news in some or other way; if it’s not you directly being affected by what’s happening in the news, it will be your customers being affected – and this, you guessed it, will in turn influence your business from there. Nobody is immune from being affected by what’s happening in the news – and always knowing what’s going on means that you are potentially one step ahead of what’s going to happen next.
Promoting your business even further
Promoting your business doesn’t begin and end with what we’ve already mentioned here. There are many more ways to promote your business and get people to talk about you: Some more ways are by launching special offers and competitions – people always love a great contest with a fancy prize on offer and customers will almost always show up for a sale or to claim a special offer coupon. Keep in touch with customers by optional mailing lists, which they can sign up for using their phones or via e-mail, so that they’re always sent the latest news and offers from your business. Additionally, your business should be promoted via social media by being active and always answering queries from potential clients – and always responding to any criticisms and comments.
Also published on Medium.