Getting your business off the ground

After you have finally settled on the business idea that you think is going to work for you, it is eventually time to start laying some groundwork. The steps you will take might change a little bit because of your particular business. Not every company will take the same steps. 

However, in general, most will follow a similar path. 

Let’s tuck in. 

Write it down

Once you have the name and you have decided the services or products, you will be selling it’s time to firm that up. You will need to look at business models shortly, but consider these first:

  • Is it just you, or do you want more people?
  • From home, or from an office?
  • Do you need cash to get started? 
  • Why are you starting this business? 
  • How will you earn money? Selling services or selling products or something else?

There are no wrong answers here. There are some more typical ones, though. Most people browse things like unsecured business loans, and they research the business model they think will work for them. 

The market

So many people focus on their product, their service, how the business will look, that they forget to do some in-depth research into their potential customers. If you don’t understand your audience and their buying happens – any sales you make will be luck, not skill. 

You should look to do a range of primary and secondary market research. You need to know as much as you can about your potential buyers. From how much they spend on the weekly shop, to the time they are most likely to make a purchase on a Sunday afternoon. Of course, you will have plenty of time to build the perfect blueprint – but you need a starting point. 

Engage with your potential customers as often as possible on social media too. You will even get a feel for their personalities too. 

Cash

You need to know where your money will be coming from. And, where it will then go. When you are working on your whole business plan, it is better to have a cash flow that you can refer to, or take to the bank, as you go along. The rest you need one is just as much about showing that you have been doing the research as it is to keep track of things later down the line. Are you doing better or worse than you predicted, and if there is a deficit, then how can you close the gap? And where did that gap come from in the first place?

You’ll need to get insurance too. To protect your business from things like theft, accidents and more – this will depend on where you are working from if your customers come to you and the products that you sell. 

You should look to keep your personal, and business finances separate, but in the early days, you might not feel pressured to do this. It pays off later on for tax purposes – i.e. you can more easily see your income and outgoings. 

Research different methods of funding, while loans are prevalent and often a good choice, you are probably going to fall in a category that you can apply for grants too. Write down everything that you can apply for, or be entitled to. 

Legal 

You are going to have to think about what type of legal business structure you want. In most cases, it is pretty easy because you will likely start as a one-person business. You will still need to do some research on the business name that you intend to use – to make sure it is free, and you can snag all of the social handles for it. 

Possible structures:

  • Sole proprietorship
  • Partnership
  • Limited Liability 
  • Corporation

Each of them has different tax, liability implications and income management. So choose what you think will work for you long term. 

While it can be easy for most to know what they want to trade under in terms of legal structure, you might like to seek the advice of a professional to make sure that what you think you know, and what is best matches up. 

Online

The cornerstone of pretty much every new business is to be online. People love to online shop and interact with the brands they wish to buy from. You should capitalise on this, and make sure that you are available on many social media platforms and have a website or blog that people can visit too. In the early days if you are looking to cut costs, then you can start a free blog/website on WordPress

Share information that your audience will find interesting and weave in details about your own services and products too. The most content that you share in your remit, the more likely you will begin to be seen as an expert. When people view you as an expert, they are much more likely to buy what you’re selling. 

If you already have a blog and social media, then you need to decide if you want to turn your current followers and likers into an audience or start fresh. 

What you do here will have a significant impact on your overall marketing, so make sure that you put the time in to build it properly in the early days. 

Business models

Your business model is what supports the viability of your product or company, and how it makes money, operates and meets its goals. 

You will likely fit into one of the following:

  • Retailer – you sell directly to the public
  • Distributor – you buy from manufacturers and resell products to other retailers or the public
  • Franchise – you operate under the umbrella of a more significant business – think Mcdonalds. 
  • Freemium – offering many services for free, and then a premium for useful add-ons, will have many different pricing structures.
  • Nickel-and-dime – cheap products, but with all of the extra services a charge is added. Think about that 34 dollar flight, then add food, luggage, and so on. Suddenly you are at $200. 
  • Brick and Mortar – less popular than it once was due to the costs involved, this is a store run business.
  • eCommerce – a webstore to sell products
  • Subscription – customers sign up to your courses and buy your products at a discount, but they are paying a subscription to use the service – Adobe, Business Coaches

There are a few other options, but typically most people fit into those. 

Minimum viable product

This is going to be your early months/years workhorse. It will be a product with enough features to satisfy your audience and start to make money. 

The MVP will also be the one where early customers can give you feedback on the buying process, the options, delivery time, and the quality. The feedback you get will then be implemented in further development for the next products and services. 

You should aim to have an MVP from the minute you open your digital (or not) doors. 

Automation

Once you have your business registered, website setup, MVP selling and your social media ticking away nicely. 

You’re going to need to make time to work on your business for a while. The quickest way to do this is to start automating everything that you can. If you find specific tasks take up most of your day, and you do them every day – there will be a program or tool out there to help you automate it. 

Drip campaigns, web trackers, and marketing automation tools will help you set this up. Most of the time, they are free for smaller users and have all the functionality you’ll need. 

For your social media, rather than hire someone to tweet all day for you, check out some social media scheduling tools. They will allow you to spend a few hours each month, filling in a social media calendar with content – and it will automatically run. Leaving you only to need to handle the comments and interactions. It takes much fewer hours per month. Those hours can then be spent developing your business further. 

Training

As early on, as you can start taking courses in things like basic accounting, finance management, business planning and social media. Plus in whatever it is you are intending to sell. If you are making something by hand, there are always ways to improve. If you are selling online courses in things like mindfulness or even social media – then make sure your own skills in the area are super sharp. 

If you are continuing to learn, you can pass that knowledge on to your customers and apply it to your own business too. 

A successful business is built on strong foundations, and if you have the time to plan slowly, and arrange everything as you go, then do so. Of course, a lot of what happens in business is about instinct and gut feelings. Soak up as much free advice and information as you can, always carry on learning, and keep an eye on the cents. 

*This is a contributed post

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