Business startups – how to get off the ground
On the whole, the world is a friendly one for business startups.
When a friend launched a new business several years back, she was able to garner advice from all kinds of people working in SMEs, many of whom had been through the same process she was going through.
Small business owners, it seems, want other small business owners to succeed, regardless of whether they’re in the same of different industries.
It occurred to me, however, that much of this advice comes your way once you have actually started your business. This is great, except that some lessons are best learned before you take the plunge.
With that in mind, here are a few tips on how to get your business start-up off the ground.
1. Make a plan for business startups
Having a great idea is one thing but actually monetising it and turning it into a viable – let alone successful – business is another story.
Making a business startup business plan is a vital part of early success and has a significant impact on your ability to get a loan or secure investment capital.
According to a survey conducted a few of years back, 36 percent of respondents who had made a business plan secured a loan, compared to 18 percent of those who hadn’t made a plan.
Making a plan incorporates several things, the first of which is a written description of your company’s goals and values. Set out what you hope to achieve within the first three to five years and outline the steps to getting there.
You’ll also need to estimate how much funding you’ll need and forecast the first couple of years’ figures.
In order to do this, you’ll need a document that details the market and its current demand and how your product or service will meet this demand.
So, in summary: – a description of your goals and how you’ll meet them; a financial forecast and a market research document.
2. Secure funding for business startups
As with everything pertaining to starting a business, this is easier said than done.
Your business plan is there to support your pitch – anyone investing will want to know when to expect a return on investment and loan providers will want to some guarantee you can pay the money back.
Start-up costs inevitably vary depending on the industry you’re in and what your product or service is. A manufacturing firm, for example, will likely require more funding to get off the ground than a digital marketing company.
Once this funding is secured, don’t blow it all on flashy hardware and an expensive office space. You’ll need to make the money last until you’re seeing returns, which could be another year down the line.
3. Develop your brand
Before you start marketing your business, it’s important to have a brand.
This doesn’t just mean having a company name and logo, it means being consistent in everything you do. Brand extends to a wide range of things, from the style and presentation of your products or services to colour schemes, uniforms if necessary and the style in which your website or print content is written.
You’ll also need to consider your brand values, which should be included as part of your business plan.
You should have defined within your plan the key things you intend to deliver no matter what and this should form the basis of your brand’s values.
These values should then be supported by everything else – so if one of your values is warmth, every interaction with your customers, be it through an advert, your web copy or your customer services team, should have a warm, friendly tone.
4. Get recognition
Once you’ve got a plan and secured financial backing, the next step in how to get business startups off the ground is getting your name out there.
This can take a variety of guises, from attending networking events, conferences or trade shows, where you can meet others in your industry and tell them about what you do, to getting a website for your business and conducting some basic marketing.
Depending on the type of business you’re starting, you may need office or warehouse space too.
Be on the lookout for opportunities to pass on your details and thereby raise awareness of your brand, through business cards, social media pages, flyers, even local advertising if it’s right for the market you’re serving.
And that’s key too – don’t spend money on marketing via a channel your target audience doesn’t use.
5. Build your customer base
Our final piece of start-up advice is to spend time building a repeat customer base.
Again, this will potentially take years, depending on the nature of your products or services but proves invaluable in the long term.
Having defined your brand values, you should easily be able to identify what you’re aiming to deliver in terms of customer service. The simple truth is that the better this is, the more likely you’ll gain return business.
Ensure your products or services are reliable and of a high quality, deal with sales, queries, and even complaints in a polite, respectful manner and keep the interests and demands of your customer base in mind.
If your customers’ needs evolve, your products need to evolve too. Building trust also enables you to upsell and cross sell, introducing those who buy into your business to new or superior offerings.
Another aspect of building a customer base is to reward loyalty.
This doesn’t mean a full-blown programme with a complex system of points; it could be as simple as a discount or small token for a milestone purchase.
For further advice on how to get your business startup off the ground, or for help with the financial side of your start-up – such as choosing the appropriate business structure or setting up cloud accounting – contact the Chartered Accountants at THP today. From our offices in Cheam, Chelmsford, Wanstead and Saffron Walden we’re able to assist start-ups across the South East with their financial matters.
About Mark Boulter
Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.
Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”