Starting a new business is both exciting and stressful. Ideally, you are motivated and ready to meet each new challenge head-on. In reality, you may be feeling a little overwhelmed and unsure of where to start.
Before you lose your momentum or your sense of direction, we’ve put together a quick list of things you can and should do now to ensure your business is on the right path for the future.
(For the purpose of this article, we’re assuming you have already taken care of any legal requirements needed to operate your business.)
Create a Modern Business Plan
We’re not advocating that you create a business plan in the traditional sense. Honestly, unless you need outside funding, investing the effort in creating the standard version of a business plan may be a waste of your time.
Businesses today have an unprecedented amount of freedom and flexibility when it comes to the way that they go about achieving their goals. Additionally, the speed at which a business can grow has changed, with some businesses showing a profit within the first 90 days instead of the previously estimated 3-5 years. By the time you research, analyze, and document the information needed to create a traditional business plan, you may have already outgrown it.
Instead, a modern business plan will provide you with a more immediate course of action. Here are the core things a modern business plan should include:
- An overview of your business idea.
- The proposed value proposition to your potential customers.
- A clear explanation of your product or service offer.
- A general idea of how you will market your idea and determine its relevancy.
Review Your Financials
It is relatively easy these days to start a business with little or no capital. Because of this, many startups fail to keep adequate track of their expenses and income. This is especially true if you are a sole proprietor who decides to incorporate your business. Personal and business expenses end up getting comingled, making it difficult to keep track of what you are spending to operate your startup.
Whether or not you have incorporated, you should always have a handle on the cost to operate your business versus the income it takes in. Just because an expense can be written off does not mean it is justified. These are a couple of things you should consider when reviewing your financial situation:
- How much money have I invested in my business so far?
- What expenses do I currently have for my business?
- Are there any unnecessary expenses I am incurring to operate my business?
- How much money am I making after these expenses?
- Am I taking in enough money for the essential aspects of my business such as supplies and marketing?
- Am I taking in enough money to provide myself with a salary?
The answers to these questions must be used to determine areas where you may need to course-correct.
Get Leadership Training
As business consultants for small business owners, there is one trait that we consistently see in the newly self-employed: an inability to assign accountability.
Part of the issue is that many of those who decide to go into business for themselves have never been put in positions of authority. Instead, they decide that because they know an industry and can do the work, they are also qualified to operate a business successfully.
Owning a business has little to do with the work you may have done as an employee. Unless you are flying solo, it is unlikely that you will be the one handling the day-to-day customer-centric work. This means you must know how to delegate tasks to your employees and hold them accountable for getting results. Without proper leadership skills, you may fail to command the respect of your employees, making it difficult for your daily operations to run smoothly.
On top of that, you will need to network with other leaders in your community to promote your business. If you can’t sell yourself as a fellow leader, it will be difficult for you to obtain their trust and respect. Effective leadership training will position you as a successful business leader and a qualified employer within your industry.
Invest in Practical IT Solutions
This step is likely to be overlooked by many startups, despite being so necessary today. No matter what line of work you are in, you and your employees are sure to have access to sensitive data. Without the right information technology solutions in place, you are leaving your business vulnerable to attacks such as ransomware and data breaches.
In line with this, having a detailed business continuity plan in place is essential for a startup. A recent study found that only 16% of small businesses would be able to survive after a catastrophic event or data breach. As the owner of a startup, you cannot risk operating your business without a strong backup plan in place.
It should be noted that your “friend who knows computers” is not a practical solution for your information technology needs. While it may seem like a costly investment initially, having a professional IT consultant evaluate the requirements of your business and make appropriate recommendations will be invaluable in the long run.
Define Your Marketing Strategy
This step goes beyond identifying how you can market your business like we suggested doing as part of your modern business plan. Creating a clear marketing strategy will serve as a guide to the right channels, resources, and tools you will need to raise awareness of your product and start converting your prospects.
In general terms, your marketing strategy should clearly identify answers to the following questions:
- What am I offering?
- Who is the audience I am offering it to?
- Why does the audience need/want what I am offering?
- Where should I be delivering my offer to that audience?
- When is the best time to deliver my offer to that audience?
Obtaining answers to these questions will require research on your part. Making guesses is what leads to startups spending a lot of money on the wrong marketing methods. Once you have your answers, it will be easier for you to begin planning your digital marketing strategy and direct your sales efforts.
Where are you in your startup journey? How many of these steps have you already taken? Let us know in the comments below.
If you are struggling to get your business going, or simply need guidance to help you grow, contact us to schedule a free consultation with one of our small business consultants.