Starting a new business is not for the faint of heart. It always involves some level of risk. That being said, roadblocks and other obstacles don’t mean you can get something done. They just mean you need to find another to do it. If you are the unusual combination of patient and tenacious, a startup business just might be the right thing for you. We’ll talk about some myths to ignore, mistakes to avoid, steps to take, and a brief checklist that will help you get the right start to your new endeavor. Ready?
MYTHS TO IGNORE
I’m Too Old to Start a Business
Nonsense. With age, theoretically, comes wisdom, patience, and financial stability. The Founder Institute discusses the idea that older individuals have, in general, completed more complex projects and developed greater vocational skills than their younger counterparts helping them be more accurate and realistic in their ability to identify and address potential business opportunities. The success of entrepreneurs is, to some extent, influenced by the amount of experience a person has.
I Need to Wait for Exactly the Right Time
Is there a “right” time? People who make a habit wait are in danger of doing nothing but waiting. Obviously, it helps if you find a startup that dovetails into a hot trend or up and coming niche but that certainly isn’t a necessity. So, don’t sit on your fabulous idea, practice due diligence and get on it!
I Need Tons of Capital on Hand
Some start-up businesses do require a large amount of investment capital. If you are not rolling in cash, don’t start a restaurant. Many entrepreneurs start their new business as a side hustle to ensure they are still experiencing regular income. They also roll products and services out incrementally. Instead of 30 different items, start with five. If you can work out of a space that you already occupy or a public space, don’t invest money in an office or retail space. Patience, planning, and persistence with a healthy dose of creativity are key to a low-cost startup.
I Need Everything Planned Before I Can Start Anything
You should certainly have an idea of what type of business you want to start and have a good number of details figured out but why waste time and energy on a fancy business plan? Few plans work out in the manner they were originally written. Business plans are living, breathing documents that need to be able to flex with the curveballs that reality throws at you. You’ll find it helpful to start with more of an outline that can be fleshed out as you go.
MISTAKES TO AVOID
Some mistakes are unavoidable but not too many of them. Especially if you can learn from those who went before you. While this list is not exhaustive, it includes some of the more common mistakes new businesses make.
Not Having a Plan
No, we are not contradicting what we said a couple of paragraphs ago. You certainly don’t need a textbook type business plan to begin your startup journey. You do, however, need to have planned out your business goals and the strategies you will use to accomplish those goals. You should understand who you are as an organization and the direction you want to head. Things may shift as you go but that’s okay. Adjust your plan. Periodically check your headings, make sure you are still headed towards your goals, add whatever new strategies will be helpful, and keep working towards success.
Not Doing Market Research
Gain an understanding of whether or not your “new” business idea is actually new. Maybe someone else tried it and failed. Maybe multiple someone elses tried and failed. That doesn’t mean to have to scrap everything. It simply means you need to figure out why those other approaches failed and how you can do things differently to avoid that same outcome. If you have truly come up with a niche all your own – research comparably sized businesses or those in related industries and learn from their successes and challenges.
Not Budgeting for Marketing
There are some wonderfully inexpensive ways to advertise and market businesses online. But they still cost a bit of money. And if you don’t possess the technological talent and knowhow yourself, you’ll need to pay someone else to make sure your brand and fabulous products or services are getting in front of your target audience. You can work out of a coffee shop to avoid paying office space rent but you can’t completely avoid paying for a bit of marketing.
Not Having a Support System in Place
Most entrepreneurs do start off as a one-person business. You’ll still need mentors, people to use as sounding boards, and connections within your industry. Network, build relationships, bring your (helpful) friends and family members into your brainstorming sessions. Also, keep an eye on your own “full meter” and acknowledge when you hit a point that you can’t keep doing it all by yourself. There are amazing platforms like Frelancer.com and FlexJobs out there that will help you connect with independent contractors who will help as much or as little as you need them.
CRUCIAL STEPS TO TAKE
Poor choices are not always the same thing as making mistakes. Sometimes, a poor choice is to skip a step that is an integral part of a process. Many startups experience failure because someone made a choice to cut corners or skipping steps along the way. Learn from the mistakes of others and walk through each part of the journey.
Get Feedback from Target Customers
Consumer research is time intensive but running ideas in front of potential customers will save you time in the long run. From your business name to a logo design and more, ask people what they think. Use social media platforms with relevant hashtags to get opinions on your ideas. If you have a trial website ready, invite people to work through it and then listen to their feedback to make sure you are offering the best user experience and most aesthetically appealing site possible. You can do the same with mock-ups of products and descriptions of services.
Clearly Articulate Your Purpose
Clearly and concisely be able to explain the “why” behind your business. It will help your customers understand what you are all about and how you are going to help them meet their pain points head-on. It will also help you stay focused on the goals you’ve set. If there is a team of people involved with your startup, having a clearly articulated purpose will help everyone stay on the same page and work together toward your end goals.
Understand the Costs Involved
You will be better able to appropriately price your services or products if you have a clear understanding of the expected costs of your startup. Consider everything from self-employment taxes to professional assistance (legal, accounting, etc.) you might require marketing, production, etc. Think about every detailed aspect of what you do, and what one-time and ongoing costs will be.
Check Your Direction
It is easy to chase squirrels as you look to open a new business. Just because you are busy and working hard doesn’t mean your energies are funneled in the right direction or even in the same direction. Here is where it is helpful to have an outline of goals to look at. Check things off as they are accomplished and keep an open list of ongoing tasks. Regularly check in with how aligned your actions and momentum are with your end goals. Moving your company is only a positive accomplishment when you are moving forward.
Understand Your Competition
As you do your market and consumer research, dig into what any competitors are doing. What mistakes have they made? How are they finding success? We’re not saying to duplicate anyone’s efforts as not all strategies work the same for all businesses. What we’re saying is to be aware of what you are up against so you understand how to convince potential customers that your brand has the best solution to their problems.
A CHECKLIST TO START OFF ON THE RIGHT FOOT
Establish a legal company name and claim a domain.
It helps if your domain and company name are the same and you’ll find that often times, first researching which domains are available will be the best way to go about it. Ensure that your domain name fits your business. You’ll also want to check potential names in Google and other search engines to make sure there are not already a flood of similar names out there.
Establish an Email Account
It goes without saying that an email address that is the same or closely related to your domain and business name is best practice. There are a lot of email options out there. You may want to research all-in-one platforms before committing to an email provider.
Create (or have created) Your Logo
Your logo should grab readers’ attention in a matter of milliseconds. Keep your design clean and simple to ensure it can easily be used on different platforms and on a variety of print materials. This is one area for which we’d recommend procuring professional assistance.
Establish a Company Website
We love Squarespace. While there are a number of options out there, we appreciate the customer service and trust the platform so much that we recommend it to all of our clients. Whichever platform you choose, make sure you have the ability to create a device responsive site in today’s day and age of mobile devices. Platforms like Squarespace are also a content management system (CMS) and have integrated e-commerce, email, and more.
Create Social Profiles
Set up business accounts on whichever social platforms make the most sense for your business. Fully flesh out your profiles, post regularly, and make a commitment to interact with others via your social sites.
Commit to Content
Relevant, original content is key to communicating to potential customers your purpose and the value you bring them. It also helps with your search engine optimization (SEO). The more high-quality content you publish on a consistent basis, the better you will rank which will increase your sales opportunities.
Wherever you are in your startup journey, the experts at Strategy Driven Marketing have been there! We’ve been directly involved with the process of launching and growing businesses in a variety of industries for over a decade and we’d love to help you take your next steps. Contact us today!