Starting a new business can seem like a daunting task. We get it. Having started our own businesses and helped our clients do the same we understand that there is a lot involved in doing so. For the serial entrepreneurs out there, they know what that looks like. While they may be diving into a new industry or different sort of product, they have some experience in what goes into starting and growing businesses. We also know that there are plenty of people out there with no experience starting a business of their own. Maybe you are looking to make a career shift to get out of that corporate grind. Maybe you have a great idea for a revolutionary product or service. You are entering into unchartered territories. This is an exciting time, but there is a lot to sort out.
Here are a few tips based on our own experiences and our experiences with our business incubator clients:
Make a Plan
Before you get going you should sit down and take the time to map out your business and marketing strategy. Think about budget. Think about exactly what your business is going to offer to the world. Who are you targeting and what can you garner about this potential audience? Will you need other employees to start your business with you? What do those positions look like? Do you need an office or retail space or will you work from home with your laptop and cell phone? These are just a few of the things you should plan out and get on paper. Having a document where you map out a plan for your new company will help you break things into tasks and start to schedule those out. It will also help you figure out if you need to find talented professionals to help you either on a full time or contracted basis and what your overall budget might look like. Business plans are a working document. You should continue to check back in and make sure what you initially planned is still making sense and is effective in driving your business forward.
There is also more formalized businesses planning that you will need to present to secure capital. Read more in our blog about this sort of plan here.
Set up Systems for organization
Like we said. With a business, there are a LOT of moving pieces. Luckily today there are great apps and resources to help you keep things organized and keep needed documents and information accessible wherever you and your team members are. One of our personal favorites is Basecamp. Basecamp is great for individuals and teams to create checklists of to-dos, schedule tasks on a calendar, assign due dates to specific team members and to have a centralized place to keep notes that are easily accessible by the team. You can have shared projects and also have projects that can just be viewed by specific people. This is a great way to help manage your team with tasks that they are responsible for to push your business forward. It is also a great way, as a manager, to keep track of everything that is going on with the daily summary of activity.
Box or Dropbox are also excellent tools for file storage. Huge strides have been made from the antiquated server systems of the past. These platforms are great because you can keep your important documents stored and access them with your log-in information from your phone and other devices remotely. This also works in a similar way as Basecamp where you can manage permissions and choose what information you want team members to have access to. You can also share individual links and permissions to files that are too large to share via email. This is great for things like sending a specific file to a printer.
One of our other go to resources is Office 365. From managing your multiple emails, keeping your calendar and managing your contacts... Office 365 has you covered. They also have affordable packages where you can also have access to the full Microsoft Office Suite. This makes it affordable for you and your team to have access to great programs like Word, Power Point, Excel and a variety of other programs. Getting organized and setting you and your team up with the resources they need helps allow everyone to focus on getting things done for the business.
Know What You Should and Shouldn’t be Doing Yourself
We know that it is tempting when you are starting your business to try to do as much as possible yourself. This is a way to save some money, but is not always the smartest use of your time. There are many things you can do to cut costs and perform some of these things on your own. We recommend being honest with what you are and aren’t good at. A great example of this is with your branding or website development. Your branding is going to follow your company around for years. Please, please, please do not try to make your company’s logo with a standard typeface in Microsoft Word or Paint that will always have a white rectangle around it regardless of what color background you place it on. I am cringing just thinking about it. Find a talented logo designer that will take the time to create a logo that embodies your new company and who will provide all the file formats you are likely going to need as you continue to operate your business and produce various materials. Whether you are placing a logo on something small like a business card or large like a billboard your brand will shine!
Same thing with your website. Businesses these days need to have a website. When someone hears about your business from a friend or from an advertisement they are likely going to go in search of your company’s website to find out more. Not all website designers are going to charge you the crazy, big city agency prices that people have in their head and are scared of. Look around for a talented website development team that can give your brand a leg up on the competition and effectively communicate to your targeted audience. The worst impression you could give is trying to start your own website with a free or cheap website builder and get frustrated and just stop doing it. You will then have a domain out there representing your brand that has dummy text, placeholders for images and inaccurate information. Worried about the expense? At least start with a visually appealing landing page that has the basic information needed and a call to action to reach out. You can always expand from there as money starts coming in and your business is experiencing more success.
Learn from Others
Identify and research your competition. There is a lot you can learn from this exercise. Sometimes it is inspiration of ideas that you can repurpose and implement some version of on your own. Other times it highlights something that you really don’t want to be doing. We also think it is great to identify those who could help you learn valuable skills that you can apply to your business. This could be through consultants, Mastermind groups or simply finding some great podcasts to give you some new insights. There are some great podcasts from other entrepreneurs and small business owners. There might also be specific industry related thought leaders that can help save you time and money in the short and long term.
Remember as you are talking to others and listening to these various resources, garner the information you can from them, but also move forward with what makes sense for you and your business. Learn from the mistakes and successes of others. There is something you can learn from almost any interaction, but at the end of the day you need to move forward in the direction that you think makes the most sense for your company.
Nothing is Set in Stone
You have to remain fluid with your plan. Having a plan is important to establish a direction and work towards a goal but there are always things that will change. An area of your business that you never expected might sky rocket and more attention and budget should be focused in that area. An employee that you thought was a great fit may not be. A new and exciting platform to promote your business might pop up that makes sense for you to try.
Keep tabs on what is and isn’t working and make adjustments accordingly. We see a problem with this all the time with our clients. It is so easy to get caught up in the day to day grind and forget to step back and make sure you are on the right track. Block out time to pause, step back and look at things from the 50,000 foot view. This will either validate the course that you are on or highlight a few modifications that can shift focus to areas that are performing better than anticipated or away from areas that aren’t doing as well.
You Can Do It!
There will be times that are overwhelming, frustrating or scary. There is a lot that goes into starting and growing a business. You are not alone! Don’t give up. Stay organized, focused and keep up your efforts. Use some of the tips above, rely on the people who love you and know that you can do it.
We have been involved in the beginning stages of many businesses, in a variety of industries. We love the startup world. Its fast-paced, exiting and can be incredibly rewarding. Let us help you learn from our successes and failures and get your business off to a great start. Let’s jump on a call to discuss your specific needs today.