Building a business from the ground up takes hard work, and only those who are determined and prepared for the inconceivable will succeed. Starting your own venture will never be easy, but any entrepreneur will tell you it’s worth the hardship for the rewards - whether it’s a planned turnover after five years, or just the ability to say to yourself that you’ve successfully created your own company. However, there are tips you can use, and skills you can develop, that will give you a much better chance of success.
Step 1: Have a Vision
Starting a business without having a vision is like walking into a dark tunnel at night without a torch, knowing there’s a madman on the loose: you just don’t do it. Having a vision isn’t just saying “I want to earn this much in X amount of years”. It’s bigger than that. Instead, you need to know what your company represents. You need a mission. Why do this at the start? Won’t that make things more disappointing if you fail? Perhaps so, but if you want to succeed, you need to stand out - and that means having a crystal clear picture of exactly what you’re providing before you jump in.
Bonus Tip: Ask yourself “what sets me apart from my competitors?” Having an answer to this will help you identify your mission, and what your company stands for.
Step 2: Do Your Research
Before you start your business, you need to know whether the service or product you’re selling is viable. Competitor research is crucial here. Look at your closest competition: which of their products are the most popular, and is that something that you can provide? However, it’s not just a case of piggybacking on popular trends; you need to offer something unique. It might be that you’re going to provide a brand new service to your customers, or that you offer a range of products from a variety of brands, all in one place. Never forget: it’s not about what the customer can do for you, but what you can offer them. If your business is run from a certain location, don’t neglect local research. If it’s in demand but not on offer where you are, you have the potential to build a successful business.
Bonus Tip: Develop a persona of your ideal customer. What age demographic do they fall in? What do they enjoy doing? Once those questions are answered, reach out and talk to them. Whether you do it on social media or in person, people love it when you make them the centre of attention. Ask them what they like and what they don’t like. You could gain some valuable insight into what to do and, just as importantly, what not to do.
Step 3: Have a Budget:
To build a successful business, you’ll need a budget. Make a sensible estimate of what you’re going to need to get your business running. A website is a must and can send so much traffic to you, whether you operate solely online or in your local town. If you’re selling products, you need to make sure you have variety and enough for demand, but don’t waste all of your budget on stock, as inevitably some products will be more popular than others. This will be a case of trial and error and you’ll learn as you go along, but this is where your market research will be valuable. While you won’t know exactly what’s going to sell until you start doing so, finding out which products are popular with your target customer will take out a lot of painstaking guess-work and will help you make an informed decision on what to spend your budget on.
Bonus Tip: Get educated on your accounts. Whether it’s reading a book or asking for help from contacts, you’ll need to make sure you keep an account of every penny going out and coming in to your business. While you might want to hire an accountant later down the line, it’s not always practical to do so at the start when your business is so small, especially if you have a small budget.
Step 4: Have the Guts
Perhaps the biggest leap any entrepreneur can take is to actually take their business idea and run with it. Why is this so difficult? It’s because that’s where the risk is. Don’t take action and your vision won’t be a success, but you also don’t have to see your business (the one you’ve dreamed up, become excited about, and made your pride and joy) fail miserably. The only way to overcome this paralysis is to just do it.
Make a commitment and don’t spend your time dreaming up all of these golden ideas without taking action. Pick one, and go for it. However, don’t just jump in all guns blazing. Take the time to generate publicity around your new business. Target local press, jump on social media, then when you’re ready to launch, you’ll already have the promotional tools you need under your belt. You won’t be yet another new business trying to build buzz around nothing.
Bonus Tip: Create relevant content and a call to action on your website if you’re not ready to launch yet. Then, if visitors are directed to your website, they’re not met with a blank page, which could damage the chances of that person returning. Ask visitors to sign up to an email list for an exclusive discount when your company launches. This way, not only will you appear authoritative in your industry, but you’ll already have a list of ideal customers to target.
Step 5: Have a Plan
Your business, like you, is an ever-evolving creature. You’ll need to keep on track of developments not just in your industry, but online, too. You should be continuously researching and monitoring what your competition are doing - and then you need to one-up them. Do what they do, but better. Do they have a brilliant social media campaign that connects them to their customers and sends them in droves to their website? Do that, too, but share (and create!) brilliant content that is relevant to them.
Bonus Tip: Study up on SEO. SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) is a great way of boosting your exposure and ranking higher in online searches. If you’re looking to buy e-cigarettes, for example, you might type in “buy e-cigarettes” into Google. Electric Tobacconist ranks number one for that search. If you choose the right keywords — the ones your customers will be using — and optimise your web content to include them, you’ll have a much better chance of increasing your online presence.
Starting a business from nothing takes determination and the ability to make tough decisions. Your business acumen will develop over time, but the one quality that will help make your business a success is the ability to adapt. The biggest takeaway you’ll receive from advice from any business owner is that things never go the way you think they will. You can plan and make certain assumptions, and that will certainly help, but you also need to be nimble and ready to react to any situation that comes your way. Armed with these techniques and skills, you can make your business a success, all from nothing.
Author bio: Pascal started Electric Tobacconist Ltd in July 2013 to complement his seasonal family business Fantastic Fireworks. After proving so popular and successful, he left the family business and has found himself with a growing number of staff and seven-figure turnover.