Most business ideas are borne out of a desire to change something; to do it better, faster, cheaper (or more profitably).
The energy around a start-up is always tangible and there’s no lack of enthusiasm when it comes to getting things ready for launch. But, it’s important to take the time to check your idea is sound and to take careful steps to ensure you build your dream and not a nightmare experience.
Building a business is one thing. Creating something that is likely to be successful and sustainable is quite another. We’ve seen, during crisis-hit 2020, that you never know what’s around the corner and your business needs to be carefully thought through and constructed to weather the storm.
Read on for my Ultimate To-Do List For Successful Business Startups.
Build Solid Foundations
This is a little bit about planning and a little bit about investing. For many entrepreneurs, the idea itself is the key to success and, in their mind, hard work will get them there. However, as with anything new, first impressions count. That’s why branding and messaging is so important.
Don’t skimp at this stage. The temptation to rush something to market may be strong but getting the wrong brand – or a weak look and feel – could well be the difference between success and failure. Jumping into the business world is a big decision. You need to be completely convinced you have a great idea.
Additionally, sound foundations and a deep understanding of why you’re doing what you are will stand you in better stead for meeting future challenges.
During the COVID crisis, businesses that were able to pivot quickly – to revive and thrive – were those who knew their brand and purpose inside out and could therefore visualise where they sat in the ‘new normal’.
Invest in a proper study, work out your avatars, understand your market and consider what your brand needs to be synonymous with. Ask yourself what problems your brand is solving; have you got a unique proposition?
Know Your Network
Often in business, it’s not what you know, it’s who you know. Who has the expertise that you need to tap into? When it comes to startups, the journey from concept to funding, finding expertise and needing to expand can happen rapidly. If you truly believe your idea has legs, you owe it to yourself to spend some time researching how you will achieve each of these stages in the journey. Ask yourself:
- What sort of funding do you need and where can you get it?
- What does your initial team look like? Are they in your network or do you need to find them?
- Have you got the business-wide experience or acumen to drive launch and expansion quickly or do you need to buy this in?
Experience of significant interruption to normal processes has highlighted the importance of business ecosystems and being well networked to survive. No business is an island and your support network comes into its own when the going gets tough.
Focus on Value
I’ve blogged before about how to create a unique value proposition and this concept is so critical to any business startup, even before the proposition takes shape.
With any new idea, you must be able to determine and communicate what value it is adding to the existing offerings in the market. If you can’t identify this, you will struggle to convince potential customers as to why they should do business with you. It is key for gaining the attention and buy-in of investors but also so important in ensuring growth. To grow and scale in as short a timeframe as possible, you need a frictionless business. One of the trickiest things to overcome (and therefore the biggest generator of friction) is competition and a lack of USP so make this one of the first things you think about alongside your new idea.
It’s often tempting for inspired and enthusiastic entrepreneurs to come up with lots of ideas and continually increase their scope. However, the business world these days is much more of an ecosystem. For true success, it’s better to be specific and excel in one area rather than trying to be the expert across a spectrum of areas. Creating a niche and then building a strong presence within it is critical to success.
There are several areas where it pays to be specific. One is in creating and understanding your ideal client avatar. By being clear about who you want to do business you will be far more likely to attract those people. Saying you want to focus on female entrepreneurs is woolly. Saying you’re keen to work with female entrepreneurs in the finance sector who are aiming to exit their business successfully within 5 years is really going to speak to the right people.
Get comfortable outside your comfort zone
Building a successful business was never meant to be easy and it seems the world in which we operate is becoming more complex. Risks are harder to see and assess, yet still need to be calculated and assessed. As an entrepreneur you are highly likely to need to make judgement calls here and there without necessarily having the clarity that you’d like as to what the future holds.
Back in 2017, I wrote a similar blog, Seven Simple Questions To Ask Before Starting Your Own Business. Not much has changed in terms of my advice but the reality in which you read it has been turned on its head. As I concluded then, factors such as your network and the way you build the foundations of your business remain of paramount importance. In addition, we now need to add flexibility and on-the-spot innovative thinking to our ever growing list of skills.