You took the brave decision to quit your day job and embark on an entrepreneurial journey into the world of business start ups. You did your research, worked out your finances and realized that it was now or never to take the plunge. Every day since your business started trading you have known a whole new level of stress, excitement, and fear. The mix of emotions has been intense but worth it. You really are living the dream, doing something that you love, making money from it, and most importantly you relish waking up in the morning to continue your journey into business ownership.
The first year of any business is the toughest. You are the new kid on the block. It doesn’t matter if you’re selling personalized children’s teddy bears or providing bespoke accountancy services to contractors, you have to establish yourself within your sector quickly to grasp a foothold in the market. If you manage to achieve this, you will be able to concentrate on your first twelve months trying to build a loyal customer base, becoming known as the go to company for your niche and possibly even begin to think about expansion.
Getting The Basics Right
Just because you set up a solid business plan three months ago complete with financial projections and a strategy to drive the business forward does not mean you will have a successful business. What is written down on paper must be carried through in actions. Your business plan should be a working document, with adaptations, edits, and additions as you work through your first twelve months of trading.
The exciting thing about business is that it never stays stagnant and can throw up many surprises. If you have an unexpected lull in sales, do not plow on with your marketing strategy because that is what it states on your business plan. You need to be dynamic, change your way of thinking and alter your strategy to plug the gap in your sales and drive profits upwards.
If you are strong financially, you will have a solid foundation from which to potentially expand at a later date. Shaky financial ground does not make for a good investment for potential backers.
If you are fortunate enough to see your business begin strongly and you are hiring staff, it is vital that you design and implement a cohesive company structure with a shared vision from the embryonic stages of your business formation. Do not just pay lip service to roles and responsibilities. Ensure that you empower your employees to take ownership of their roles and demonstrate through your actions that they are valued.
You need to find the balance between delegation, autonomy, and micro-management. Some staff may crave the freedom to simply get stuck in and get on with the job. Others may ache for a little bit more guidance to give them the confidence to succeed. It is up to you to find the management and leadership style to suit your company. By doing this early on, you will be developing a content work team who will repay you with their high levels of productivity.
You could have the most incredible ideas for your business, but if you lack the infrastructure to carry out your ideas, you will become frustrated as the business inevitably stagnates. It is key that you establish quality technology, a reliable network and fast Internet access at the very least. It will become unduly irritating if you cannot send an important email because your staff are constantly knocking on your door requesting help with the wireless connectivity or a network outage.
To combat this, it is wise to consider outsourcing your IT support. This not only frees up your time to be spent implementing your business vision, but also taps into the specialist external expertise that you do not have within your company. The company that you outsource to will be able to advise on all aspects of cyber security as well as solve IT issues remotely or via an engineer call out promptly and with minimal disruption to your working day. With this specialist support, your employees will encounter less downtime leading to increased productivity.
In the twenty-first century, the most popular means of communication between small businesses and their customer base is the Internet. Phone calls are becoming fewer and farther between, and snail mail is irrelevant in the marketing world nowadays. Your online presence needs to consist of a blog, social media channels, and email marketing campaigns. You need to find a voice for your brand and harness it. If you are producing custom made leather belts for the thirty something hipster, ensure that your tone is witty with a hint of sarcasm. If your target market is young mums, keep your tone chatty and empathetic. Your audience needs to connect with not just the content but also with the voice. The days of the hard sell are long gone. The more savvy consumer wants high-quality content that they can read, share and that benefits their life in some way.
It is vital that your online presence hits the mark. You need to develop at least a basic knowledge of SEO to enable your website to appear higher up in the Google rankings. You need to ensure that your Facebook page is kept up to date and that you post something on Twitter at least daily to show your followers that you have a new product line, a promotional offer or a new post on your blog. By building momentum online, you are establishing your brand within your industry sector enabling you to compete with your rivals.
By following this guide, you will maximize your chances of surviving your first year in business. As a small business owner, surviving is your number one battle, but once it is won, you will be able to consider expanding your business and taking it into a prosperous year two of trading.