Dreaming of going it alone? Starting a business that puts you in control and lets you be the entrepreneur you’ve always wanted to be? It’s a scary prospect and that’s one of the reasons that many new businesses start up whilst their owners are still in full-time employment. Here’s our best advice for starting a small business when you’re not quite ready to hand in your notice.
7 small business start up tips
In order to make sure you belong to the elite percentage of new businesses that succeed, you need to be focused, organised and dedicated to making your business work. From having your initial idea to market research, promotion, networking, marketing and securing customers, you’ll need to put in the hours that give you a start-up business that has the best possible chance of bringing you the income you need. These seven tips will help to set you on the right path.
1. Make sure your idea works
The key to getting the best start is to rigorously test that there’s a market for your product or service. This doesn’t necessarily mean having a long and complex business plan that ties you down. In fact, it’s useful to do almost exactly the opposite: learn from the lean start-up movement and just plan the most important things – and the ones you can manage. This should include:
- Defining your product or service
- Understanding what problem it solves for your target customers
- Knowing exactly who your target customers are
- Understanding what differentiates you from your competition
- Working out how you are going to reach your customer base
- Developing a pricing structure that takes your costs into account
- Deciding on the top ten tasks to outsource for small business and entrepreneurs so you can concentrate on getting started.
2. Be serious.
This might sound obvious, but the most common mistake people make when they start a business is to treat it as a hobby on the side. But this is a business that needs to make you an income that’s at least equivalent to the one you get from your day job. So take it seriously from day one. Do in-depth market research. Spend your evenings researching the competition rather than watching the TV. Work on a website so that there’s somewhere for people to go as soon as you get started.
3. Invest your money.
As well as putting your time into your new venture, be prepared to invest your money too. Things might be tight during this phase of your development, but if you’re selling products, you’ll need to buy stock at the very least. If you’re selling a service, you’ll need to have marketing information and promotional materials to ensure you look professional from the very beginning. You can’t do that without a little upfront investment, so be prepared to do it.
4. Start your business from home.
One place you can definitely save money is by running your business from home until you can justify renting an office or warehouse space. Increasingly, start-up businesses are run from home and, with non-geographical phone numbers, a good website and even choosing things like virtual outsourcing, you can look and sound professional from your spare room. If you can, dedicate a room or space to your business so you can work and concentrate with family life going on around you.
5. Be nice to your employer.
It’s always best to leave your job on good terms and, who knows, your current employer might just be your next customer. While you’re planning and growing your business, make sure that you’re not infringing the letter or the spirit of your contract. Start a business the right way, with the right attitude and you give yourself the best possible chance of success.
6. Get help.
Whatever help you can get, use it. Whether it’s family members, a co-founder, friends with useful talents or a multi administrative virtual assistant team, you can achieve much more with the right help than you can on your own. Get advice on your terms and conditions of business, ask someone to carry out market research, put together an email marketing database, start working on your social media or making sales appointments on your behalf. All these things can be done whilst you’re at the office, putting you ahead of the game before you can work on the business full time.
7. Decide when you’re going to quit.
Will it be when the business is up, running and making money? Will it be by a certain calendar date? You will have already looked at the financial implications of leaving your job. When can you afford to leave? How much notice do you need to give? Can you accrue holiday so that you have a financial buffer? If you need income security, perhaps wait until your business has started to bring in money before you hand in your notice. You might want to set some turnover and profit goals to help you focus on making your new business a success so that you can leave your current job and throw yourself into your start-up.
Focus and plan for success
Whether you are already in the process of starting a new business, or you’re just about to take on the challenge of working full time and creating something new, our advice for starting a small business should help you focus and plan for success. Every business – and every business owner – is different, so you need to find out what works best for you, but good planning, a willingness to accept help and an understanding that investment is key to success will help you along the way.