Going into business for yourself can be an incredibly daunting experience, especially in these frankly rather tenuous economic times. If the recent collapse has taught us anything though, it’s that the little man can come out on top when the dice are loaded. Below are a number of ideas to help any new entrepreneur find their way to the right track and grow a small business into a potential lifelong career.
In the beginning
All businesses start small. Even mega-successful multinational corporations would have started out in somebody’s humble home office or bedroom. Always remember this, because it’s important not to let the fact that you might currently feel like the ‘little fish’ lost in an overwhelming ocean of competition cloud your judgement. Those companies are more experienced and have more money than you and if you try to match up to them from the get-go you’re probably going to end up in debt and collapse under the weight of you own ‘success’. If you keep your start-up expenses to a minimum and begin small, you’ll be able to use the majority of your resources to manage and streamline the structure of your business. Once you feel like you’ve got some solid foundation to work from though (the timeframe will vary from business to business and from person to person) it will be time to start thinking about expanding your business into a real global contender.
Understanding and appreciating your customers
Though it may well be a tired cliché, customers are the lifeblood of any business and your small business will be no different. Market research will be a crucial first step. Get to know your potential customers and learn to value their feedback, even (in fact especially) when it might appear harsh or unflattering. Your customers also have the potential to be your greatest salesmen. Word-of-mouth sales might be the oldest trick in the book but people are more likely to trust and ahere to the advice of their impartial friends, relatives and co-workers than they are somebody with a vested interest in the company.
Finding the right employees
If your customers are your business’s lifeblood, then your employees are its beating heart. Taking a ‘quality over quantity’ approach is key when hiring staff for your young company, as you’ll want to keep your outgoings at an absolute minimum during your first year in business. Of course what kind of employee you’re looking for will depend very much on the kind of person you are, the kind of people you work well with and the kind of business you’re running, but in all cases it’s important to do your research. Don’t just jump at the first potential hire. Make sure you have a thorough list of everything you require in an employee (skillsets and personalities) and during the interview process make sure your applicants ‘tick every box’ before you take the process any further. Don’t settle for anything less than exactly what you need.
Analysing your strengths & weaknesses
One of the first things you should do when starting your business is to analyse where your strengths and weaknesses lie and make sure you stick to your strengths. Focusing these strengths into a few ‘key’ areas and target markets will result in speedy and organic growth. For many new modern businesses, perhaps the most sensible area to attack would be social media. Sites such as Facebook and Twitter are completely free to use and the user-base is practically infinite. If you’re not particularly skilled in social media networking or the internet in general then it might be an idea to hire an employee who is, taking the strain off yourself.
Pictures speak louder than words
A strong brand image is absolutely vital when it comes to helping your business stand out in a crowded marketplace. Try to make sure that your branding suits the product or the service you’re offering and that it reflects the businesses general ethos, style and personality. Bright colours are always a good bet and if your business longs to be taken seriously by mainstream consumers, you’ll need an identifiable, simple logo or image that sums up your company in an elegant, immediate manner.
Of course this is just scratching the surface. The truth is that there is no ‘wrong’ or ‘right’ way to grow a business. What works for you might not work for somebody else and vice versa. Putting all your eggs in one basket though is never a sensible approach. It’s always important to remember not to spend all of your resources on business growth alone, as if you forget your day-to-day custom there won’t be any business left to grow. Don’t let the size of the task ahead of you stifle your ambition though. With the right team, the right customer, the right product and a decent amount of tenacity, anything is possible!
image source: flickr