Starting your own company is one of the most liberating things you’ll ever do. You’re free from the shackles of a boss, and you’re in charge. The sky really is the limit when it comes to entrepreneurship. If your dreams are big enough, anything can happen. Every billion-dollar business started with nothing more than a dream and a decent idea. What’s to stop your new company becoming that next billion-dollar success story? Of course, getting a startup off the ground is no easy task. Unfortunately, many fail before they gain traction. It’s disheartening, but, if you take the right steps, you will avoid the early business potholes. There might be late nights, money troubles, and headaches, but when that first round of investment rolls in, it’s all worth it. Here’s how you make it happen.
There’s a simple reason most startups fail. They haven’t spent enough time researching. Fledgling entrepreneurs are often too excited about their brilliant idea and grand plan, they forget to slow down. It’s crucial that you don’t rush into your business and put out a poor product. Take the time to consider your potential market. Who is your target audience? Define your ideal customer. Research the existing market and discover if your idea already exists in some format. Find your particular niche and figure out how you will exploit it.
Hone your product
Now that you’ve done the research, it’s time to turn to your product. Is it the very best it can be? You need to launch with a bang, and that means a flawless product. Take the time to develop it, test it and make tweaks. Reach out to those in your target market and get their feedback. Don’t be scared to modify it to fit your niche. If it’s a physical product, spend a lot of time in the prototype phase and keep refining. If it’s a service or consultancy, make sure you’re tightening your offer every day.
Budget and startup costs
The thing that keeps all CEOs awake at night is money trouble. Those sleepless nights are filled with ominous spreadsheets and payment deadlines. Managing the finances of a small startup is terrifying. There are lots of outgoings and very little income at first. That’s why it’s essential to set a strict budget before you get going. Try to rule out any surprises by creating a list of startup costs. Include everything from your assets to expenses like wages, energy bills and website hosting. Ideally, you should be able to cover the first six months without profit.
Consider a loan
At this point, you may be staring at your spreadsheets wondering how you’ll possibly pay for everything! If that’s the case, it may be worth approaching your bank for a loan. There are also dedicated business loans from the likes of Imperial Advance to get you started. It might just give you the foundation and launchpad you need to get moving. After all, you’ve got to spend money to make money. Having said that, very few institutions will grant you a loan without the following, crucial piece of the puzzle.
You’ll notice that we’ve barely touched on the actual running of the company yet. There’s a reason for this, and it’s a lesson we hope you take away. Businesses don’t simply pop up and immediately start raking in profit. It takes time to build the foundations and set the right course for the future. The planning, development and research stage should not be rushed. The cornerstone of this process is the business plan. It sets out your mission statement and gives you goals. It should detail exactly how you plan to monetize the company. Few lending institutions will give you money without a solid business plan.
Set up the right team
Very few startups become billion-dollar success stories with just one person at the helm. The best companies revolve around a partnership. And all of them have an experienced team of board members, each with their own skills. Getting a startup off the ground requires a myriad of different talents. You need the creative minds, the logical minds, and the financial brains. Find people with a passion for your product and reach out to them. Find a business partner that compliments your talents.
Most small companies can’t afford to advertise in the traditional way. Billboards, PR campaigns, and adverts are a long way out of budget. They’re also ineffective for small startups. Instead, spend your time and effort building an online presence. It’s much cheaper, and you can pinpoint your target audience with precision and clarity. Start with a website and create a sphere of social media platforms around it. Start building a community of people who are interested in your concept. Use blogging, mailing lists and guest posting to extend your reach.
It’s not just your customers you need to reach out to, it’s your peers. It’s crucial that you start building a reputation in your industry. It will help you land additional clients and raise your profile in the sector. Attend networking events and trade shows. Make connections with your peers over LinkedIn or Twitter. Make arrangements and meet people for coffee. Opportunities will present themselves.
Put user experience and customer service at the heart of your company
In the early days, you’re building the business one customer at a time. Each happy customer is another referral, and it all helps spread the word. Make sure your customers get the very best experience. Treat them to discounts and offers and ask them for feedback.
Sheer passion and hard work
There are no shortcuts to success in the world of business. Sure, it seems like overnight success stories pop up every day. The truth is that years of sleepless nights and hard work went into that ‘overnight success’. There will be tough times ahead, but it’s all worth it in the end.
Getting your startup off the ground is terrifyingly difficult. But the reward of pride and self-satisfaction is like nothing else. Follow this advice and you’ll be on the road to your first million.