17 Top Tips for New Businesses (Physical and Digital)
Starting any business be it physical or digital, can be extremely daunting. With so many aspects to set in motion, it can be easy to lose focus of what really matters, or perhaps more importantly, what adds value to your bottom line.
The day to day aspects of running any business are probably more involved than they have any been. Instead of businesses being involved in physical products or one-to-one services, we are becoming more and more engaged with digital services and activities. Although this has brought more opportunities, it has certainly brought along more duties also.
Hopefully this article will offer a framework of advice that can be used for those starting up business, with experience or not.
Perhaps one of the most important points in overseeing any organisation.
Focus is all about you concentrating on the things that matter to your business, and not allowing small or irrelevant matters affecting your judgement or attention.
You NEED to be sure what you’re trying to achieve in the market space. HOW your products or services will differentiate themselves from competitors, WHAT your customers are looking for.
By getting too bogged down with day to day activities, it can be too easy to lose focus on not only your objectives, but your strategies as well. Sometimes it pays to take a step back and reevaluate your perspective.
2. Control and Organisation
It can be said that control and organisation is an extension of focus, and they are the organisational methods of keeping your focus or strategies in check. By being organised with your tasks, this will increase your general productivity.
It simply helps you to get the things done that actually matter.
3. Set Realistic Targets
Like new musicians or producers working in the music industry, many new business owners feel that starting a new website, or releasing a new product is going to change the world. The unfortunate reality is that there is so much competition out there. The chances of your first business idea being an overnight success is extremely slim.
Always have the long term in mind; at least 3-5 years for something that you are truly passionate about. Try setting out various KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) during the timeline and keep them realistic.
For this to happen, you need to appreciate that any form of growth relies on sound underlying strategies that you are comfortable with.
4. Research the Market
This should be happening on a regular basis, and it’s certainly not a “one-off” activity.
Many markets themselves evolve over time, without adapting yourself to the changing needs of the industry you could be finding yourself falling behind.
Researching the market would also include keeping tabs on your competitors. How are they satisfying the needs of the customer or client above yourself, what are they doing to make themselves heard, what avenues are they using for brand promotion.
By researching the evolving market place on a regular basis, this will refine your focus in order to keep ahead of the game.
5. Seek Funding Where Possible
Cashflow for new businesses are an extreme concern. By seeking grants or outside funding this increases cash flow flexibility and helps your new business flex it’s muscles.
Especially in the UK, there are many opportunities for funding:
- Funding circle – A government owned British bank – https://www.fundingcircle.com/uk/businesses/
- Official government list of approved organisations that specialise in all forms of business funding – https://www.gov.uk/business-finance-support
- Business grants – A list of grants available for application – http://smallbusiness.co.uk/financing/government-grants
6. Make Sure You’re Claiming All Eligible Tax Reliefs
Yes of course, there is some self-promotion here, but it is a point that is overseen in many business startups.
Without sounding too grim, a lot of businesses lose money in their first year. In some situations the loss can extend for a number of years before the business becomes profitable. This is an acceptable fact for many entrepreneurs that appreciate that a sound business model can take a while to develop and roll out.
The fact of the matter is that if you’re a sole trader starting up business in the UK and have made a loss, and the years previous you have been a hard working individual paying Income Tax, then it is most likely that you are due a Tax rebate on the losses that you have incurred.
HMRC appreciate that if you have paid Income Tax on earnings saving up to start up a new business, then you are entitled to Tax relief if that business generates a loss.
The worst part? HMRC will never give this relief automatically, it must be applied for.
7. Be Disciplined
This is easier said than done, and can sometimes involve a change in mindset. Being disciplined means having losing habits that keeps your eye off the ball, and keeping yourself naturally in check. Keeping yourself organised goes a long away with this particular area in that it forces you to keep that mentality of being concentrated at the task in hand.
Remember, the day to day activities will always through distractions at you. It is important to discipline yourself to maximise the most of the opportunities available to yourself.
8. Make Yourself Heard
The problem with starting a new business is that it’s hard to get yourself heard amongst the masses. When offering a new service, or releasing a new product, there might be an initial spike of interest activity from your friends or peers. But how do you keep up that level of interest? Better still, how do you go about increasing it?
Use the power of influencers
Influencers, the entities that mass individuals follow, will be your key.
Build relationships, massage their ego, do whatever it takes for these influencers (the key holders) to get your product known in the market place.
One particular problem, especially in the area of digital marketing, is breaking through the circles of your friends and friends of your friends. YOU MUST take action to get yourself involved in outside circles. Influencers will help you so much in this aspect.
9. Network with Fellow Colleagues
These could be closely related individuals or even direct business competitors. Get yourself in the circle where business is made.
By having yourself involved in such circles you will see various ideas being bounced backwards and forwards. You can immediately learn from past mistakes made by others and also discover techniques that are working particularly well in your industry.
Such groups can be invaluable if they are directly related to your niche. If you can prove yourself you to be a leader in that niche, this can only lead to greater things. YOU will be the influencer.
10. Let Yourself Be Found Easily
You should be registered in the major directories and social networks, period. And that includes the Yellow Pages.
Clients / customers all use a wide range of platforms and social networks to find the services they require. Yes, stuff actually happens outside of Google…
After posting an entry on Yell for QuickRebates, we gained a client within a week. The client was not looking for our firm, but simply Tax rebate services.
The moral of this small story, have your brand name everywhere possible, let yourself be found where possible.
11. Keep Costs and Overheads Low
- Turnover – vanity
- Profit – sanity
- Cashflow – reality
Unless that cash actually hits your bank from your customers or clients, you must always keep a tight control of your outgoings. Too many business spend cash expecting the cash flow to materialise easily at a later date. For some this might be the case, but you should always be prepared.
Be tight in your spending, is the expense necessary?
“A fool and his money are easy parted”
12. Scale Up the Good Processes
If you find something thats particularly profitable, or good for your overall objective and the return on investment is worthwhile, scale it up as much as you possibly can.
The key to business is finding out what works well, and what doesn’t. When you find something that works well, amplify that result.
Sometimes the scaling process can be particularly strenuous, but it can often be worth it.
13. Learn From Mistakes
The best mistakes you can learn from are the mistakes made by others. Unfortunately some mistakes you will have to make yourself.
This is not a bad thing. In terms of business management, at QuickRebates we like to think that strategic mistakes are simple indicators of what doesn’t work in the current marketplace. By learning enough of what doesn’t work, you will soon find out what does work. Leading on from point 12 above, you then scale it up the right processes.
Sometimes when running a business, as crazy as it sounds, it’s rewarding to make mistakes – but only if you never make the same mistake again…
14. Research Competitors
Markets evolve, you will evolve, and so will your competitors.
Always keep an eye on your competitors
Your competitors might have less, equal or even more resources than you have at your disposal. Regardless of resources available, you can be assured that competitors will find ways to make themselves stand out. By keeping a track on your competitors on a regular basis, you will often find ideas or perspectives useful to your strategic focus.
Do not let yourself become too tunnel visioned with your own strategies.
15. Develop and Strengthen Your Brand When Possible
This is a simple tip but often under utilised.
At QuickRebates, our name is as simple as it sounds. Quick Rebates. Tax Rebates really quick!
Whatever your brand is, get it out there where possible. From email signatures to invoices to social networking, let your happy clients know what brand they are dealing with. They are not dealing with a person, but a brand.
Sometimes it is easily to become egotistical in your field and let your name proceed you, but if you’re running a business, let your clients or customers know that you are “QuickRebates” or what business you represent.
16. Always Work on Client / Customer Service
This is something at QuickRebates that we particularly believe strongly in. Customer experience and relations.
We are a new business and perhaps our perspective is a little more focused at client acquisition, dependant on recommendation, but we really do believe client satisfaction is key to our longer term strategy. Our clients know that we are open for any questions, but also that we deal with their affairs quickly and timely (again, this is using our brand name with our strategy).
Far too often a client will recommend us to another 2/3 friends or colleagues, who will often refer us to another 2/3 of their friends. There have been many occasions where we have planted a seed with one client, that has ended up being an oak tree with acquiring another referring client.
Client acquisition itself is a costly process, it is so much easier if you let your own clients do this on your behalf with just a little care and attention.
17. Never Give Up
Business is about being relentless. It is a constant cycle of making mistakes, learning from them, evolving and making the next round of mistakes. Throughout this process, you must be relentless and never be afraid of making a mistake. Either two things will happen:
- It will work – fantastic
- It won’t work – you’ve learned a lesson
The reality is that to be successful, you need to learn many lessons. And the mistakes and lessons are endless…