As a new entrepreneur, the chances are you a little bit like a deer caught in the headlights. When you were a full time employee, the thought of jacking it all in and going it alone sounded thrilling and life affirming. Now you’re here and you’re probably wondering what on Earth you have done. Don’t worry. Every entrepreneurial newbie has waves of this. The fear of the unknown can stop you in your tracks but hold onto the reasons why you are doing this in the first place. You don’t want to line the pockets of corporate fat cats, you want to become the master of your own destiny and you have an incredible idea that you know you can turn into a money making venture.
Being a new entrepreneur means that you will face many challenges. Firstly, you need to consider how you will compete with your already well established industry rivals. These are companies with years of experience, who know their market like they were family. You need to force your way onto the industry stage and find your feet. You don’t want to be one of those businesses that fail within the first eighteen months of trading. The easiest way to ensure that this does not happen is by constructing a nuanced, well thought out business plan to guide you through your first few months.
A business plan isn’t just a document that you fill out template style, only to print off and file away never to see the light of day again. It needs to be a working document, forever adapting and well thumbed as you use it like your Bible for the first few months of trading. This is a document that will help to shape your business vision and could be the difference between the success and failure of your venture. Take a look at these business plan essentials that you cannot afford to overlook.
Perhaps the most vital aspect of any startup is funding. You need to have all of your financial ducks in a row before you even consider a launch date for your enterprise. You need to explore all of the different funding options available to you within your business plan. The bank may be considered the traditional route and it works well for many startups. By making an appointment with your local bank manager, you can pitch your business idea to them and hopefully secure investment. To secure a loan, you need a detailed plan – this is where your working document of a business plan comes in. Take a copy to any pitch that you make and hand it to your potential investors. They can scrutinize your figures to the nth degree, but the fact that you have thought through your potential gross revenues and net profits will stand you in good stead.
When considering your finances, ensure that you explore the concept of risk. Every venture, no matter how financially sound, will have an element of risk. Will seasonality affect your sales? Will your demographic unexpectedly shift? Address these within your plan and you will demonstrate your business acumen and willingness to tackle potential issues head on.
While the bank route for investment is a well trodden path, you may choose to explore further options. Business angels can be the most worthwhile, if elusive, sources of funding. If you can capture the attention of a business angel, you won’t only secure monetary investment, but you’ll also have access to a network of new contacts as well as insider industry knowledge. These are professionals that seek to invest their own cash in new ventures that they deem worthy of potential success. If you can secure the investment of a business angel, you can consider your business idea well and truly validated.
When pitching, whether it’s to the bank manager or to an industry expert, make sure you dress well, have your hair cut, and present yourself professionally. A tee shirt and jeans won’t do. Be punctual and know your stuff. Ensure that you understand the difference between gross and net, and that you know your financial figures like the back of your hand. Be willing to take questions and exude enthusiasm. You will be nervous, but it is essential that you channel this feeling in the most appropriate way to secure the much needed funding you need to launch your startup.
Many people choose to sign up to social media and post some witty content every now and then. This is not harnessing the power of your online presence. Business communication via the Internet is much more nuanced than this in the twenty first century. Every business can have a website that looks incredible, but what’s the point if you’re on page four hundred and three of the Google search results. Instead, you need to be considering an online marketing strategy.
This is where a digital marketing company can be worth their weight in gold. By outsourcing this business function to specialists, you are enabling industry experts to formulate a marketing strategy in line with your business vision and goals as outlined in your business plan. You can sit down with a team of professionals and decide whether your priorities lie in growing your number of followers on social media, driving traffic to your website or seeing your website pop up first in the list of search results on Google. A marketing team can analyze your online presence and keep adapting your marketing strategy to suit your goals and niche.
If you choose to go it alone, you will need to consider your SEO. This mythical beast can be difficult to tame, so tread with caution. You could end up losing money on a Google AdWords campaign that lacks focus and relevance. If you don’t know your keyword from your metatag, it might be best to leave this to the experts.
Social media has exploded in recent years, and businesses have harnessed its power as a marketing tool. To compete with your rivals, you need to do the same. At the very least, you need to sign up for a Facebook page, an Instagram account, and a Twitter feed. These platforms allow you to communicate with your customer base on a more meaningful and, often informal, level. It’s important that you realise just how vital social media is to your business and you must detail your usage of it in your business plan.
By conversing with your potential customer base over Twitter, responding to queries on Facebook and by showing off your perfectly filtered products on Instagram, you can generate a considerable global following. This is vital to get your brand out there and to drive traffic to your website. Post relevant content at least once a day and link back to your website and blog to generate more custom. Your social media accounts could enhance your sales massively.
As an entrepreneur, you may be shocked at just how many business roles fall under your remit. You are now the finance guru, the HR executive, the marketing bod, the social media manager, the head honcho and the tea maker. It’s highly unlikely that you’ll be able to fulfill all of these duties to the highest standard, and you may not even have the time. Consider outsourcing some of your duties to external experts. This frees up your time to be spent on more pressing areas of your business vision and can lead to you being less stressed.
While you may think outsourcing is an unnecessary cost, it can pay you back ten times over. Forget spending your Thursday afternoons slaving over a calculator conducting payroll for your staff and allow an offsite company to take the reins instead. They will know the tax obligations, employee rights and pension contributions like the back of their hands, so you don’t ever have to worry about getting your sums wrong again.
You might also want to outsource your IT troubleshooting. There’s nothing worse than the WiFi going down, but if you experience downtime too often, this can result in low staff morale and a giant queue of staff at your office door waiting to complain. Instead get IT troubleshooting support twenty four seven so that your downtime is limited. While this costs money, you will have a much more productive team who are online for more of the day. They will be more content knowing that they can do their work to a high standard and not have to worry about substandard hardware.
As a newbie entrepreneur, there are a whole variety of aspects to your startup that you probably haven’t considered. While this can become a worry, use your business plan as just that; it’s a plan. It can help you clarify your ideas, work things out, formulate a strategy, and hone your business vision. With a sound business plan, you can tackle any challenge that may come your way, and you can enjoy a successful and prosperous business for years to come.