5 THINGS I WISH SOMEONE HAD TOLD ME WHEN I STARTED MY BUSINESS
Do you ever get the feeling that a decision you’re about to make can possibly change your life forever? Well, launching a new business falls into that category and for most people it’s a process which pushes us well outside our comfort zone! It can also feel rather lonely with lots of small business owners making big decisions all on their own. If that sounds like you, here are 5 key things I wish I had known when I started my small business 3 years ago.
WRITE A BUSINESS PLAN
Even if your new business idea is simply starting a doggy day care in your own backyard, it’s essential to create a business plan. Spending some time putting thoughts down on paper will help you organise all the details in your head, and help you start making a roadmap for the future. I wrote my first business plan with the help of a coach (more on that in a minute!) but a quick search online will uncover plenty of free templates. Here are some basics to bear in mind:
● Industry analysis - how big is the market you’ll be working in and is it expected to change? Who are your many competitors and what are their USPs, strengths and weaknesses?
● Customer analysis - who is your target audience and how do they like to receive marketing information and buy? For example, older people are statistically less likely to buy from brands on social media and more likely to read newspapers and magazines!
● Operational planning - what systems and processes do you need to put in place now to launch your business. What targets are you setting, and will you need extra operational help if you grow?
● Financial planning - how much will you need to invest of your money and how long will it take to turn a profit. Will you need investors in the future?
CREATE A STRONG BRAND IDENTITY
You’ll want your business to both appeal to your perfect customers and stand out from the crowd and that calls for a strong and defined brand identity. Here are some areas to focus on when you’re building a brand identity:
Logos, fonts and colour schemes - I truly believe it’s worth investing in a graphic designer to create a logo and some brand colours. Their expertise will ensure the logo style and colours appeal to your target market and the fonts work well for your branding and industry!
Brand voice development - it’s helpful to develop a brand voice which you then stay consistent to throughout your marketing. Is your brand lighthearted and funny, helpful and friendly or maybe serious yet trustworthy? Experiment with a tagline which you can add to your website and other marketing materials too!
KNOW YOUR NUMBERS AND FORECAST
I started my small business with no money in the bank at all. I just started to spread the word about what I can do, and it all took off from there! But I didn’t set prices which covered my business expenses and a profit, so I made less than £10 an hour for the first 2 years! Here are some tips to make sure you’ve got a good handle on money from the start:
● Use a spreadsheet: Construct a spreadsheet to estimate the total amount and percentage of your revenue that will need to be allocated towards raw materials and other costs.
● Review your business periodically: While many firms set a yearly budget, small business owners should do so more often. In fact, try to do it monthly, so you really know if there’s any need to cut expenses.
● Renegotiate prices: Don’t feel embarrassed to always seek out the best deal. Check your bills, compare prices, and renegotiate with your service providers and try to get a better offer. Make sure you get the best for less!
GET A BUSINESS COACH/CONSULTANT
This is something I really wish I had done sooner. I only started using coaches in the past 12 months (after 2 and a half years of running a business), and the impact has been amazing. They can help you with everything from planning marketing strategies, setting goals and deciding on pricing to demystifying sales, content planning and lead metrics. Plus, and this one is so important if you work on your own, they’re a great sounding board and hold you accountable!
KNOW YOUR LIMITS
When I started my business, I tended to say ‘YES’ to every opportunity which came my way. But this put so much pressure on my time and sometimes took me further away from my business goals, instead of closer to them. Being aware of your limits is so important in business and enables you to protect your physical and mental wellbeing. So, remember to:
● Niche down: what type of clients do you want to work with? Does a new opportunity reflect what you want for your business?
● Take time: Being self-employed isn’t easy, especially if you’re the same as me, as a busy parent and a workaholic. Take regular breaks and take a day off here and there to focus on the important things in life - and don’t feel guilty about it!
● Overwhelm: You will have many moments of feeling overwhelmed, so break down the number of clients/projects you can take on each month. Try journaling any negative emotions or thoughts and relax your mind where you can. And if you get to the point of feeling like giving up, speak to someone.
Starting your own business could be one of the biggest achievements in your life, but it will also represent some of the most challenging times too. Using the tips and ideas in this blog will help you prepare for anything and help you make a true success of it. And don’t forget, there are so many other people going through the same journey as you and talking to them and sharing ideas is a great help. Search on Facebook for small business groups and even look for local in-person networking. You'll soon find the tribe that matches your vibe!