10 Steps to Start Your Business and Successfully Stay Afloat
Starting a business takes courage.
Regardless of the industry, launching your own company is a major undertaking – and the odds are against you.
While the well-worn statistic that nine out of ten startups fail might not be true, the majority still struggle to stay in business. This can be a difficult pill to swallow, but it should only motivate you to be in that successful minority.
Here are 10 steps to launch your own business and keep it afloat in a sea of immense competition.
1. Make Sure Your Business Fills a Void
The internet gives any entrepreneur access to a huge wealth of market-research opportunities. You should consider:
- Performing surveys online (such as via social media);
- Interviewing people in your target demographic;
- Conducting focus groups for feedback on early examples of your products/services.
The information you should be looking to receive:
- What do prospects think of the product or service concept as a whole? Do they feel it’s something they need?
- How could it be improved, and why?
- How much would they be willing to pay?
- Do they believe people they know would be willing to purchase the product too?
All of this can help assess whether your startup will meet a demand.
2. Make Sure You Feel Emotionally Invested
Endless days and nights can be swallowed up in the early days of running your business, and you may want to throw in the towel earlier than you expect.
Make sure you feel emotionally invested in the enterprise, and that it suits your personal values. If you already find yourself becoming disconnected and losing interest in your market research, it’s best to assess whether this is the right move for you.
Passion and belief in a concept can get you a long way. Don’t underestimate the importance of your own interest in an idea.
3. Be Careful with Capital
Financing your startup is an incredibly daunting area. You need to secure capital with which to bring your products/services to market, but what about beyond that?
Unless your company grows big quickly, you’re unlikely to make much in the way of profit for some time. The specifics of entering a zone of profitability vary, but on average, it may take between two and three years.
You need to plan your finances well in advance. Don’t rent the most luxurious premises or hire entire departments just because you’ve seen competitors doing so.
Make sure you have enough money to survive the difficult beginning, but always be focused on growth. Aim for as many customers as you can manage, and do everything you can to keep them satisfied; good word of mouth is critical.
4. Only Hire the People You Need
Every successful startup needs the right team. Take the time to make sure your employees are perfect for their roles by using employee GPS tracking and have the knowledge to help drive your business forward.
Do they have the right attitude? Can they take initiative? Are their job skills and experience up to the task?
Don’t rush into hiring the first person who applies for a role. Take your time, and make sure you treat those employees well so they’ll want to stay and help you succeed.
5. Be Flexible
Your business plan may need to be adjusted according to discoveries or mistakes you make along the way.
The marketing approach you adopt in your first few months might not bring the results you need, or the manufacturer you rely on might not be up to scratch. Be willing to make changes in the business’s best interests, even if that means major adjustments to your everyday processes.
Your company is a living thing: let it evolve.
6. Always Listen to Customers
Market research should feature throughout your business’s life, not just its birth.
Businesses have more direct access to customers today. Social media, online forums, emails, live chat, and more all enable you to gather valuable feedback at any time.
Offer discounts or the chance to win a prize as an incentive to take part in short surveys about your products and services.
7. Value your Team’s Input
If you have a skilled team of professionals working with you, learn to accept their suggestions.
While it can be frustrating if employees have better ideas to drive the company to success than you do, keep your ego in check. Just because you’re the founder doesn’t mean others can’t understand the business as much as (if not more) than you do.
Invite collaboration whenever possible, and never allow your team to be fearful interacting with you.
8. Don’t Lose Sight of Your Core Values
If you’re lucky enough to start making a profit from your startup, don’t let the pursuit of success compromise your business’s original values.
If you promised customers a particular type of ethos or behavior, make sure you stay true to this no matter what. This is especially true if those values helped to set you apart from competitors – if you become just like everyone else on the market, why should customers stick with you?
9. Build a Community of Followers
Social media gives startups a golden opportunity to build a loyal following. You can use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and more to boost engagement, revealing more of your company’s personality.
51 percent of Facebook users and 64 percent of Twitter users are more inclined to buy from those brands they follow.
Make the most of these platforms. Host contests (with likes and shares as entry qualifications), present Q&A sessions, share viral content relevant to your industry or your customers’ interests, and more.
10. Think about the Future
Every successful business has to keep an eye on what’s coming, rather than what is.
This might be difficult when you’re generating real revenue and building a team, but you should always think about where your business is going. What may potential market changes come along and make things more difficult for you? What new online tools and technologies can give you an advantage? Who are the new competitors on the market?
This links back to step five – ‘be flexible’. Always be ready to adapt your business to suit a changing marketplace.
These 10 steps can help you start your business and stay afloat for years to come. Follow them carefully, and you could build a brand to watch out for.
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