When starting a business, it is hard and at times overwhelming if you do not approach it with laser-like focus. When your immediate goals become muddled, confused and your target is further than it was when you first started doubt starts to creeps in. You had such a grand idea of how you were going to enter into your target space and blow the doors off of the competition. Visions of how you are going to scale and what space to enter in next are all very exciting but also a bit unrealistic.
Believe you me, many great entrepreneurs are thinkers and visionaries but lack the fundamental understanding needed to take a business from point A to Z. This is no fault of your own, we are all wired differently, the fault lies in honestly identifying your strengths and weaknesses. This article is not to rain on your parade and your ideas, it is to help you slow down and take the necessary steps to get there. While passion and zeal for entering the world of business ownership are the main ingredients to success, it also takes the right balance of capital and creativity. The biggest challenge entrepreneurs face is the lack of prioritization and execution.
To be more specific… most if not all of the steps between idea and success! The first question to ask yourself is if you have the patience, determination and most of all the ability to plan and stay focused on your immediate goals?
While success is not guaranteed, you can take steps to increase the probability
of success by partnering up with a company or a person who has been through the battles.
Getting overwhelmed at the beginning is usually what causes a great idea to get derailed before it even gets started. Creating a business plan is like training for a long distance marathon, it is a much different plan than planning for a sprint. If you understand that fundamental difference between the two, you have a better chance of reaching your goal.
While we are not all wired for executing the details of the vision, we can take some simple steps to achieve a higher probability of success. Below are some key questions and concepts I always keep in mind when launching a new idea.
Crafting the right idea takes time and effort. Crafting the right idea that generates revenue or sustainability is another. When defining that great idea, make sure you can answer the following problems.
1. Who is your target market people or companies?
2. How will you deliver your solution to your target?
3. What industry can your solution be most applicable in?
4. What could go wrong and how can it be solved?
5. How can you bring the human element into the equation or how can you remove it to improve efficiency?
By answering questions listed above, you have the basis to start developing your elevator pitch!
I keep these questions in mind at all times and the first set of questions I ask my clients when they are starting a new business. When you can answer most of these questions without hesitation, you are half way there.
Make sure you practice answering these questions ahead of time, you’ll come across more confident and trustworthy.
After you’ve taken the time to answer questions about your business or product idea, put together a concrete business plan.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, a business plan should include the executive summary, a company description (what makes your company stand out), an overview of the demographics you are entering and who your primary competition is. It is also important to articulate your company strategy, your immediate goals, and your long term goals.
Part of the planning process is to list out your known and expected operational expenses. Consider your initial expenses to include startup costs, your month to month expenditures and your operating expenses. Obviously, you want to generate more revenue than your operating expenses so you have a month to month goal. Once you have a set basis of revenue, you can project how long it will take to bring your company into the black or when it will start having a positive cash flow. Tools like Fresh Books or Quick Books can help keep track of repeat expenses and can also generate invoices to send out to customers. Here is an unbiased review of Fresh Books and Quick Books from our friends at CloudWards
Quick Books is the tool The City Mix uses and the trends and type of expenses have been nothing short of eye-opening. I have made some changes to refine my spending habits.
You are fired up, you have your product developed, formalized a business structure, your bookkeeping in order and a target to focus on all in place… now, what? Now comes the fun part. You need to start telling people about it.
Do you have a website, do you have your prices or your products clearly displayed and in a format that is easy to consume? Does your logo have the right color scheme to portray your business goals and the emotion you are bringing to the table? You might have thought that a website is a place to put up pretty pictures and a place for visitors to know you exist… and to that point you are right, but it is so much more.
Your website can evoke emotion. It can promote a sense of calm, excitement, fear and much more. It is your calling card. The majority of the people today want to see a great website with easy to find answers to their questions. Create navigation that is easy to utilize and navigate through. The customer should be able to reach pricing or a way to contact you within 2 – 3 clicks.
Majority of the visitors have a short attention span, so you need to grab their attention and keep them there to explore the rest of your site. This is called “Indirect Marketing”. Use something to grab their attention and get them to your web page. From that page, you have many opportunities to promote your products or services. Many people today want to find answers on their own, so let them find it. A big deterrent to people exploring your website and not finding what they want.
Everyone is on guard waiting for the pitch. What if it never comes? What if you give them something for free? Would they start trusting you a little more? Would they start giving you more attention? Would their guard start to come down a little? The long and short answer is Yes!
Building trust is a vital commodity these days. Unless you have a product that delivers more than your competitors, we are all in the field trying to separate ourselves from the competition. One way of doing that is by delivering more, expecting less and fostering open and honest communication. That communication can be the difference in converting a prospect into a customer or a potential client who runs to the competition.
You never know when will meet someone or knows of someone that needs a service you provide. Always have a business card ready and act in public like you would if you were closing a deal.
When you get the potential client’s contact information, set up a time to follow up. When you have that meeting,
make an action plan of deliverable items and follow up on the agreed upon date. You are setting up expectations and showing the potential client how efficiently you work. Every interaction is a job interview. Go above and beyond the call. Provide the expected results to your potential customer and deliver on a timely basis.
When starting a business, we are all elated at the first sale. It is the shining example of all of your hard work and efforts. Never forget that, stay humble and remember who gave you your first deal, who was the first person to pick up your cold call and actually engage with you in a conversation.
These are all examples of a way to establish small, yet achievable victories. Starting a business is a long distance marathon and representative of the small victories you have strung together. Focusing on the details takes perseverance and a thick skin. You will take steps backward before you can find your footing to move forward… but with focus and a positive attitude, you will get there.