I know the rollercoaster ride entrepreneurs face when first starting out, I know how tough it is to get started and how easily you can become dejected and lose focus.
Sadly, there is no foolproof guide to creating a successful business – it takes hard work, dedication and a serious commitment and belief in your business.
As the old saying goes though, you have to be in it to win it!
You will make mistakes throughout your business journey – it’s inevitable that somewhere along the way you’ll say ‘yes’ to something you should have said ‘no’ to, focus on an idea that doesn’t have legs or try to run before you can walk.
While you can never prepare for every eventuality, I wanted to share the top 10 mistakes startups make during the first 12 months and. more importantly, how you can avoid them!
1. Not actually talking to potential customers!
I can’t explain how many times I’ve spoken to entrepreneurs who swear they’ve talked to potential customers about their business, only to have it transpire that in actual fact they’ve merely spoken to a handful of people.
Why would you go through the effort, stress and workload of starting your own business if you don’t know that there are customers out there willing to pay for your product or service? It’s daft!
You need to know the structure of your business and be able to show this to investors and be confident that it encapsulates every vital piece of information they’ll be looking for.
Before you even think about speaking to investors or spending money on employees or assets, make sure you speak to people.
Go out into the city and stop people on the street to ask them about your business, hold focus groups, talk to people on social media, grasp every opportunity available so you can prove to yourself and future investors that the demand is out there.
2. Having little structure to your business
When you start a business you need to properly and thoroughly define the responsibilities of the directors, the kind of business which will be undertaken and the means by which your shareholders will exercise control over the board of directors to establish your company.
No one will pay any attention to you if you can only give them a wishy-washy idea with no substance behind it.
You need to know the structure of your business and be able to show this to investors and be confident that it encapsulates every vital piece of information they’ll be looking for, otherwise you’ll be seen as a risk and never get investment.
3. Hatching a business over a glass of wine and go 50:50 without thinking about the consequences
After a few glasses of alcohol you might think you and your pal have the best business idea ever and already be spending the millions, you’ll make in your head.
But in the cold light of day you need to ask yourself is it really a good business idea?
And, if it is, is the person you enjoy having a glass of wine with really the ideal business partner?
We all have friends we got on well with, but would never want to work alongside, so make sure you really think it through before setting up a business with someone. Especially if you’re going to go 50:50.
There’s always going to be a leader, there has to be, so really think through how your friendship dynamic will affect your business before signing anything.
4. Over-egging what the sales will be in year one
Creating a successful business takes time. Some entrepreneurs, like me, are optimistic, which is great when faced with difficult situations. But, in order to be a successful entrepreneur you need to be realistic.
There’s no point in over-estimating what your sales figures will be in the first year because you’re just setting yourself up to fail, and you’ll then have to explain to stakeholders and potential investors why you under-delivered. Set yourself goals and aim high, but keep it real.
There’s time yet to reach for the stars!
5. Thinking it’s easy to bring in investment
The harsh truth of being an entrepreneur is that you aren’t guaranteed to get investment. Not everyone who starts their own business will be able to successfully court an investor and as those who have done, it will know it’s no easy or quick, task.
It takes time to get investment – you need to think about what you want, what your business needs, how you will use the investment, how you will convince investors your business is the right one for them to spend time and money on, and you need to forecast what this money will mean for your business.
Yes, you might get lucky and have a chance of meeting with someone who decides to invest in your startup.
But realistically it’s a hard slog and you might need to speak to several people before you find the right one for your business.
6. Thinking that you can do it all yourself
Look at me – I’m a super entrepreneur! I started my business all on my own and am going to develop and scale it on my own, too. Wrong! You can’t do everything yourself.
If nothing else, no one person is incredibly skilled at every single aspect of a business. You might be great at marketing and speaking to potential investors and customers, but do you know enough about forecasts and banking, and the legal checklist you need to tick along your entrepreneurial journey? My bet is you don’t.
Set yourself goals and aim high, but keep it real. There’s time yet to reach for the stars!
That’s why you need to hire smart. Look for people who fill the gaps in your skillset and build a dedicated, hard-working team who have bought into your vision.
You’ll see much more success this way than trying to be a super entrepreneur all on your own – and it’s less lonely too.
7. Getting fooled by consultants who charge a small fortune for useless stuff
A lot of first-time entrepreneurs are approached by consultants across various fields who offer their services in return for a fee and an often hefty one at that.
While it might seem like a great idea when they’re giving you their marketing spiel, make sure you take some time out before agreeing to anything.
It’s easy to get caught up in the moment and say yes to things you don’t need for far too much money, but don’t let yourself fall into the trap and take some quiet time on your own to review things before you decide anything.
8. Neglecting networking
You’ll never get anywhere if you don’t get yourself out there and meet people. I can’t stress enough the importance of building a relevant network. Whatever you do and wherever you go you should always be speaking to people, whether it’s online or offline – you never know who you could meet by making the first move and saying hi!
9. Spending time with a laptop rather than human beings
If you’re searching online to see if your business is viable then you’ll likely always be able to find some piece of research which says it is.
But no investor is ever going to give you money based on some research project done in the west end of nowhere back in 1999.
As I said earlier – get out there and speak to people! Have a human conversation and ask people what they think about your business.
Find out if there’s a market for your product or service and ask questions to determine what shape this product or service should take. You’ll get far more value out of a day spent speaking to people than you would a day stuck behind a computer.
10. Overthinking your business plan
Yes, your business plan is important and it is vital that you get it right. But don’t overthink it or you’ll just complicate things.
Your business plan isn’t something you write when first starting out that then remains static, you’ll have to revisit it time and time again and make some changes depending on the focus of your business.
Your market isn’t stagnant; so your business shouldn’t be either. You have to move with the times and be flexible to change, so there’s no point in spending weeks stressing over making your business plan perfect, just make sure it reflects the key points of your business as it is now and is easy to understand.
No one is perfect and no one is able to simply wake up one day with a successful business – you have to ride out the highs and lows along the way.
But, if you can avoid these 10 mistakes, or remedy them and make sure you don’t repeat them it will go a long way to helping your business!
7 Reasons Why Its Important to Have a Niche
A niche is a focused, targetable segment of the market. You are a specialist providing a product or service that focuses on the specific needs of an identified client group, which cannot or are not being addressed in such detail by the dominant providers in your industry.
But it is important to understand that there is, in fact, a difference between your identified niche and your target market.
Your target market is a specific identifiable group of people you work with, e.g. women in the city, technology start-ups, creative agency owners, small and medium businesses in a particular revenue range.
Your niche is the service you specialise in offering to your target market.
For example, standing desks are aimed at professionals who work in front of a computer for long periods of time. This is a well-defined niche.
Here are 7 reasons why it is important to have a niche:
To avoid spreading yourself too thin
Instead of the risk of spreading yourself too thin in saying that ‘everyone’ is your potential client, niche marketing will help you to focus on a specific grouping of people, and particularly on what their needs and wants are.
You will unlikely to be able to serve everybody, so it is important to focus on what you do best and aim it at a specific group of people who will likely buy what you offer.
It is important to find out what is important to them, what blogs they read, their beliefs and attitudes, who the main influencers in that network are.
Having these insights means that you can develop products or services specifically aimed at this group, based on your thorough knowledge and understanding of what they are interested in.
It’s easier to identify and target potential clients and partners to work with
As the pool of people that exists for a niche is smaller than its mainstream equivalent, it will be easier to identify potential clients and partners to work with, as you can be much more targeted and laser-focused with your marketing efforts.
It’s easier to become an expert and well known in your niche
Niching means it will be much easier for others to understand ‘what you do’ and ‘for whom’, which will make it easier to position you as an expert in your field. As this group is more targeted and of a smaller size, you can rapidly become well known within this group of people.
Your profile and overall visibility will increase within this group. It is a small world after all!
More and better referrals
Since it will be easier for others to understand what you do and for whom, it, in turn, becomes much easier for them to refer more and better quality clients to you that fit the profile of your ideal client, as you have built up trust, credibility, visibility, and it is very clear as to what your specialism is.
The more unique you are, the less competition you will have
There will be less competition, as you will provide the specific services or create the specific products for the specific people you are seeking to help in a specific way that meets their needs. The BIG advantage of becoming more unique is that usually it can’t be easily replicated by your competition!
Marketing becomes much easier
Effective niche marketing should really help with your marketing, positioning and branding as you will attract the ‘right people’ much more easily and quickly. People with similar interests tend to behave and are attracted to similar things. This means that many of your clients will do all the hard work for you as they will refer you more and more because your profile, credibility and influence are readily apparent within your tribe.
More repeat business
As you are able to provide an increasingly better service or product, based on your specific client’s needs, it is likely that you will get more repeat business – people will come back for more, and as an added benefit will often start spending more with you as your relationship grows with them.
4 Things That Are Slowing Down Everyday Business Processes
A modern business needs a lot of things to be successful.
High-quality products that capture the attention of your target market are an excellent first start. However, you also need robust marketing strategies, a strong team of dedicated workers, and a plan for continued growth and evolution.
A good company is like a well-oiled machine. One cog turning out of time could bring your entire enterprise grinding to a halt. That’s why it’s so important to be aware of the things that are slowing down your crucial processes and preventing your company from reaching its true potential.
Today, we’re going to be looking at some of the things that could be hampering your everyday business processes, so that you can make a valuable change.
How many people in your business are wearing multiple hats?
The chances are that if you’re a small and growing company, you have endless executives and employees rushing from one task to another. You may even be asking your team members to take part in activities that aren’t closely connected to their job roles.
While it’s fine for everyone in your organization to pitch in a little extra at times, it’s important to make sure that this doesn’t give way to constant multitasking.
Research proves that multitasking kills productivity and reduces the quality of the work produced. That’s because when you’re multitasking, you’re continually forcing your brain to switch from one thing to another, so you can’t truly focus on anything.
If multitasking is a common problem in your organization, then it might be time to reassess your workflow and see where you can create more focused teams. Try to give the right task to the right people to prevent inefficiencies.
Maybe allowing your senior leaders to delegate more of their work will make them more successful. Perhaps taking extra jobs away from lower employees and keeping everyone focused on their areas of expertise will help.
The last thing you want for your business is that your employees don’t have time to do the job they were hired for.
If you have to switch employees between different tasks frequently and it’s slowing down work progress, maybe it’s time to add a new employee to your team. Alternatively, look if some processes can be outsourced to a company or a freelancer.
#2 Inefficient Meetings
Increasingly, companies are beginning to feel as though most meetings are nothing more than a waste of time. For years, we relied on face-to-face interactions in boardrooms to make sure that everyone in our team remained on the same page.
However, by now, we have learned that this kind of disruptive activity is no longer necessary.
Although the occasional meeting can be useful to connect your employees and bring people together in a more intimate environment, most of the time, you can switch a meeting out for broadcast on a collaboration app.
You could even consider allowing your employees to dial into a video meeting so that they don’t have to leave their office.
Pulling your team members out of their workflow so that they can take part in meetings when you could have shared the same information in an email is a dangerous waste of time.
The next time you’re planning a meeting, ask yourself whether it’s necessary to bring people together in a conventional sense. If it is, ensure that you’re only inviting the most relevant people to the room.
Once they leave the meeting room, everyone should know exactly why their input was required and what are the next steps they need to take.
#3 Lack of Insights
Let’s face it – data makes the world go around. We’re living in an era where information is everywhere, and it’s crucial to making our companies more effective.
The good news is that the majority of today’s companies have systems in place that allow them to capture intelligence information from everything from their sales calls to their marketing campaigns.
The bad news is that most organizations simply don’t know how to use their insights to improve their business operations. If you’re not taking advantage of the benefits of real-time and historical data analysis yet, it could be the perfect time to get started.
Sit down with the other leaders in your team and figure out some goals that you want to accomplish. From there, you can determine what kind of information you need to reach your goals.
For instance, if you want to make your marketing campaigns more successful, it makes sense to look at the marketing initiatives that have worked for you in the past.
You might also want to tap into information about your target audiences and their pain points too. This data could help you identify areas that you can improve to offer your customers an excellent experience at every touchpoint with your business.
#4 Preventable IT Issues
Finally, another thing that we’ve come to recognize in the digital era is that IT can either be your friend or your enemy. In many cases, the right technology in your company’s landscape can accelerate growth and generate new opportunities.
Knowing how to make the most of the assets at your disposal can significantly improve daily business operations. Implementing some new solutions can help you get there, too.
AI and machine learning are no longer terms out of science fiction novels. People have taught robots to interact with each other and with other people, and solve problems in the process.
For a great example of how this achievement can speed up daily business operations, just look at chatbots. Chatbots can drastically reduce the time it takes to answer repeat customer questions and queries. Your employees could spend this time on more important tasks and projects.
Also, chatbots can work around the clock. There’s no denying that having a 24/7 customer service is a great asset to your business. However, due to the high costs of maintaining a contact center, in most cases, it’s not a viable solution.
In such scenarios, chatbots can step in, respond to simple queries, and redirect more complicated issues to a human.
Chatbots enable you to reduce time, money, and human labour, which you can then reallocate into growing your business.
If you have enough people on your team, offering live chat is another way to bypass long workflow procedures and ticketing systems that might be annoying to your customers. An agent can handle more than one chat at a time and still give the customer a personalized approach.
The list of benefits of a live chat for a business is long. It boosts customer convenience, satisfaction, and loyalty, helps your business respond to their pain points faster and opens another channel for upselling.
However, there’s also a chance that poorly-managed technology could slow your business down and stop your team from completing their goals. Remote working trends or bring your own device trend (BYOD) are especially sensitive to these issues.
While it’s always possible that IT issues might happen in your workforce, you can put strategies in place to protect yourself from any major downtime or disruptions.
For instance, teaching your team members how to manage work equipment on their own, and providing them with the knowledge to troubleshoot any issues they face means that you can keep your organization running smoothly.
At the same time, this frees up time for your IT employees, who can focus on finding ways for you to use technology to accelerate your business growth, rather than just responding to the same old preventable problems.
Time to Speed up Your Business Growth
A company is a dynamic and ever-changing thing. Unfortunately, it’s also very fragile. When something as small as a single process doesn’t work properly for your company, you begin to see negative repercussions everywhere.
The good news is that taking the time to examine your business workflow and figure out areas where systems can be improved can make your venture more efficient and successful.
From working on preventable IT issues to reducing the number of meaningless meetings your team members are exposed to, there are plenty of ways that you can make your company into the well-oiled machine that it needs to be.
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