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!
Best Practices For Project Management in the Modern, Connected Era
Regardless of the type of business, you’re running or even the industry that you’re operating in, the core goals of project management remain the same. You’re still talking about the successful development of not only the initiation of a project but also the planning, execution, regulation and even closure.
The decisions you make in the early stages of project management can easily mean the difference between success and failure in terms of everything that you’re trying to accomplish. During the beginning of a project, you’re setting goals and agreeing on critical factors like scope, time, quality and even budget. Naturally, keeping everyone on the same page and moving in the same direction is of paramount importance.
Which, of course, is a lot easier said than done.
Project management can be difficult in general – to say nothing of how hard things become when more people are suddenly working remotely than ever. But it is still possible to use these early moments in a project’s development lifecycle to set the foundation upon which everything else will be built. You just need to keep a few key things in mind while you do it.
The Art of Project Management: Breaking Things Down
By far, the most important step you can take in terms of successful project management in the modern era involves making sure that you have the right tools by your side at the beginning of the process.
The types of project tools that you embrace need to give you access to a few core features, regardless of which particular piece of software you choose. For the absolute best results, your tools should:
- Allow your users to create and store data almost entirely in the cloud. People should be able to be just as productive in their own home as they can be in the comfort of their office at work – especially these days, for obvious reasons. Therefore, any tool that you select needs to allow them to accomplish precisely that.
- Your tools should also give real-time reports to project managers into the status of ALL projects, regardless of how many are in progress at the same time. This is the best way to make sure that everyone is keeping up with their duties. It also gives project managers a chance to stop a small problem now before it has a chance to become a much bigger one down the road.
- Your tools should also streamline workflows in a way that project managers can see how EVERY person on the team is performing. Not only that, but they should also provide invaluable metrics so that you can see how projects are moving along. This level of insight can help make sure that if any adjustments are needed they can be executed immediately, all so that you don’t even have to worry about missing your estimated completion date.
The point about the cloud is particularly important in terms of creative project management software, as so many people on your team will essentially be drawing from the same resources at the same time. By embracing a tool that acts as a centralized location for all project-related tasks, files and documents, you’re doing your part to help boost productivity as much as possible. Communications and discussions become easier than ever and collaboration essentially becomes a forgone conclusion. All of this will pay dividends as your project moves farther down the line towards completion every single day.
Another key factor that you’ll want to keep in mind ultimately comes down to the type of support documentation that you’re creating along the way. For the sake of example, let’s say your current project involves getting an upcoming product ready for launch. You and your teams have worked tirelessly for months on getting this right – now, you’re just a few short weeks away from unleashing it on the entire world.
Don’t wait until the end of the project to start thinking about the types of support documentation that your users will need to get the most out of their purchase. These materials shouldn’t be an afterthought – they should be a natural part of the project management and development process from as early as possible.
All of this is to say that you should use a pie chart maker like Visme (which I founded) to create those visual “help” documents that people are going to need while you’re still going through the project, not after it is complete. This will allow you to proactively answer questions and address potential concerns while they’re all still fresh in your mind – thus leading to more accurate information that people can actually use.
Likewise, you should be going to sites like Respona on a regular basis to research the types of topics that the people in your audience actually care about. If you do this while the project is still in the development stages, it can actually clue you in on certain features and other benefits to embrace that will further act as your value differentiator in the market at large.
Think about it like this. Let’s say you and your teamwork on your upcoming product and it’s (thankfully) totally finished. Then, you head to Respona for topic research and find out that a lot of your potential customers have the same core problem that they’re trying to solve. You could easily include a feature that helps them meet that challenge… or you could have if you’d have learned this information while you were still knee-deep in development.
If you were conducting this level of research while things were still fluid, you definitely would have been in a better position to pivot and capitalize on an opportunity instead of allowing it to pass you by.
This is why it’s important to think of these things not as an afterthought, but as a critical element of what you’re doing. You never know where inspiration is going to come from and no matter what, you need to be in a position to listen to it and adapt to it whenever possible. This is the part of project management that far too many people don’t pay enough attention to until it’s too late.
Finally, one of the most important elements of successful project management involves keeping scope creep in check whenever you can. Every project has constraints – regardless of how many people are working with you or how large your budget is. But if your scope begins to shift in the wrong direction, things will slowly begin to fall apart before you know it. If things change too drastically, you could be dealing with budget overruns and you could easily lose buy-in from the stakeholders you’re going to need when everything is said and done.
Therefore, you must make it a priority to manage scope creep in a proactive way. Don’t think about it at the end of each month or at the end of the week. Keep it in the back of your mind every single day and don’t be afraid to confront it when necessary.
If you’re able to keep all of these things in mind during the project management process, there’s truly no limit to what you and your colleagues will be able to accomplish.
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.
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