Taking the leap and starting a new business can be a very daunting process, so congratulations on taking the plunge!
To this point, I am sure there has been a lot of researching, planning and sleepless nights. While there will be many more sleepless nights and lots of learning to come, owning your own business is incredibly rewarding for many different reasons.
So, to help you along the way, here are some simple tips and tricks to help your business succeed right from the very beginning.
With a new business, it’s important to keep it simple and focus to what you know.
As you grow, there may be pressure to expand, however developing what you are good at, and being better than your competitors is the best place to start.
If we look at the phenomenally successful Australian company, Keep Cup, who began quite humbly in Melbourne in 2007, they had multiple opportunities to expand their offering into other product lines along with their competitors. However, staying true to their business plan, Keep Cup decided to focus only on cups and being the best reusable coffee cup in the country. In turn, Keep Cup is extraordinarily successful, a leader in the industry and highly recognisable around the globe!
Outsource what you don’t know and focus on what you are good at. It's no use chasing work which is outside of your skill set and wasting project time. Many small to medium businesses outsource administration, marketing, IT and finance.
When there is specialist project work which you do not offer it’s important to identify this and outsource to your network. Focus on what you are good at and outsource the rest. Just keep an eye on your cashflow and plan your processes as you establish roles and workflows with your contractors or staff.
In small business determination is key! Do not take no for an answer, keep pushing for a yes. Not just from stockists or customers, but from within your business. Having trouble making a decision? We're fond of the quote "If it's not a hell yes, it's a no", meaning you don't accept things the way they are and only commit to decisions you can truly get behind.
In some cases you might hear a big fat "no" from customers, stockists or other people you meet in your journey. What you need to hear is "how?". How can you be resourceful and adapt to the unexpected or unavoidable? How can you turn a dead end into an opportunity to grow?
Problem solving will be a useful skill in many situations as a small business owner, second perhaps only to persistance. Starting a small business can be a long road but believe in yourself and your strengths, and be honest about your weaknesses. Keeping an eye our for opportunities and not letting the word "no" hold you back will give you the upper hand right away.
In the beginning, business owners can be purely focused on growth, however everyone needs to take some time to focus.
Growth is great, however if you move too fast and lose your direction, many businesses can fail.
Putting aside one hour a week, or a day when you are most focussed can be the saving grace for any business. This allows you time to plan and organise, ensuring you are aligned with your strategic goals. Failing to do this could see you wound up in the motives and goals of those around you, and pull you away from the tasks and goals of your own business.
Never lose sight of your business goals and although it's hard to find time sometimes, planning will give you more time in turn.
Health and wellbeing is extremely important in life, as it is for business.
Focusing on your health and wellbeing can ensure you can sustain high levels of stress which come with running your own business. Knowing yourself and what motivates you can lead to a high level of success while remaining healthy.
If you are time poor, rather than having meetings at your desk, get up and ‘walk and talk’, don’t say no to walking to the cafe and above all else ensure you are eating well and getting the right amount of sleep for you. Your health should be right up there as one of your most crucial business tasks and if you plan accordingly, there's no reason you can't factor in some wellbeing processes for yourself.
If you take and little time out for yourself each day, even if it feels strange at first, you'll develop a habit and your body and your business will thank you for it.
One of the key things we hear from small business owners is “I’m so unorganised” or “I feel like I can’t get to everything.”
The answer here is simple in theory, but more challenging for some to execute: you have be organised in your day-to-day or everything will fall apart. now we don't mean planning your day minute by minute or refusing to do anything unscheduled. We just mean structuring you days and weeks ensures you have time for planning, reflecting, growth and yourself.
This will look different depending on the individual, some people enjoy routine and habit and others find freedom and flexibilty to be a better fit. Find what works for you and stick to it. A good way to catch yourself is to work backwards from a moment off stress. Ask yourself how you could've been better prepared and consider what things you could put in place to avoid this in the future. For some, this could mean being strict about adding events to their calendars and others could benfit from allocating specific days to certain job functions, for example: Tuesday is for admin, Wednesday is sales, and so on.
One of my favourite tricks is turning off email alerts, it may be scary, but scheduling a specific time or multiple times each day to answer emails will ensure when you are focussing on projects you are not distracted. Scheduling a time in the morning, middle of the day and afternoon to action emails is perfect for me, but you could experiment to see what works for you. We've heard of people dedicating certain days to checking emails and having a signature that explains this, and others who simply refuse to look at their inbox before 11am. Find what suits you and go from there, just make sure you avoid being a slave to your inbox.
Make sure you structure your calendar at the beginning of the week, work to your calendar and keeo your priorities at the top of your list. This should help you feel less chaotic and stop you being reactive.
Establishing a relationship with your customers and making them feel special, ensures your business is remembered. Word of mouth marketing is the most efficient and cost-effective form of marketing and critical for small business. It may be the time you take to chat with your customer about their needs, the complementary tea and coffee they have while they wait or the free advice on products to assist them which creates that relationship and personal experience. In turn, you will develop a loyal customer base, positive word of mouth marketing and repeat business.
You aren't just selling a product or service, you're selling an experience and how people feel afterward is one of the most important elements for a successful business.
A strong marketing strategy is critical for all businesses, however not all businesses have the budget for expensive advertising. Therefore, depending on your industry and audience, social media can be your best friend!
Having a presence on social media platforms which target your customers is cost effective and highly valuable. LinkedIn, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter all have their niche following and target certain demographics. Creating social media business pages, while knowing your customer and where to target them, can build your network and improve sales, all at little cost to you.
Of course, when it comes to paid marketing or more comprehensive strategies it could be wise to invest in help from an expert, saving you time and increasing your ROI. If you want to engage a professional for your marketing activities, check out our directory and find the right person for the job!
Its important to research your competition and know what makes your business unique. Your unique selling point is a fantastic marketing tool and can provide a vast amount of growth, so don't worry that there's other businesses out there like yours, because they aren't yours!
Your competition can actually provide unique networking opportunities. If they offer a product or service which you don’t, referring clients to them and vice-versa can build a unique partnership and increase revenue for everyone. Watching what competitors are doing on social media and within the industry can assist you in tailoring your brand to be unique or stand alone in the marketplace.
As mentioned above, growing your network is an important aspect of business, but it doesn't have to be other businesses in your industry. Connecting with a range of business owners opens up a whole world of opportunity in the form of lead generation, partnerships, B2B/B2C sales, support, education, collaboration and of course, just a good ol' fashioned whinge and a laugh about it being a business owner and the trials and triumph that it entails. Growing your network gives you access to a wider range of stockists, customers, connections and opportunities than you would have going it alone. At the Victorian Small Business Network we offer a range of networking events for small businesses all over Victoria, and new and old business owners alike come along to connect and grow their network.
Starting a new business is no easy feat, so you should be proud of yourself for even just taking the first steps. Getting connected with a network is a great way to meet customers and collaborators, learn from other business owners and fast track the success of your business. If you want to keep in touch and learn more about small business, networking or our events, get in touch or become a member now at www.vsbn.com.au/join-now.
We hope these tips and tricks have been useful and don’t forget to believe in yourself and your business. You've got this!