If it’s your dream to start your own business, there are some cardinal rules that, if followed, will help you dodge becoming a start-up failure statistic. Your road to starting your own business begins here.
Starting a small business: Being your own boss
One of the biggest choices a would-be entrepreneur needs to make is whether to walk away from a relatively secure, salaried job in order to pursue their own-business dreams. But the transition from being an employee to being an entrepreneur is a big one and there are things you should be prepared for:
How comfortable are you with risk?
Not only will you need to decide on leaving your job for starting a business, you may also need to fund it with personal savings, taking a loan, or cashing in a retirement policy.
Entrepreneurship by its nature involves a degree of uncertainty, and as your own boss, you’ll need to make some tough and/or unpopular decisions.
The key is to take calculated risk – make sure you’ve done as much research as possible on the industry, your business model, your target market, and financials.
Do you have the right characteristics?
Great entrepreneurs are independent, stubborn, charismatic, resilient, persuasive, able to negotiate, creative, and natural-born leaders. If you don’t possess these traits, it doesn’t knock you out of the game.
Be sure that the kind of business you’re entering suits your personality type. For example, a PR agency will require a business person who is tenacious, out-going, sociable, and loves interacting with people. An accountant, on the other hand, may not require such high social skills.
Are you in it for the love of it?
There will be times when money is tight, when hard decisions need to be made, and when family and personal time gets sacrificed for the business. If the dream you’re chasing is just to get rich, it won’t sustain you very long. You need to eat, live and breathe your passion and dream.
Do you have the right skills?
If you’re leaving corporate, ensure that you have all the necessary skills to run a business, or be prepared to reach out for help. Many corporate individuals have expertise in a particular field but don’t have all the other skills needed to run a business.
Be prepared to learn how to fill the gaps, ask for help, or outsource or hire for the necessary skills.
Have you planned properly for starting a small business?
A start-up may start out of the blue, but no successful business has survived and thrived by winging it all the time. A successful small business starts with a careful plan.
Related: Do You Speak Start-up?
First define why you are starting a business
Is it to be your own boss, to make more money, to gain more independence, to have more time, to sell for millions one day, is it for a steady income, because there’s a gap in the market, or you want to turn your hobby/personal interest/passion into a meaningful business?
Second, come up with a sound business plan
No idea can be realised or made to last without some planning. A business plan is your first port of call to mapping out your business.
Next, who will be part of the business?
Are you a sole proprietor who will run all aspects of the business? Will you have partners in the business and what will they bring to the table? A word of caution: Choose your partnerships wisely – if it’s a family business, be sure there are boundaries in place and that roles are well defined.
Make sure your business partners complement your skills and knowledge with their own. While things may start off well, make sure you have an attorney draw up papers of who’s who and contributed what in the event things go south.
Where will the money come from?
While some businesses can be started with very little, many will need a cash injection to bring them to life. Will you use personal savings, take out a loan, seek investors, court venture capitalists, self-fund and bootstrap the business?
Each option comes with its own pros and cons, so investigate them carefully. Also be mindful and realistic about return on investment – it’s very rare that a business will make back 100% of its start-up capital in the timeframe you initially expect. Be conservative in your estimations.
Pay close attention to running costs
Sometimes it can take up to three years before a business reaches break-even and starts to make a profit. So, while you’re working toward this point, keep your books immaculate, document all outgoing and incoming money. It will help you pin point areas where expenditure can be trimmed and income improved on.
The importance of networking when starting a small business
Networking is one of the most important activities you’ll be involved in when starting your business. Entrepreneurship is a hard game and can be a very lonely and isolating experience for some. By networking with other entrepreneurs, you will learn that your fears and challenges aren’t always unique to you, but just par for the course. Sharing with other entrepreneurs can give you confidence and motivation to keep going.
Networking can also help you land clients by giving you the opportunity to rub shoulders with people who may need your product or service – think conferences, trade shows, industry events – or may put you in contact with people who can provide you with skills, resources and advice.
If you’re not in need of help, networking is a great opportunity to market your company and position yourself as an industry expert. If people get to know you as the industry go-to-guy, you’ll develop a positive reputation, gain trust, and business can follow.
Landing clients: A small business imperative
Without clients, a business is a non-start. So once you’ve got your business plan in order, focus your attention on landing your first client as soon as possible. For some entrepreneurs this may involve taking on clients from their previous job, from networking, or through word of mouth.
For others it may involve finding clients from scratch. If you’re providing a new product or service, make your clients fully aware that it’s a work in progress and that things will improve with customer feedback. You may even want to get your first client by offering a free trial period or at discounted rates.
The object of getting your first client is to get feedback as quickly as possible and develop your offering based on their needs and demands, rather than producing a 100% ready for market offering that doesn’t meet the needs of your target market.
Related: Advice for Starting a Business
Starting a small business: The most common mistakes
Key performance indicators
To help you stay focused during the start-up phase and at the same time avoid tunnel vision, it helps to keep track of Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) you’ve set in place.
KPIs are used to measure performance and success in your business, and help you towards your business goals. These can be as simple as 100% customer satisfaction, zero injuries on site, or minimal defects, for example.
Each KPI should be constructed with a particular purpose in mind – the KPIs for finance will be different to KPIs for sales, for example. Some kinds of KPI include: Marketing, production, IT, supply chain management, finance, business government, sales, etc.
Focusing on high-impact tasks
With limited amounts of time and energy given to each day, week, month and year, it’s important to assess your business goals, set realistic milestones and plan accordingly. It is of use for every entrepreneur to do some research into the 80/20 principle: Where 80% of the results come from 20% of the causes.
Focus on your best customers, on selling and improving your best selling product or service. Enable your best staff to do better – fundamentally focus your attention on high impact tasks rather than being bogged down in emails for example.
Types of small businesses
Are you ready to start your business? Here are three kinds to mull on:
- Consultancy – If you have expertise in a particular field, you can start a consultancy providing professional expertise to those who need it.
- Part-time – Believe it or not, you can start a business while being employed at the same time. This kind of venture will be quite demanding, but also worthwhile as you will be able to determine whether your business idea is ready to support your financial needs before cutting off the monthly salary. It is advisable that your employer be aware that you’re running a side-line business, as most employers will support you in your entrepreneurial endeavours provided that it’s not infringing on your work time and the company’s resources.
- Hobby – if you’ve got a personal interest or hobby that can be used to create a profit, then you have a potential business in your hands. Make sure you do your market analysis though and carefully evaluate the amount of time and capital required and versus the income you can gain.
Related: Start A Part Time Business
From here, evaluate whether you can run your business from a home-office, whether you’ll need to rent office or manufacturing space – and can this space be shared with another business, and whether you’ll need staff. Will your staff need to be full-time, part-time, temp, or even a virtual assistant, and will they need training and/or specialised skills to assist you and your business?
When hiring staff, ensure that an employment contract is drawn up with all terms, conditions and expectations in writing, that it is signed by both you and the employee, and that it conforms with the Basic Conditions of Employment Act.
How WordPress Can Help Your Small Business
WordPress is an amazingly large platform filled with incredible tools from useful plugins to intriguing extensions. It’s a platform for bloggers, social media influencers, and increasingly, small business owners.
WordPress is one of the largest content management systems available. In fact, it powers nearly 30% of all US websites. Its ease of use and a open-source nature has prompted the platform to become overwhelmingly popular.
For many, WordPress is an invaluable resource that makes website management simple and promotes their brand easily. It is Little Wonder then that so many businesses use WordPress to handle their website and online presence management. Even though it is very popular, learning WordPress is an entirely different task.
Not many small businesses can afford to have a WordPress developer. In that case, it is important for many owners to learn as much as they can about WordPress.
Achieving effective market growth
There are those who still wish to use traditional services but are usually dumbfounded by the price and time requirement for making custom websites outside of the platform.
The abundant array of tools and applications makes using WordPress simple but effective for market growth.
For many businesses just starting out, getting traction and marketing growth are very difficult and can be taxing experiences if done by hand.
With a platform like WordPress achieving a beautiful website and pushing a brand is much simpler and easier than trying to do everything yourself.
Optimising your website with SEO
One of the most important aspects of business writing on a website is search engine optimisation or SEO. WordPress fortunately comes with a number of plugins that makes SEO very simple such as Yoast.
This service scroll through text and automates the SEO process to make sure your content is pushed to the best of its ability while also giving your brand the most exposure it can possibly take.
SEO is a very taxing and tedious process for many small business owners and the WordPress platform makes it simple.
Monitoring your website and developing leads
There is also the issue of monitoring who is coming to your website and who was looking at your products. again, on the WordPress platform there is the Google analytics plugin which allows owners to analyze who’s coming to their website and for how long.
This can be used to determine if your marketing or branding is effective and can determine what things need to change to increase exposure.
For small business, exposure is everything and awareness is the key to a successful business.
Increasing site security
Keeping a site secure is another main issue for people who run their own website and luckily WordPress has a plug-in for that.
Vaultpress, the premier security plugin, keeps your website secure and in the event of a catastrophic failure it can restore the entire site.
Business owners often fear their website crashing as it would reduce the amount of traffic it could garner and may interrupt their business practice. The WordPress platform has many tools which prevent loss of data or breaches of security so that your business can continue to run smoothly.
The benefits of using WordPress
These tools, mixed with a host of other utilities, make WordPress the premiere platform for websites for businesses of any size.
With its integration software you can automate messaging, simplify marketing and, optimise the speed of your website to give users an incredible experience without the cost of a full development team.
The technological age requires that all businesses must have a website or at least a web presence of some kind. it has been shown time and time again that a website is the best way to make a big impression on the consuming public.
Related: 10 Online Marketers To Watch In 2018
Time, as it moves slowly forward, shows us that the world will revolve around the Internet and technology. A web presence then, is not just a good idea or a trendy notion, but rather imperative to stay competitive in the future. To that end, there is no better platform to create a website on than WordPress.
New Fund For Small Businesses To Be Developed
Government has allocated R2.1-billion toward the development of small- and medium-sized businesses.
Driven by the Departments of Small Business, Science and Technology and the National Treasury, it was announced during the 2018 budget speech that entrepreneurs could unlocking funding for their businesses through a new funding initiative.
What is the new Fund?
Minister of Small Business Development, Lindiwe Zulu, explains where the fund stands and how it will work:
“The Fund will be operational during 2018/19 financial year but the planned disbursement of the funding will be the beginning of 2019/2020 financial year.”
She says R1 billion has already been transferred to the Department of Small Business Development from the national fiscus.
“The Department of Small Business Development together with National Treasury and Department of Science and Technology are working with the Government Technical Advisory Centre (GTAC) to develop the architecture of the Fund where issues around the management of the Fund will be considered,” she explains.
Who will the Fund be for?
“The Fund is targeting high growth businesses as our research on the ecosystem shows that there is a lack of funding of enterprises that are at an ideation and early start-up phase,” Zulu explains.
Her department together with the other participating arms of government, will identify areas of collaboration across research, mentorship and training of enterprises on financial management.
“The work that is being undertaken now will assist government to decide on how the fund will operate, but the government is conscious of the economic environment and would not look at setting up a completely new structure that will add to operational costs,” she says.
Addressing parliament on the fund, the minister said the financial mandate of the fund will be informed by the exercise that is being conducted through GTAC.
“Government is looking at having this fund as a soft loan which will provide affordable finance to small businesses and the emphasis will be more on ensuring that the Fund is sustainable rather than profit maximisation,” she explains.
How to apply for funding
Contact the following departments if you would like to access a portion of R2.1 billion:
Department of Small Business Development
- Address: 77 Meintjies Street, Sunnyside, Pretoria
- Tel: (+27) 861 843 384
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for information on the department and its services.
Department of Science & Technology
- Address: DST Building (Building no. 53) (CSIR South Gate Entrance) Meiring Naude Road, Brummeria
- Tel: (+27) 12 843 6300
- Email: Isaac.Ramovha@dst.gov.za or email@example.com for information and brochures about the department’s scope and funding.
National Treasury (GTAC unit)
- Address: 40 Church Square, Pretoria
- Tel: (+27) 012 315 5944 or (+27) 012 315 5645
- Email: firstname.lastname@example.org for information from the Government Technical Advisory Centre who will manage the small business fund for National Treasury.
7 Ingredients Of Small Business Success Online
Building your future requires equal measures of passion and hard work.
Building a small business online is scary. Big businesses can easily outspend you with PPC, SEO, SMM and inbound marketing campaigns.
However, smart startup founders grimly pass around business battles on the blogosphere, charging low prices for quality product, reversing their vision, failing to voice their opinion on their podcasts, showing contempt for our product, and disrespect for our craft.
And yet, look around at the World Wide Web jungle. It’s watered by the services offered by small businesses. The technology to produce product and convert customers exists because we create codes, design services, and write web pages, blog posts, and marketing materials that generate leads and close sales. And every 350-pound gorilla company uses our products or services to thrive.
If you’re a small online business owner, you can chicken out and quit when you face your competitor in the marketing arena, or you can choose something better. Because there is something better.
In the time since I began building my content marketing business online, I’ve noticed some mindsets, traits, and abilities that make the difference between businesses that want to accelerate their sales, make a profit, and survive, and businesses that want to sell more and increase their ROI but don’t seem to have the ability to do so.
Based on my observations, here are the seven most important things small businesses need to succeed online.
This might sound too simple, but if you’re a small business owner, you know what I mean.
There’s no substitute for the love you have for your products or services. There’s no substitute for the commitment of showing up every day. There’s no substitute for the excitement of receiving an order or for the burning desire to work extra hours, to reach your prospect, to ship an order, and to make more money.
If you don’t love entrepreneurship, your product or service, and the process of getting things done, none of the rest of this really means anything.
I could have just as easily dreamed of building another Moz, Kissmetrics, or Shopify, but I chose what I loved most. Whichever business idea you dream of, it’s about refusing to do it just for the money. It’s not only about making money; it’s about changing your customer’s life for the better.
If you want to achieve that, you have to dominate your industry. You have to be the go-to person for your products or services. Be super professional at your offerings so that your customers won’t want to leave you for your competitor.
2. Attitude of service
Making money can be a tempting proposition, pursued for the sake of your own interest of becoming rich and dominating the headlines.
However, as soon as the customer clicks to order your product – the vitamin C pills, the Smartphone cover, the SEO or PR services you sell – the product becomes the focus.
Professional founders work with an attitude of serving their customers great value, yes, serving them with beautiful, durable, quality products. They also work to provide excellent customer experiences that exceed their expectations, that gratify rather than aggravate, and that are born out of the genuine attitude of serving the buyer.
Successful consultants, bloggers, and content marketers all live in service to our clients. No matter how stunning or super sexy we may find an idea, if it doesn’t serve our client, out it goes.
Why? Because we have deep love and obsession for our customers.
3. Obsession for the customer
It has always struck me as odd that many of the most serious startup founders pay more attention to selling than to their customers.
It shouldn’t be that way. Customer obsession comes first. It’s like the engine that pumps cash into your corporate account. It comes from your company’s culture, value proposition, mission, and overall vision to change your customer’s world with your product or service.
Serious visionaries are obsessed with their customers. “If you’re truly obsessed about your customers,” Jeff Bezos, Amazon founder and CEO says. “It will cover a lot of your other mistakes.”
You can’t just sell your products. You can’t just sell your services. You can’t just advertise your brand.
You need to appeal to your customers first, because they are your buyers. And you can’t see a spike in your revenue unless you’re obsessive about charming them with your brand and building quality products that will ease their lives.
4. Obsession for quality
Many small-business owners imagine that if you have a great business idea and a great vision, you’re qualified to be called an entrepreneur.
Not so fast.
Successful CEOs and entrepreneurs are not just creative; they’re producers of quality products. They understand what type of products to create in the first place, based on the feedback they get from their customers.
They also understand that their products must solve their customers’ pain points. Their products must add value to their customers’ lives and must provide great experiences for them. You can learn more about how to build a solid product by looking at how great companies like Apple, Amazon, and Starbucks did it.
If you are obsessed with quality, you can incorporate what you learn from these companies into your business culture. Beyond your product or service, you can internalise quality packaging, simple usability, prompt responsiveness to customer queries, and even quality, compelling content on your company blog.
Because in today’s digitally driven marketing world, quality blog content is king. It’s crucial for your traffic, sales, and revenue.
5. Compelling content
You may have a brilliant idea. You may have gotten the perfect product/market fit. But, if you don’t devote yourself to the butt-in-chair time needed to produce a significant quantity of compelling content on your company blog, you won’t get where you want to go.
To a great degree, writing compelling content is a skill that can be cultivated. As a small business owner, you can devote some time to practice the art, ingrain writing into your schedule, and write every day to master the craft, or dig deep into freelance marketplaces to find a superb content creator.
Compelling content does more than just amuse your clients. Compelling content can change your life. After writing this viral post on this amazing platform, I received a dozen praises from readers across the globe. I also got a couple of writing gigs.
The blog post went viral not only because the story appealed to its intended audience, but also because the conversational tone and writing style are so engaging and entertaining … the reader feels compelled to share it.
Writing compelling posts has nothing to do with your degree, your experience, or whether or not you’re a native English speaker. It’s about how you make readers feel. That’s why every writer – just like every entrepreneur – must be creative, imaginative, and innovative.
Innovation is critical for your business growth for a number of reasons.
First, innovation develops customer value. Your customers are always in need of a product that will ease their lives, and once they get it, they move on to something else – something easier, newer, or simpler. As Steve Jobs put it, “You can’t just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them,” the Apple founder opined. “By the time you get it built, they’ll want something new.”
Second, innovation is vital for your traffic, sales, and revenue. New ideas, new products, and new stories are what always get the most attention. “The arrogance of success,” according to William Pollard, “is to think that what you did yesterday will be sufficient for tomorrow.”
Third, innovation-active businesses are more productive and generate more jobs than non-innovation-active businesses, according to a recent data by Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS).
But, building new products from your new ideas is risky. There’s a good chance that you’ll fail. Still, you must do it. You must double up on your experimentation. Bezos says, “If you double the number of experiments you do per year, you’re going to double your inventiveness.”
You’ll see wonders if you consistently innovate.
One of the tough things about growing a startup is that the path you walk is one you make yourself.
There’s no one to tell you how you should work, no one to tell you which direction to go, no one to tell you when to go for a break, no one to tell you when to work extra hours, and no one to tell you when to say no and when you need to be where.
That’s one of the fantastic things about running your own business. But, sometimes Fantastic is also Difficult. You might open your e-commerce shop today, work for an hour, check your email, and retreat for the day.
But, can you come back to do exactly the same thing tomorrow? Can you do it again the day after tomorrow, and again the day after that, and again, and again? Consistently?
That’s the difficult part. And that’s where many entrepreneurs are getting it all wrong. Building a thriving business is not about working for extra hours today and not working the next day.
It’s about doing the work that matters consistently. It’s about showing up every day. It’s about minimalism, not complexity.
So roll up your sleeves and keep working. “For the future,” as Paul Wellstone puts it, “belongs to those who are passionate and work hard.”
This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.
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