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Start-up Advice

4 Essential Steps To Start-Up Success

Starting a business can be a daunting process, which is why so many people never get around to actually doing it. But it needn’t be intimidating. All you need is a structured plan. Follow these four steps to get your business off the ground.

GG van Rooyen

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  1. Get an idea
  2. Find the money
  3. Set up shop
  4. Spread the word
  5. Marketing Bootcamp

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step,” said Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu. Unfortunately, the saying has been appropriated by so many self-help gurus and motivational posters that it doesn’t have much impact these days.

But it’s worth pausing a moment to ponder the statement, because it actually holds a lot of truth. Every great business you can think of started with that first step.

Sadly, though, not enough people take that first step. Starting a business is difficult and daunting, and more problematically, has no firm deadline. Very few people have someone looking over their shoulder forcing them to get a business started. So that great idea is never acted on. Starting their own business remains something they’ll do ‘one day’.

The best way to actually take that first step is not to think of launching a business as one (massive) project, but to instead break it down into more manageable goals. We’ve compiled a four-step plan to get your business off the ground. It starts, as you might expect, with finding an idea.

Related: 11 Uniquely South African Business Ideas


1Get an idea

business-idea

Finding a great idea can be both the easiest and the hardest part of launching your own business. It’s easy because you don’t need to spend any money on it. And when you strike on that amazing idea, it can be tremendously fun and rewarding. Also, thanks to the Internet, there’s no shortage of ideas. Inspiration is everywhere.

But finding the right idea can also be hard. There are so many options that it can all feel a bit overwhelming. Moreover, no idea is a guaranteed success, so you can never be quite sure if your ‘amazing’ idea is actually as good as you think it is. Doubt will almost always be gnawing at you.

When looking for an idea, many people would recommend ‘following your passion’. This can be good advice, but it doesn’t work for everyone. You might love to cook, but if you’re not bringing something new and innovative to the industry, your restaurant probably won’t make it.

Passion is great, but it’s not enough on its own. To really be successful, you need to solve a burning problem, and since most problems are already being solved these days, it often comes down to solving it more efficiently than someone else. 

If you have ideas, you have the main asset you need, and there isn’t any limit to what you can do with your business and your life. Ideas are any man’s greatest asset. – Harvey S. Firestone 

Related: A – Z Easy Small Business Ideas


2 Find the money

business-funding-advice

Thanks to all those over-funded unicorns in Silicon Valley, the global start-up culture has become obsessed with VC and angel funding. The reality, however, is that your business probably won’t get millions in funding.

Only a very, very small percentage of start-ups will ever see external investment. But that might not necessarily be a bad thing. As the quote by venture capitalist Fred Wilson suggests, loads of funding doesn’t guarantee success. In fact, it might actually be a bad thing.

Being able to throw money at every problem creates the wrong culture in a business. You want to get the fundamentals right and start showing positive cash flow as quickly as possible. You don’t want to scale quickly because you’ve got the money to do it, only to find out later that your business model doesn’t actually make sense.

The amount of money start-ups raise in their seed and series A rounds is inversely correlated with success. – Fred Wilson, Union Square Ventures

Related: (Directory) Start-Up Funding From Government Grants & Funds


3Set up shop

setting-up-a-business

Once you’ve launched a start-up, there are only two things you really need to do in the short-term: Maximise your income and limit your expenses. That means signing customers and selling goods, without burning through a ton of cash to do it.

The good news is that this is easier to do than ever. There are a lot of solutions out there — both digital and real-world — that can help you launch your business successfully. You just need to fight the temptation to lease swanky offices and buy expensive equipment, and commit to the cost-efficient way of doing things.

Also, you need to get the fundamentals right — from the very first day that you operate. You need to always be aware of the financial situation of your business. Neglect this early on, and you’ll pay the price down the line. 

Never take your eyes off the cash flow because it’s the life blood of business. – Richard Branson

Related: 5 Tips for Keeping Your Day Job While Launching Your Own Business


4 Spread the word

marketing-advice

There are only two ways to increase revenue: Increase the price of what you’re selling, or sell to more people. So, unless you want to try and up your prices (which is very risky), you need to increase your customer base. You do this through marketing.

Thankfully, marketing is easier than ever. Thanks to technology you can now market your business without having to spend money on expensive television or print campaigns. You can make a big impact, but you need to be smart about it. Your marketing budget can go a long way, provided you know how to utilise it.

This starts with knowing your customer. If you don’t truly understand your customer, you will struggle to make a success of your business. In an era when consumers are spoilt for choice, the companies that truly thrive are the ones that know their customers and have empathy for them.

Salesmanship is limitless. Our very living is selling. We are all sales people. – JC Penney

Know thy customer

Successful marketing starts with understanding your customer. If you don’t understand your customer, you don’t have much of a business.

“The number one reason why start-ups go under is a failure to understand the market,” says Dr Alex Antonides of Enterprises University of Pretoria. “For this reason, any and every business enterprise should start with customer discovery and development.”

Before you even think of selling anything, you need to discover if there’s a market for what you are offering. This means going out and speaking to potential customers.

In lean start-up parlance, this is called customer discovery, and it should form the foundation of any business venture.

If your business is already up and running, you have hopefully done the hard work of speaking to strangers and finding out if they’ll be willing to pay money for your product or service. However, customer discovery isn’t something that can be checked off a list — it is an ongoing exercise.

“I tell my students to go out to a mall and look at the things that people are spending money on,” says Antonides. “You have to know and understand what consumers want.”

Related: What Does Great Customer Service Actually Mean?

Only once you know what consumers want can you market your offering successfully. Empathy is a word that’s often used in Silicon Valley, but it’s not as popular here. That’s a shame, since the companies that achieve success in a highly competitive environment are the ones that have real empathy for the consumer. This means really engaging with customers about the problems they face, and the solutions they require.

It’s not about the ‘fast sell’. It’s about spending time (and money) to get to know the customer. It’s about creating a holistic picture of your potential customer, which includes even the things that are seemingly irrelevant to your industry. Once you’ve done this, you can create a successful marketing strategy.


5Marketing bootcamp

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Search for ‘marketing bootcamp’ on www.entrepreneur.com. You’ll find a wonderful collection of articles and other resources, which have been created in conjunction with the UPS Store. Regardless of your marketing question, you’ll find an answer here.

It’s all about content

Google and Facebook ads can offer a great ROI, but you still need to spend quite a bit of money in order to make it work. If you spend a small amount of money, very few people are going to see your digital ads, and since conversion rates are generally low, you probably won’t enjoy a lot of success.

When it comes to digital advertising, the old adage of ‘you need to spend money to make money’ is very true. There’s a certain tipping point at which digital ads start to make sense. Many small businesses spend thousands of rands on Google and Facebook ads every month. It’s worth it, though, because the business generated from new customers is worth more than the cost of the ads. But what if your cash flow is too tight to allow a huge marketing spend?

“Building a community as a brand that has little to no marketing budget isn’t easy — that’s why it is imperative to look at your content approach, especially on Facebook, as a storytelling opportunity. Who are the heroes and villains within your market, and how can you position your brand differently from its competitors?” says Mike Sharman of Retroviral Digital Communications.

“Developing remarkable content is the key to providing a launchpad or a platform from which to build fans. Facebook also has an algorithm that serves your content to a limited number of fans first and — based on the success of the engagement of this content — then distributes it to a wider audience,” says Sharman.

As ex-Google employee and angel investor Paul Buchheit has said: “Start out by making 100 users really happy, rather than a lot more users only a little happy.”

Related: 6 Inbound Marketing Tactics Every Business Should Use

Generating content can seem like a small way to market your business, but if that content is good and it makes a handful of prospective customers very happy, you’ll be surprised by the effect it can have. Great content says a lot about your business.

Of course, you’ll probably need to spend some money on marketing, but by experimenting a bit, you can make every cent work for you.

“If you are a brand/business page, you will need to spend on paid media, either via an agency or with your credit card. You know your product or service better than anyone else, so experiment by putting some money behind your posts to target first niche, and then broader audiences. Facebook spend shows what your expected reach and engagement will be as you scale your spend, and spread it out over several days,” says Sharman.

By paying attention to your campaign, you can stretch your budget surprisingly far. But it’s not a sit-back-and-watch kind of activity. You need to tweak and experiment constantly, until you find a strategy that really works.

GG van Rooyen is the deputy editor for Entrepreneur Magazine South Africa. Follow him on Twitter.

Start-up Advice

The Importance Of Being Organised For Your Start-up

If you are not convinced that it is an important aspect of owning a start-up, read on for reasons why being organised is important for your start-up.

Amy Galbraith

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So, you have decided to create a start-up. This is great news, especially if you have solid plans in place and have attainable business goals. However, if you are somewhat of a tidsoptimist or are disorganised, then your start-up could be something of a nightmare to begin with.

Being organised does not have to be difficult or take up too much time. But if you are not convinced that it is an important aspect of owning a start-up, read on for reasons why being organised is important for your start-up.

Schedules are crucial

Established business people understand how a schedule can significantly contribute to business success. You do not have to be at an executive level in order to follow an executive schedule, and setting one up for your start-up can work wonders for how your business grows.

You should take time on the weekends to plan out your week, writing down all obligations, meetings and tasks that you have to finish. Seeing your week written down in front of you will help you to stay on task and will make it easier for you to complete them on time.

Having a schedule is important, as you are the leader of your start-up and you need to stay organised and set an example for any staff you have.

Related: 4 Fundamentals To Successfully Jump-Start Your Start-up

It saves you time

Being organised saves you from rushing around, searching through paperwork to find that one invoice or bank statement. You can use business processing solutions to help you to capture and collect forms, as well as outsourced document collection to save you from having to chase clients for forms and documents.

You should invest in having a well-structured filing system, both in the office and digitally. Use neatly organised folders with clear and relevant names on them for all of your documents, bills and emails. By doing this, you can free up hours of the day to work on important tasks, such as drumming up more business through a new and exciting marketing strategy. You will also be setting an example for your team by having an organised office and computer.

Procrastination can be toxic

When tasks get put off due to disorganisation or procrastination, everyone fails. Not only will you feel bad for not completing a task on time but your clients and possible business partners will see you as unreliable, which is hugely damaging to any start-up. Many instances of procrastination can be linked to not being an organised business.

This is one of the major reasons why organisation in a start-up is essential. You will spend less time procrastinating and more time achieving goals and completing client tasks. Spend time every day organising your digital folders and your physical folders before you start working. This will ensure that there are no distractions throughout the day and you can complete all the important tasks on time and within budget.

Organisation keeps your employees on track

You cannot expect your employees to stick to their schedules and stay organised if the person at the top doesn’t do the same. As the leader of your start-up, you need to set an example for your staff, which means that you have to be the most organised person in the company. While it is important to ensure your employees follow suit, try not to be too overbearing about how they choose to organise their days.

By keeping your company organised, you will be better able to keep your employees on track, making it easier for them to finish tasks on time. This is because they will not be spending time searching for important documents that have been filed in the wrong folder (or not even filed at all) but rather focusing on completing tasks and building your profit as a company.

Related: How To Start Your Business With No Budget

You can improve customer service

By using organisation techniques, such as document processing solutions and an outsourced document collection service, you will be able to improve customer service. Problems with organisation can lead to a drop in customer service, which is highly detrimental to any start-up. Customer satisfaction is key to any return business, which is why you need to be organised.

If you have a poor billing system or are constantly losing invoices and important documents, soon your clients will move on to greener pastures (and more organised businesses). If you implement a strategy to become more organised, you will find your customer service improving. This will lead not only to return clients but to new business, as word-of-mouth travels about your professionalism and efficiency.

Keep ahead of the curve

As a start-up, you likely have a lot of competition in your industry. This means that you need to stay organised in order to keep ahead of the curve. By being more organised, you will be able to meet client briefs on time and keep to your schedule. Organisation is important for your start-up because it saves you time, stops you from procrastinating and keeps your employees on track. With improved customer service due to your efficiency, you will soon find your business growing in leaps and bounds.

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Start-up Advice

Want To Jump-Start Your Ecommerce Business? Try A Pop-up Shop

The first thing you need to know: A pop-up isn’t about stocking shelves and hoping people browse. It’s about attaining a ‘wow!’ status.

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Facebook talked a good game about its 3-D virtual-reality headset, Oculus Go, during the platform’s annual development conference, F8. Still, the social media behemoth knew that words alone couldn’t make anyone but early adopters fork over the dough.

Consequently, Mark Zuckerberg’s team made a bold, radical departure by opening an Oculus pop-up shop to showcase the company’s newest technology.

Interestingly, the Oculus pop-up was arranged, Foot Locker store-style, to give browsers the opportunity to try the device rather than instantly buy it. Sure, eMarketer predicts ecommerce will exceed the $4 trillion mark by 2020; but, as a Retail Dive survey showed, nearly two-thirds of consumers remain leery of this consumer channel. They want to physically experience merch before handing over their hard-earned cash.

Hence, Facebook gambled, not on its core platform but on the expectation that die-hard, wannabe Facebook and VR fanatics would share their experiences on social platforms, bringing awareness, hype and, eventually, sales, to an emerging product.

Not surprisingly, that was, and is, one smart bet.

We’ve come a long way, baby, but smell-o-vision still isn’t available

What makes a temporary pop-up store such a powerful differentiator? In a nutshell, it’s tactile products. Forget that people are buying stuff online; they still appreciate a solid in-person demo. Plus, a well-managed pop-up is an intriguing prospect: No basic retailer can match the energy, intensity or uniqueness of a fleeting pop-up that’s literally here today, gone tomorrow.

Besides, pop-ups make odd or brow-furrowing products easier to understand. For example: A beeswax alternative to Saran Wrap? It’s tough to envision that product’s inherent value unless you see it in action and get answers to your questions, face to face from an expert.

Ultimately, pop-up stores raise brand awareness and generate loyalty. At the same time, they aren’t the place to make sales – they’re marketing events engaging brand loyalists who love the company’s message and want to interact. Sure, new influencers are bound to stumble upon pop-ups, too, but the truest emotional connections come from people already knowledgeable about the product line.

For example, a Harry’s pop-up shop’s purpose wouldn’t be to introduce guys to its razors. How many would care? Even more important, why would they switch? The pop-up, instead, would be to magnify Harry’s branding by creating an experience for people curious about why they should use its products.

Related: Watch List: 15 SA eCommerce Entrepreneurs Who Have Built Successful Online Businesses

An ideal Harry’s pop-up would offer haircuts, shaves, hipster drinks and other memorable experiences. After getting the best shaves of their lives, super-fans would head online and do some organic referral work to spread the brand’s message.

In response, people who trust those influencers would head out to the pop-up sooner rather than later, worried they’d miss the fleeting chance to see the fuss. Their actions would be all-too-human, according to Shopify: Individuals routinely flock to scarce, novel opportunities. The reason: FOMO is a powerful force.

Eager to get started on your own pop-up adventure? One that gets tongues wagging and fingers swiping? Before you pitch a pop-up tent on the corner green next week, pull in the reins. Pop-up shops require some serious forethought and planning.

1. Choose a location that caters to your audience

When our company put up The Nest pop-up to showcase many of our clients’ brands, we picked a place where our target personas hung out: Abbot Kinney Boulevard, in Venice, Calif. It’s known nationally as one of the country’s most expensive retail streets, putting us in front of the sophisticated, high-end community our brands serve.

After picking the locale, we used the pop-up to highlight a series of rotating brands. At the same time, we kept the atmosphere fun by serving healthy vegan popsicles, playing great music and consistently engaging with visitors. The idea was to create a complete experience from beginning to end, catering solely to the people we wanted to impress.

Your pop-up should be similarly based on your ideal visitors’ profile, whether that might mean a twentysomething socialite or a hip baby boomer. When you know your audience, you can arrange a locale that fits. From that point, you should create landing pages and send emails to your hottest buyers. Take advantage of organic shares and ad-targeting, along with Facebook event-creation and retargeting. Your goal? Pack your launch party (and every day thereafter) with eager faces.

2. Ditch anything that doesn’t elicit a “wow!”

Say it with me: “experiential.” That’s the pop-up mantra. Your only job is to provide a huge, memorable experience. Forget about stocking shelves and hoping people browse – this isn’t How to Run a Lame Mall Kiosk 101.

For instance, when Target set up CityTarget, its Chicago Millennium Park pop-up, the store wasn’t like a typical suburban big box store: Instead, it offered commuters special CityTarget coffee and a few tchotchkes. One morning, CityTarget even set up a spin class. Another day, kids created CityTarget-logo-ed kites from scratch. Its final event? A launch for the full-store version of CityTarget for VIGs, or “very important guests.”

To attain “wow” status, map out every second of the pop-up flow (from the amplified, hyped launch party to the fireworks-inducing last moment). Keep the momentum going with live day events: Workshops, speakers and guest appearances keep the days hopping. Oh, and don’t forget to have a dedicated iPad to capture visitors’ emails and send instant welcome drips.

Related: 6 Steps To Building A Million-Dollar Ecommerce Site In 60 Days

3. Follow up after the pop-up becomes a memory

Pop-ups are temporary, but impressions are lasting if you re-engage your guests. The Nest lasted three months, and it wasn’t a profitable up-front endeavour. However, we set out to monetise it later by treating it as a marketing exercise to broaden our clients’ brand scopes and widths. By following up, we ultimately made money down the line.

Of course, some pop-ups buck this trend. Toms Shoes is a great example: It started as a fleeting project and ended up becoming a permanent hangout spot in Abbot Kinney. People hang out, work, drink coffee and occasionally buy Toms merch. Still, don’t rely on an immediate profit. The Marc Jacobs pop-up dedicated to its Daisy fragrance sure didn’t. To the contrary, it allowed people to use “social currency” in the form of #MJDaisyChain on Instagram and Twitter.

The way to make money is by taking the valuable connections you make and turning them into evangelists. Reach out via email and thank those who shared social photos. Then, send out coupons to anyone who missed your pop-up.

You don’t have to be Facebook or Target to get significant foot traffic and loyalist love from a pop-up store. All you need is the right location, a solid planning team and a strong after-event marketing plan. Now get out there and make some brag-worthy experiences for your target audience.

Read next: 3 Types Of Ecommerce Business Models

This article was originally posted here on Entrepreneur.com.

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Start-up Advice

5 Actionable Tips For Novice Entrepreneurs To Skyrocket Their Business

Just follow these tips and your business will certainly go a long way.

Neil Helson

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Trying to curate a listicle of suggestions that can be given to any newcomer in the entrepreneurial world is really a task. Even if there are already more than five or ten pointers in the list, they don’t seem to be enough. Myriad of changes can occur in a businessman’s journey from a startup to an entrepreneur. Still, here are some effective tips for you to get a strong foundation on which you can build a flourishing organization.

Just mix and match these ideas with your own thoughts. Finally, you will be able to overcome the obstacles that will come in your path of becoming a successful businessman.

1. Build a culture of learning around you

The businessmen who’ve already established themselves, understand that there will be loopholes in their knowledge and expertise. They never cultivate the feeling of self-content. Rather, they make sure to alleviate with a perfect commitment towards learning.

So, if you want to earn the same reputation and degree of stability in business, you must follow in their footsteps. One of the best approaches to do that could be investing in professional development training for the entire company. Try to make the most out of the resources around you like industry publications, professional network and so on.

Related: How To Start A Business With No Money

2. Co-operate with reliable partners

New business owners should never hesitate to choose who they want to work with or hire. If you are one amongst them, aim for a variation in your stakeholders and clients across different levels.

Wait! You are not supposed to look for a racial and gender diversity. Rather, it is all about a miscellany of experiences and backgrounds. You must work with reliable people.

3. Be constantly focused

You might be eager to grab every opportunity that you come across. Well, that’s not something you should be doing as a new entry in the business world. Be careful and always make sure that you are not losing track. If you end up juggling hundreds of ventures during the initial period, it will spread you thin. Finally, you will lose your efficacy and productiveness. Make a rule to deal with one thing perfectly rather than trying to manage twenty things poorly.

Wait! It doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t take up new projects. Of course, you must. All you need to take care of is the number of new works in your hand shouldn’t exceed your capability to accomplish them perfectly.

Related: 21 Steps To Start-Up Success

4. Work with a budget-friendly approach

Remember, you’ve started with a new thought amid millions of other ideas which are going strong for years. It is important for you to act strategically and smartly, especially when it comes to financing. You must create a business proposal which includes all the startup costs and expenses. However, make sure that you are not taking the first step with redundant expenses.

You must be clear with the idea of when it is the right time to throw the towel. Too much cash outflow can even cause bankruptcy. Before you open the doors to a new business, generating financial goals is a great idea. If you follow this tip, you will certainly be benefited.

5. Welcome failure with open hands

Of course, you’ve not gone into the business while expecting to fail, yet failure is a fact of life and every single one of us must bear it. There is no way to combat this reality.

In such a scenario, you must do what the biggest business tycoons have already done for years. Take every failure as a desired learning opportunity. It is pivotal to understand that setbacks bring a positive energy to fight back with a new enthusiasm. If everything goes on perfectly, you will not get a chance to learn something new and have new experiences. So, failure is important, make sure you to embrace it.

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