Most entrepreneurs go it alone because it is difficult to work for somebody else, and everyone thinks they earn all the money when they’re the boss right? Well yes, but at the start that isn’t always more than zero, it certainly wasn’t for me. There are some things that you will need to know and although mistakes will be made, the fewer the better! That’s where I hope to be of use and guide you through some of the challenges I faced.
Hopefully, you have been inspired by an idea. Either there is a product or service that is on trend (like pulled pork rolls, avocado on toast, or fancy coffee beans), or you have an idea that is a solution for a common problem. If this is the case, then good because you will have the first key thing to making it alone, motivation.
The second thing you need to have is a business structure. You could be experienced and the top of your field, in which case that’s a great reason to act as a sole trader. If you don’t have the expertise that is also not an issue, Steve Jobs didn’t. But this does mean that if you use someone that does you may need to either pay for their assistance or register as a partnership.
Business Plan – essential if borrowing money from bank or investors
The part that a lot of businesses mistakenly miss out is a business plan. Myself included, I started and then found I need to get something together to develop a strategy. Having targets to aim for will often get you there a lot quicker, rather than bouncing off walls until you get there.
A business plan is non-negotiable though if you require a capital loan from a bank or capital from investors. They will need to know that their money is in safe hands, so it is vital to be clear in your plan. We’ve all seen budding entrepreneurs falter in Dragons Den, and although an exaggerated process for TV, it emphasises the need to have a solid plan that you know better than your mother’s birthday. Included finances, projections and forecasts, areas of growth and don’t forget to mention any exterior help that you may need. Take for example, you decide to move to the northern powerhouse and you want to invest in a commercial space. You’ll need to employ the services of commercial property agents in Manchester to help you sort out a space. This will come at a cost so you need to appropriately plan ahead for such fees.
Get an accountant or financial advisor
This might be the most important. While a lot of business owners are very good at making money, managing it is not so simple. Staying above the bottom line can be stressful, but more so is paying taxes and making sure you have the correct cover.
The cover that you require as a business can depend on the type of trader that you are. For example, a freelancer will require freelance insurance, and a company that has property or employees will require public liability insurance.
It is also important to know when you are required to pay VAT or if you are eligible for a business rates appeal. All should be covered by an accountant who has the expertise. I went years without one, and I lost a lot of money in the process, not to mention the sleepless nights.
A company’s branding is the most important piece of marketing, as the brand is what customers will build a relationship with. Because of its importance, it is highly beneficial to do significant market research before designing your brand. Here is where business intelligence software can come into play by helping you identify competitors, improve your decision making, and find a target audience. A good idea is to look at the branding of companies you like, why do you like it? Also, research competitors, why does their branding work or how can it be improved?
Do some primary research; send out questionnaires, ask online forums, or small focus groups. Ensure that they are related to your customer demographic though, as your family isn’t likely to give you the most constructive advice.
Once you have decided on a brief for your brand design, contact specialist designers who can create a logo or advertising material.
A unique selling point (USP) is what will separate you from competition. It can be part of the design, distribution, locality, or even simply pricing. Pricing is very important and here are plenty of strategies. Just remember that it isn’t always best to be cheaper than your competitors. If you can provide something different then sometimes a certain cliental will be willing to pay more for exclusivity or extras.
Intellectual Property Law
Once you have your USP, you will need to protect it against your competition from copying it. The most common form of protection is a patent, which is a copyright of a design. Patents are complicated and will be restricted to certain countries. If your market is worldwide, then you will need to apply for multiple patents.
It is also a good idea for anybody you work with to sign a confidentiality agreement, so that design and production secrets aren’t leaked to competitors.
Another step into marketing is designing a web site or using social media platforms to promote your product. This is a huge topic so I will try to be brief. There are many uses to having an online presence, whether it is for e-commerce, or to promote your products or services. More and more consumers are using the internet in the buying process, so it is essential you are seen.
Social media has also become very popular for businesses to interact with their customers. For example, I have used Facebook’s advertisements to target my key demographic with sponsored posts. There is also the chance to blog and become a key voice within your chosen industry.