Are you thinking of starting your own business? Why wait? Get started now, taking advantage of all the opportunities in the industry. There are a few ways to make sure your small business is a success from the start.
How to start
Be clear about what your goal is. If you want to make a certain amount of profit each year, write that down and work steadily towards your target amount. If you want to be able to do good in the community, lay out what charitable works you want to be able to fund, and begin to work towards that. Having clarity in your business, right from the start, will help you to lay out and achieve measurable successes.
Plan ahead. It is no good thinking that you will deal with things that crop up as they arise: often this is too late to head off problems. Try to consider the drawbacks and advantages of each step that you take and plan accordingly. This can be something simple like knowing when to place your order so that the stock arrives in good time before you run out, or something a bit more complex like forecasting your budget up to five years in the future. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, the saying goes, and this translates, in business, to 'an ounce of planning is worth a pound of panicky rushing'!
It is key to know the difference between B2C and B2B. Whenever possible deal directly with the end user of your product. Not only does this mean a good price for them while ensuring a decent profit for you – no middleman whisking off the cream for himself – but it means that you will meet and deal with the people who will be using your product themselves. Businesses that deal directly with end-user customers, rather than selling to impersonal businesses that will sell the products on, can find that they have a more intimate and friendly relationship with those customers. This is great for job satisfaction for you and your sales team.
How to succeed
Any business relies on marketing. If people do not know about your product, they cannot buy it. Marketing can be informal and local – a shout-out at the bingo or a stall at the local market with a hand-lettered sign, or it take the form of a formal (and rather expensive) advertising campaign run on television, in newspapers and online. Whichever type of marketing you opt for should match your aims: if you want to grow your company and extend your reach as far as possible, then you should opt for investing fairly heavily in a marketing campaign; having ensured that your company is robust enough to withstand the sudden growth should the campaign be successful!
New customers are the driving force behind any company's growth, and you should constantly be looking for ways to attract new users to your services and products. Expand outward from your physical base, extending your offering into neighbouring towns around your premises, and then, once those areas are saturated, venture further afield again. With online shopping, it can be harder to define your base, but you can set geographic bars beyond which you cannot or will not sell. For example, you could start off only sending items to mainland United Kingdom address, then expand to island territories. Following that, you could venture into the European Union, and finally, open up to the rest of the world, should your sales be strong enough to support such a move, which would require taking on new staff, learning new regulations and being compliant with the customs and trade laws in each of the new countries with whom you want to trade.
But while you should absolutely keep up the impetus as regards gaining new customers to swell your income base, you should never forget your old customers. Loyalty schemes do not have to cost you a lot: they can be something as simple as an email or a card on their birthday, for the cost of a few pence, but the goodwill such acts can engender will last for a long time, ensuring that you are their first port of call when they need new items. Of course, you can install programs like loyalty cards, where each purchase earns points that can add up to a significant reward or sizable discount, or a scheme where the tenth, fifteenth or 20th item purchased is free to frequent customers. There are many such schemes about and you are sure to easily find one to suit your company's structure.
So if you are considering getting started in business, what is holding you back? Think it through and make sure you have considered all the eventualities. Then take the plunge: you will always regret it if you do not try!