Ten Essential Steps to Start a Successful Business
Starting and launching a new business or expanding an existing one can be very exciting but there are a lot of minefields along the way. We want to be successful, whatever that means to each of us. But, there are common challenges to all new and expanding businesses, whether we’re taking our first step into the unknown or if we’ve made that leap a dozen times before. So, what does it take to minimize the risk and avoid the traps that can sink a new business?
Create a good plan and follow these 10 steps.
Sure there are a lot of us who have ventured forth without a plan and may even have stumbled into some success without one.
But what happens more often when we jump into a business venture or expansion without a solid plan in place? We end up in frustration, overwhelm and isolation, becoming slaves to our business, constantly reacting, never really knowing which way we’re going, while trying to keep the doors open and our head above water. On those days, that old job and salary start to look really good. All we really wanted was a successful business that would bring us more freedom. Often it looks like we got just the opposite.
So let’s minimize those days by planning and following these ten steps:
1. Establish A Vision and Mission
The first step in creating an effective business expansion is to establish a vision and mission. Why are we starting this business? What is the vision that we must fulfill in order for our life to have meaning? As we go through the motions – the daily grind, the financial worries, attending the needs of the business – without knowing the vision, we can easily forget why we did this in the first place. With a clearly defined vision and mission, we can stay the course and keep moving forward when the road gets challenging. It’s the cornerstone of any successful venture.
2. Identify the Business Purpose
Next, we need to determine what the business is going to do. How is it going to help its clients or customers? How is it going to serve the world? What problem are we going to solve? How does this business help you achieve your life goals?
We craft the business around a purpose that will, hopefully, create our ideal life, so it better be worth it. Aim high!
3. Clearly Define the Products and Services
What services are we providing? What are our products? Who are our clients/customers? We have to get very specific here. With so many moving parts to creating and introducing a new product to the market, the process can get overwhelming. Knowing the answers to these questions gives us much-needed focus and direction.
4. Identify the Target Market
We want to believe that everybody can benefit from our products and services. In reality, we need to be specific about who we are trying to sell to. As the well-known adage goes, “If you try to create a product for everyone, you end up creating a product for no one.”
If we’ve done our homework, then we know that there are people who need what we are offering. It is those people that we need to keep in mind every step of the way as we launch our business.
5. Define the Competitive Edge
Unless we’re truly creating something that’s never been done before, there will be competitors out there. We should not venture forth without knowing what sets us apart from the competition and how what we offer is better for our customers.
We need to study our competition well and then distinguish ourselves from them to attract our target market.
6. Create and Understand Your Financial Structures
Dealing with and keeping track of money is something many of us are loathe to do. Yet, the numbers tell the whole story in any business. Many of us can feel so intimidated by the task that we don’t bother with the financial pre-planning and simply voyage headfirst into the fray without benchmarks or measuring sticks to know what we need and whether it’s ever enough, what’s working at any given moment in time.
Avoid disaster. Organize your books, create a budget, project future revenues realistically (conservatively) and build your models for the timing of these to come in. How much do we need and by when? Where will the money come from? How will we dole it out to make the most of what we have? Get help if you need to, but make sure you understand everything that about the financial structures you and your team put in place. Not paying attention will almost certainly cost you a fortune in ways unforeseen.
7. Find the Money
For most of us, there is not a huge pile of money lying around for our launch. We have to work to find that money from somewhere. Whether it’s investors, lenders, credit lines, borrowing against our savings or retirement funds, we need a source of money to get our business launched and keep it running until it can support itself. And just how long will that take? We need to know how much we need and for how long before we know what to ask for. Take good care of this part of your business – be thoughtful and thorough, and make sure it gets what it needs. You will be glad you did!
8. Gather the Best Players for Your Team
When we first take the leap, we entrepreneurs are often alone, inspired by our passions, full of energy, sure we can “do it all”. Suddenly, we’re wearing all the hats – owner, manager, sales, marketing, customer service, bookkeeper, and janitor.
This is not a structure that will get you past entry level and, even worse, it is a recipe for failure of purpose. If you really want to achieve freedom, financial or otherwise, there will come a point early on where you need a team of people that can free you to grow the business. Find quality people with the skills and strengths to step into those necessary roles. Make sure you have good systems and tools in your selection process. Take the time you need to choose well, which means, of course, plan ahead! Don’t get caught hiring for the emergencies.
9. Develop Marketing Strategies
We can have the most amazing product in the world, but if no one knows about it, how is it going to sell? We need to have a solid marketing strategy that tells the right people how our offering is going to meet their needs.
Today, with so much noise in the marketplace, including social media, we have to get really refined. By knowing who we are aiming for, along with a solid plan and budget, we can reach the people who need what we offer. Use your strategy to find out where they are, how they are going to find us, when they need what we have to offer. With constant tracking and measuring, we know what is working, what each customer costs, and how to make good decisions to move forward.
10. Have an Exit Strategy
As Steven Covey says, “Begin with the end in mind”. With our vision, mission and purpose in hand, we can chart the journey to our destination.
With a clear exit strategy, we know what needs to be in place, what will get us “there” and where “there”, is when we arrive.
As entrepreneurs, we are able, willing, and ready to take the leap, to reach for our goals, and turn our vision into reality. Just follow the steps.