People start their own businesses for all sorts of reasons; it might be something that they love doing that is a side project, it can be a lifestyle business that gives them an income which covers outgoings, it can be a means to solving a problem in an existing category….or a brand new idea that no one has seen before.
Whatever your motivation, when it comes to having a business that you want to be running on a longer-term basis then there are key things that you need to take into account before launching.
- Make sure your idea is unique
Either be the first or the best…. There is no point in being a me too, so you either need to be the first person doing it or be doing it better. We started our business because we really didn’t like any of the other bars out there, and we honestly still think that ours are the best out there (and our high levels of consumption proves that!). It doesn’t always have to be ground-breaking, you could be the only person who makes homemade cakes in a 10 mile radius of where you live, or the only scarf business that uses a certain technique of knitting. But being clear about this from the start will really help others (particularly your conusmers and ‘cheerleaders’) believe in you.
- Do you believe your ‘why’?
It’s so important to establish what your business stands for, even if it’s just a small business that you do as a hobby, it’ll help consumers buy into you as a brand and want to be a part of your journey. E.g. even if you are baking beautiful cakes because you want to provide local people with cakes that are made with love, or scarfs that are being knitted with a special kind of wool or technique, if you establish why you are doing it then it’ll make it more likely that you’ll stick with it. There is a well-known Ted talkall about the ‘why’ which is very ‘big business’ focused but it’s very interesting and will give anyone with an idea for a business some food for thought.
- Map out your journey and goals
This will change but if you understand your goals you will subconsciously work towards them, it’s important to be realistic about personal goals too e.g. your family etc as you will need to take this into account from a financial perspective. Again, even if you are doing this as hobby, then it might be that you sell 50 cakes a year and you get to make your best friends’ wedding cake, or if could be that you launch your clothing brand into Selfridges by the end of year two. It really helps to focus and motivate you as running a business even as a hobby takes a lot of time and dedication and can help you understand if it really is something you want to embark on.
- Make sure you have cheerleaders
Running your own business can be hard, so you’ll need to make sure you have honest and supportive family and or friends. Your friends and family will also be your biggest advocates and will want to tell people about your business and help, so by keeping them interested and in the loop they will have more motivation to help you succeed. It’s also important that those who might be directly affected by the business are fully on board, for example, if you are quitting your job and taking a lower salary your partner may need to take on more financial responsibility, or if you’re doing it on the side of your full-time job and will have less time to see your friends for a while then they will understand and not feel hard-done-by.
- What skills do you have? Do you have a co-founder? What do you need to outsource?
Most people who start their own business will be doing everything at first, especially if you want to retain the control and not have to raise money early on whilst you are still establishing your idea and getting feedback. Google is the obvious place for finding how to do new things, and there are fantastic tools such as accounting platforms to help you with your organisation and planning. If you decide to bring on a co-founder then identify the experience and skills that you would like that person to bring (i.e. things you don’t have). We were lucky because although we both have the same goals for our business, we have very different skill sets and approaches to tasks which work really well together.
We would also really recommend outsourcing as you’re not then accumulating responsibility of management and any other HR matters….by handing over tasks to an existing team, you can also dial up their workload where and when you need it.
- Test the idea
No doubt you think it’s a brilliant idea and sure that lots of people think so too, but do you know whether it fulfills what you want it to do. You may not be in it for the money but if you want to reach a lot of people then you need to make sure you’re aware of the size of the market. You can also research this via quick survey tools (survey monkey is great), you can read existing articles about trends, monitor what is happening and talk to as many people as possible. If you have a social media presence or even your own personal following you can also use this as a platform to gether feedback. No feedback is bad, even if it’s what you already knew….at least it’s reassurance that you’re doing the right thing. And if it’s the opposite then rather than be disheartened you can take it and reshape your plans.
- Find the most affordable way to start
…And take as little risk with initial investments as possible. This one is hard to advise on as there are so many different types of business, but for us we both freelanced whilst we established our brand, production and routes to market, then once we were confident we would be generating turnover we both went full-time. We built really good relationships with our suppliers who were fully on board with what we wanted to do, our goals and our brand in general so they lowered their minimum orders and we were able to put in a small amount of savings each to fund smaller production runs where we were able to negotiate manageable payment terms. Because of the way in which we started these relationships we still work with our original suppliers and have all benefitted as we’ve grown as a business.
- Assess any risks
What is the worst case scenario? For us, it was the investment we made were time and money into production – worst case we could sell our stock and go back to the jobs we were doing before. Even at this stage nearly 4 years in, we still talk worst case scenario and we wouldn’t have any regrets because we have learnt so much and still believe we would benefit from the huge experience we have gained.
- Take a chance
Our last two points have advised caution, but ultimately starting a business that isn’t already proven is taking a chance! And it’s one that has to be taken in order for a business to become a business…..it’s scary but very exciting and if you’ve done all of the above then you will hopefully feel very positive about taking this chance!
- Believe and keep shouting from the rooftops
If you believe in your business then others will too! There are a lot of people out there and if you truly believe in what you are doing and always tell people why you’re doing it, then it’ll take time and effort, but you will get there. Expectations sometimes have to be re-evaluated, but at the same time, things that you didn’t