The curtain is coming down on 2021 and we can definitely say it has been interesting. The boom in online sales that began in 2020 continued, inspiring thousands of entrepreneurs to launch their own businesses.
If you’re thinking of joining them but aren’t quite sure where to start, or if you’re already up and running but want to add a new revenue stream, grab a cuppa and settle back with our 12-step guide to launching a business.
1 Start at the beginning
First things first, let’s begin with a few fundamental questions, the answers to which will depend on whether you’re ready to make the leap to becoming a business owner.
- Why do you want to start a business?
- Have you invented a must-have product?
- Can you offer an irreplaceable service?
- Do you understand what it will involve?
If the responses to all those questions are positive, then you’re ready to take the next step.
2 What’s the big idea?
If you’ve made something you think people will love, or can offer a service that will make their lives easier or better, then good for you!
If you’re not quite at that stage yet, think about a problem that nags at you and whether you can solve it, or if you have skills that can be applied to a completely different sector. Alternatively, can you offer a faster and cheaper service or product than an established business?
3 Read all about it
No matter what your business is about, taking the time to carry out research about it is crucial to its future success. Cast your net as wide as possible, and put your social media to use with polls and questions.
If yours is a niche product or service, you have to know if there’s a market for what you’re offering. Likewise, is your local area flooded with similar businesses? A little competition can be good for sales, but if you’re another fish in an already crowded pond, it will be hard to differentiate and thrive.
4 It’s good to talk
An important part of your research is talking to potential customers and getting feedback from them. That way, particularly if you’re planning to sell a product, you can find out if there’s an appetite for a prototype, then experiment and find the very best, most popular version to market.
Be aware that not everyone is going to have positive things to say, so try to use all comments in a constructive and positive way. Look for patterns in the responses, and don’t be afraid to ask follow-up questions to get you as close as possible to a product or service that will earn revenues.
5 Let’s make it legal
Unless you’re in the profession, there aren’t many people who get excited about all the red tape associated with launching a new business – though when it’s all done and the ink’s dry there’s no feeling quite like it.
Make a list of all the necessary steps you need to follow to set up your business, including tax brackets and sorting out the company bank account. It’s as well to have a lawyer handy to make sure all the ‘i’s are dotted and ‘t’s are crossed.
6 Time to plan
A lot of your business plan will be determined by the product or service you’re offering and the sort of consumer you’re looking to target, and your early-stage research will provide strong foundations for this. But now it’s time to sit down and formalise things. Your business plan should include the following:
- Your business name on the title page – which can be trickier than you think
- An executive summary: a comprehensive round-up of what your plan includes, a company description, the problem you’re seeking to solve and how
- A business description: what industry are you entering and what are its prospects?
- Market strategies: who is your target market and why are you best positioned for it?
- Competitive analysis: who are your rivals and how can you beat them?
- Plan for design and development plan: what are you offering and what is its lifespan?
- Operations and management: how will your business work day-to-day?
- Finance: how are you finding the business, where is that money coming from?
Don’t forget your business plan isn’t cast in stone, it will change and evolve as the company responds to market trends or shifts in direction.
7 Loosen the purse strings
Having a great idea and a market ripe for the tapping are all very well and good, but even the simplest, smallest start-up needs some capital to get going. If you’re unable to self-fund, there are other options.
You can apply for government funding, crowdfund online, approach angel investors or join an incubator or accelerator. If demand from one particular sector or customer is strong enough, you may be able to reach a strategic partnership deal.
8 Bring the idea to life
Whether you’re developing an app that will make entrepreneurs weep with joy or the next big toy trend at Christmas, the moment your idea moves from the intangible to something you can hold in your hand is unforgettable.
That said, product development can be fraught with pitfalls, so brace yourself for a steep learning curve. Hire specialists at this stage, rather than focusing on one or two generalists, and always, always retain control over your product at every stage.
9 Need a team? We’re on hand
Up to this point, if you’re a solo entrepreneur you’ve probably been burning the candle at both ends trying to get things done, while a bigger business that is launching a new revenue stream could be in need of an extra hand or two.
That’s where we come in. For newcomers, help create and build your social media presence, and boost your marketing without breaking the bank. If you’re an established business, we can apply our range of professional skills, such as taking care of all the day-to-day emails or diary management, while you focus on the launch.
10 Location, location, location
So many small businesses start in back bedrooms or at kitchen tables – and we’re proud champions of that entrepreneurial spirit! But for specialist operators, you may need formal premises or even a factory site.
Make sure your business premises works for you – there’s no point in opening a boutique store where there’s near-zero footfall. Likewise, if you must have separate premises, find out whether utilities are included in the rental lease, and make sure the terms are suitable – don’t get tied to a long-term lease if it’s not worth it.
11 Time to start selling
All your planning will tell you where and when you ought to be selling, now’s the moment to go live. Make sure you listen to what your customers say if and when they buy, and it can be tempting to be a bit pushy, especially if you’re a newbie entrepreneur, but be patient.
We can help with any social media marketing or holding the fort while a new business line is established, so you can grow your customer base and adjust your sales funnel as required.
12 Go, go, grow!
Now the real work begins! Post-launch, you’re now into the thrill-ride of maintaining and growing sales. That means paying attention to who is buying your product, why and vice versa.
There will be so much data to analyse, so make use of those digital tools provided by social media platforms and who knows, it may even point you in the direction of more interesting revenue streams.
If you want expert help while you launch a new business or revenue stream, contact us and we’ll ensure everything goes to plan. Virtual Assistant Whiz offers vital admin support on an ad-hoc or regular basis. Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org and let’s find out what we can do for you.