If you have decided to launch your startup this year, it will have been with a great deal of excitement, but hopefully also some trepidation. It has been estimated that around half fold in their first year. Rather than filling you with fear, this should tell you that you need to come up with ways to stay ahead of your rivals, and the only way you are going to do this is to come up with a solid plan.
Obviously, writing a business plan should be right up near the top of your list of priorities, but the question remains: what else should I prioritise in my first year of business. With so many plates to keep spinning, it can be an intimidating prospect to work out exactly what you are going to put first. So, let’s have a look at the top priorities for your startup to ensure that you in the half that makes it beyond the first year!
Build Up Your Business Culture and Reputation
Unless you have had some sort of business experience in the past or have a strong network of contacts already, you will be going into the market as a completely untried and untested commodity. While you can’t impress customers with your years of experience, you can show off your drive and enthusiasm. Unlike many larger companies, you will be able to focus more of your attention on the clients that you do have. You need to be proactive to show that you are always willing to go that extra mile for them, and that you have a forward-thinking and innovative approach to business. Once you have a few satisfied clients, it is much easier to get the ball rolling as they can support you by giving you positive testimonials.
If and when you get to the stage where you are starting to employ people, the culture and reputation of your business will play a big role in this. Remember, it is important to lay the groundwork early on as the bigger your business gets, the more difficult it becomes to control all the decisions that are made.
Use Your Business Plan as a Guide
We mentioned your business plan at the start, but there is no point having it unless you are going to refer back to it to ensure you are heading along the right path. But also don’t be afraid to make adjustments as you go along. The actual practical steps to setting up a business often vary vastly from what you imagined it would be like. It is important that you continue to set both short and long-term goals for your business on a regular basis. Without having targets to work towards, you may end up moving along without any direction. Try to set some time aside every day to analyse what you have done for your business. Be completely honest with yourself and you will be in a much stronger position to work out of there is anything that you should be doing differently
Get Your Website Off the Ground
The website has become the modern shop window and it is absolutely essential that you take the time to get everything spot on. Most new businesses choose to employ the support of a developer or agency like www.rouge-media.com to get their site up and running. While it is a good idea to call in the professionals, you should make sure to give them a very detailed brief so that everything works out as expected.
Start by thinking about the central aim of your website; is it to sell products, entertain people or draw new clients to your business? Next, you need to think about how to get your core messages across very quickly. People tend to be quite ruthless with their time online, so unless you are able to capture and hold their attention within a few seconds, they are likely to go elsewhere. Make sure the site is easy to navigate around, and intersperse informative written content with imagery and videos. It is also hugely important that search engine optimisation (SEO) is a priority on your site. Search engines are where people will discover your business in the first place so you need to think about how you will be climbing up the rankings. Ensure that you update your website with fresh content on a regular basis to stop it looking stagnant.
Talk to Everyone About Your Business
In your first year of business, you need to become like a stuck record promoting your company to anyone and everyone you can get your hands on. Yes, your friends may want to strangle you, but you never know where your next business lead is coming from. If your business is stuck in their minds as well, they may go on to tell their friends about it, who then go on to tell their friends about it, and so on and so on! Despite living in a highly digitised world, don’t underestimate the power of good, old-fashioned word-of-mouth.
Try to find networking events and attend as many of them as you possibly can, always carrying plenty of business cards as well as any other marketing materials you decide to have created. Business is all about the long-term connections you make, and the ones you develop in that first year could end up lasting you for the lifespan of your company. You should also try to pick up coverage about your business from the press by sending out press releases. Even if you are not a PR wizard, it can’t do you any harm to keep getting your company name out there in any publications you can.
Watch Your Spending
You should have done plenty of calculations before launching your business in the first place, but a common mistake that a lot of startup owners make is to not keep track of their finances so everything spirals out of control. This is especially important if you have needed to obtain a whole load of outside funding to get your business off the ground in the first place. While you often have to be ruthless with how you are spending your time when running a business, your finances are never something that should be sidelined. Many people choose to outsource this area of the business to an accountant or other financial expert. As well as keeping your books in order, they can also provide you with expert advice so you know if there are any areas you could be making savings.
Work Out What to Outsource
We have already talked about outsourcing your financial needs to an outside company, but it is also important to think about if there are any other responsibilities that you can delegate out to other people. This may include digital marketing, public relations, brand development and sales, to name a few. Ultimately, it all comes back down to your budget and which areas of your business you consider to be a priority. The advantages of outsourcing are numerous. Firstly, you free up your own time so you can focus on running other parts of the business. As well as this, the company that you outsource to will have a lot more experience in that particular area so you can have peace of mind that it is in safe hands.
Work on Your Online Presence
Your website is only one part of your overall online presence; you also need to be thinking about social media, email marketing and blogging, to name a few. The importance of the internet continues to grow, and the next generation of consumers are growing up having always had it around. When it comes to technology, everything is moving at such a rapid pace that it is absolutely essential that you keep on top of current trends. The world of business has always been very Darwinian; it is all about survival of the fittest. If you can show that your company always has one eye on the future, you will be in a much stronger position to demonstrate how forward thinking and innovative your company is.
Keep Yourself Balanced
When you first start a company, it is very easy to become totally consumed by it. And while it is great to be dedicated, you still need to achieve that sense of balance in your life. Indeed, if you spend too much time on your business, you are never going to be able to get a sense of perspective. Sometimes, it helps to take a step back so you can reevaluate whether you are heading in the right direction. Achieving balance in your life when you run a business takes a little while to perfect, but it should start to come more naturally over time. Try to find some sort of an outlet; whether this is a hobby or sport that takes your mind off the business for a little while. This will help to keep your business thriving.