Since the recession in 2006, there has been a growing appetite for people to start their own businesses and over 1 million start ups are launched worldwide each year. Unfortunately, not all of these are successful, with research suggesting that half of all UK start ups will fail within 5 years.
How can you give your start up the best possible chance of succeeding?
1. Build your audience early
Too many start ups fall into the trap of delaying their marketing efforts until they have something concrete to launch. While time is of a premium during those early days of the business, putting the effort into engaging with potential customer before you launch your product or service will pay off in the long run.
Social media marketing can be a useful (and cost effective) method of raising awareness of and generating a ‘buzz’ about your company, whilst email marketing can help you build relationships with your future customers. A word of caution, though – make sure you know who you want to reach before starting your marketing activities. Don’t try to be everything to everybody; it’s important to know your niche.
2. Think ‘lean’
To help your business succeed, it’s important that you discover a way to work smarter, not harder. In order to do this, many start ups follow the ‘Lean’ methodology. You can find out more about Lean methodology here, but some of the basic tenets involve:
- Using your time wisely – don’t spend all of your time on ideas that are unlikely to work or are not scalable
- ‘Doing’ rather than planning – while some planning is of course essential, it is important not to ‘overplan’. Instead, concentrate your efforts on getting a Minimum Viable Product out to market at the earliest opportunity. This enables you to start making money earlier to fund further developments, as well as gathering essential feedback about your product. Which leads us on to…
3. Look outside
It can be all too easy to become inward facing when developing a new product or service, but it is essential that every decision you make has the end customer in mind. Look outside of the company and gather feedback from external parties. Then use this to inform the development of products and direction of your company.
In the same vein, don’t underestimate the value of looking at other companies operating in your sector. Learning from your competitors is a great way to improve your own business. What do they do well? Where are their weaknesses? How can you be better than them?
4. Prepare for success
This may sound like an obvious one, but it’s surprising how many start ups are so focused on making their business successful that they are unprepared when success does finally arrive. It’s essential that you plan for the future and are ready to meet demand and grow when the times comes.
Hopefully you have been following the Lean methodology (see number 2) and have developed something that is scalable. Now you need to identify what you will need in order to scale up and invest in this accordingly. For many companies, this is the team. When growing your team you need to ensure you hire the right people. Identify the weaknesses in your organisation and recruit to compensate for these.
5. Look after number one
Launching and growing a new business is incredibly time intensive and entrepreneurs often find themselves working pretty much 24/7 in those early days. However, while it may seem difficult, even impossible at times, it’s vital that you carve out some time for yourself. Whether it’s catching up with some friends, reading a book or working out in the gym, taking a ‘time out’ from the company can help you to regain focus and stop you from burning out. After all, if you’re not functioning properly, chances are neither will your business.
So there you have it – building an audience, working smarter, getting outside opinions and making time for yourself. Of course, nothing guarantees success, but by considering these five points, you can ensure that your company is in a good place and ready to make the most of any opportunities that come along.
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