Many people dream of starting their own small businesses, attracted by the freedom to mould their future or driven by a passionate belief in a product or service they have devised.
Over the past year huge numbers have taken the plunge, with start-up figures booming in the UK since the beginning of the Coronavirus pandemic.
Towards the end of 2020 BBC Business spoke to a variety of people who created new start-ups during lockdown. The article looked at eight things they learnt explains: This year has been one of unprecedented economic misery, especially for those who work in the hospitality and retail sectors. But for some it provided a jolt. Starting a business has been a way to take back a measure of control – and provide a sense of hope.
And that’s the magical thing about starting your own small business it really can give you a whole new focus and the ability to deliver something you truly believe in.
Moving from the germ of an idea to creating a successful start-up requires a good deal of thought and planning though, as Small Business Geek’s Liz Smith explains: “All too often people take the plunge and start a small business without really thinking through what will need to be done to make it a success.”
Understanding your market, working out how you will reach your customers and even basics such as the kind of admin that will need to be carried out to keep your small business on track really do need to be considered before you begin.
It’s all in the timing
Launching a small business can be all consuming. At first you will more than likely find yourself carrying out multiple roles, some of which may be truly out of your comfort zone.
Considering whether this is the right time for you to go it alone, and being honest with yourself about the answer will stand you in good stead for the challenges that lie ahead.
Liz continued: “It’s hard to imagine that there could ever be an entirely perfect moment to launch a new business and there will always be challenges to overcome particularly in the beginning. But really thinking about whether you have the time, energy and resources to make your venture work before setting out on the journey is essential.”
Is there a market for your product or service?
Once you have had a lightbulb moment and started dreaming of your small business, it’s important you don’t let yourself get swept away with the idea without testing whether there is a market for your new venture.
For a good introduction to dipping your toe in the water with market research take a look at this from Business Knowhow because as the article explains: “The last thing you want is to send your creation out into the world and have it land with a dud because you didn’t do your homework, misjudged the market or failed to advertise properly.
SBG’s Liz Smith continued: “It’s important to understand who your competitors are and whether there really is an appetite out there for the business you are looking to launch. It can really pay off if you can find yourself a niche in the market which gives your product or service a unique quality. And when talking to potential customers focus on the benefit you can bring to their lives rather than the nuts and bolts of the delivery.”
Once you’ve established there is a market for your small business, it’s then time to pin down what you are going to do to make sure you reach those potential customers. Afterall you could have developed the very best product or service in the world but all of your hard work will go to waste if you haven’t worked out how you are going to capture the attention of your audience and turn initial interest into a sale.
Be clear about your budget
No one wants to be hit by unexpected costs particularly during your first tricky year in business, when much of your finances will be based on predictions rather than hard data.
Before you begin set out a realistic budget and think through all elements of your operation including marketing, distribution, insurance, tax and so on.
And if you are selling a product rather than a service, be realistic about the levels of stock you need to hold.
Do you have the skills you need?
It’s impossible to be good at everything, and identifying where you need help with your small business will certainly bring about rewards.
SBG’s Liz Smith explained: “Some people really struggle with admin for example or they feel out of their depth when trying to engage with social media. Even though your small business might feel a bit like your baby, there’s no shame in not being able to do everything to make it a success. Working with start-ups and microbusinesses we have found even releasing tiny tasks can make a real difference, freeing up not only time but brainspace to take the business to the next level.
Build agility into your future plans
As important as it is to plan for the future, the Coronavirus pandemic has most certainly taught us all about the benefit that flexibility can bring, from the cafes that started doorstep deliveries to exercise instructors who took their classes online.
Small businesses really come into their own when they can face a challenge and regroup in response to a new normal.