Tag Archives: start-up

What Businesses can do while isolated

what businesses can doCoronavirus has impacted businesses in a way that was unthinkable just weeks ago. No business will have planned for this and the smaller ones will be more vulnerable.

I believe though that when we get through this crisis it will be those that have used this period of forced isolation and closure to prepared themselves that will rise fastest and even make gains on competition that have not been proactive.

What you can do:

Secure the business:

  1. Keep safe and don’t be tempted to find ways to get around isolating, Sports Direct have already suffered public condemnation for needlessly trying to stay open.
  2. Ensure any workers are reassured and supported.
  3. Contact your customers to explain your position and what you are doing to support them at this time.
  4. Suspend all costs that it is possible to do so and look carefully at cash-flow for the next few months. Talk to your bank about how they can help you.
  5. The government are bringing in measures seemingly every day that may assist small businesses and hopefully sole traders. Get on top of what assistance you are able to claim. If you have an Accountant, now is the time for them to earn their fee, talk to them.

Plan for the future:

  1. If you could provide goods or services on-line, but haven’t yet explored that option – start looking. Those that already do, see how it can be expanded or made better.
  2. Use this chance to re-examine your business, think about your goals and how you will put in place actions to reach them. Dare I say, now you have time, do a Business Plan.
  3. Some restrictions are likely to be in place for a while, how can your business best operate once the immediate lock-down is lifted.
  4. Consider how the public mind-set may be altered over the next year and find ways of communicating in future marketing a reassurance of working practices and care for your customers. Good PR can come from your good intentions, helping both you and your customers. It’s not cynical, it’s understanding what now is important to potential customers.
  5. Keep positive. Every crisis eventually passes, position yourself for growth when it does.

 

 

The dangers of being a Sole Trader

sole trader danger

There is a hidden danger that many people choosing the Sole Trader route to running a business are not aware of.

Yes, operating as a Sole Trader is certainly the simplest way of running a business. There are no annual accounts to send to Companies House and most can run without needing to pay out for an Accountant.

As a Sole Trader you are basically self-employed and although you will still need to pay personal tax on your income (through self assessment), you have no other legal commitments to worry about -  Except for losing your house, car and any savings you may have.

A Sole Trader is personally liable for all debts, expenses and activity of the business. Which means that if a customer decides to sue the business for any reason, you personally will have to pay solicitors to fight it and if you lose, pay the full sum awarded. In the worse case it might mean you have to sell your home.

If you had been running your business as a  Limited Company, the customer could only sue the company – not you. In this worse case the company may be declared insolvent and have to close.

When you run a business as a Limited Company your personal assets, house and savings are safe. Something to think about when choosing how to run your new business.

See also: Pros & Cons of a Sole Trader or Limited Company

 

Does luck play a part in business success?

Business luckGiven that today is Friday the 13th I thought it interesting to look at the role luck plays in business success.

Firstly it would be wrong to say that luck, or being in the right place at the right time is non-existent – it does happen.  Think of those who bought property in places like London some time ago, never thinking that prices would sky-rocket.

Perhaps simply the luck of meeting just the partner, Investor or contact that you need at absolutely the right time for your fledgling business.

Even starting a new business whilst unbeknownst to you, significant market and trend changes mean that it suddenly becomes a roaring success

However, as the writer Nesta Jojoe Erskine has said, “You don’t get lucky while sitting in the sofa with arms crossed doing nothing. You can be lucky only when you are prepared.”

There is strong evidence that the more you put yourself “out there”, make as many contacts as you can and take positive action, the greater the likelihood of having luck find you.

I recently was reminded of the famous quote by Jack Nicklaus, “The more I practice, the luckier I get”, and the similar “The harder I work, the luckier I get” by Samuel Goldwyn.

Yes sometimes fortune smiles unexpectedly, but most successful people have not sat around waiting for that to happen, they have put themselves in a position through planning and endeavour to allow that lucky break to happen.

See also: Why Businesses don’t Get Started

 

What’s the most important thing in starting a business?

Most important for startups

Actually there are several inter-related aspects of starting a business that need to be worked on to ensure a successful startup, but I consider these to be the most important…

1. Start a business in a subject that you are interested in.

Running a new business is hard work, it becomes a little bit easier, if you at least enjoy or have some attraction to the service, products or activity that is at its centre.

2. Come up with a differentiation for your business from its competitors.

It may be a brand new idea or invention, perhaps a fresh twist on an old idea. The best are disrupters of established markets, such as Uber vs taxis or Airbnb vs hotel rooms.

3. Check your idea for a business is commercial.

It is said that ideas are 10 a penny and not every idea will actually be a commercial success. You must really look hard at whether someone will put their hand in their pocket and pay you money.

4. Get your numbers together.

Finance may not be everybody’s favourite subject, but even a simple listing of costs vs likely selling price will guide you in the viability of the business in the first place and in knowing how to set prices and what you can afford as an expense.

5. Finally, how you implement is key.

The best ideas badly implemented will fail, but even average startups stand a good chance if well implemented.

By implementation I mean think through your supply chain, how you will get your product or service to market, how will you let your potential customers know that you exist, what customer service you need to provide and ensure you have a cash flow that won’t run out before you get enough sales to start making a profit.

 

 

Could the “Experts” be right about Brexit?

Expert on financeIn an alarming development Britons are starting to wonder if the “so called experts” might have something going for them.

We’ve believed for years (well ever since Michael Gove revealed in his Brexit speeches that experts are always wrong) that people who have studied a subject for decades can’t be right.

Tony Simonds, retired Sales Executive said: “The so-called experts are always telling you things are bad for you, and it was only after my second heart attack that I thought their advice about not having deep-fried black pudding for breakfast is probably correct.

“They might be right about smoking too, so I’m going to look into that, although it flies in the face of lots of stories about people who smoked 80 Capstan a day and lived to 100.”

Store Manager Vicky Thompson said: “I’d always assumed experts just liked sounding important.

“However that advice about leaving a safe distance between you and the car in front turned out to be correct. I’ll definitely be telling my friends once the concussion’s worn off.”

The public is now grudgingly accepting that experts may have valid opinions on other subjects, such as patting tigers, swimming far out to sea and even the state of our economy after Brexit

However, Van driver Nick Baker said: “There’s only one sort of experts I trust and that’s UFO experts. Finding out all that highly classified government information takes a lot of work and you have to respect that.”

 

With acknowledgements to thedailymash

 

The Easiest Way to Sack your Boss!

Ideas to have your own businessVenturing out on your own can be a daunting task. Your nine to five brings with it a certain security net, however, the only way to achieve your dream is to take the leap and become your own boss!

In order to make sure that you are successful in this endeavour, though, it is important that you find the option that is right for you. Because, despite what you may think, there is more than one way to become a successful entrepreneur.

Below, we take a look at some of the simplest ways and give you tips on how to make sure that your journey to entrepreneurship is a positive one.

1.    Start a business from scratch

This is what most people will think of when they think about becoming an entrepreneur. There are a lot of risks involved in starting a business from a scratch, however, if you have an idea that you have confidence in and you are willing to put in the work, this is probably the best option for you.

The most difficult choice to make will be when to hand in your notice and throw yourself fully behind your idea. Many entrepreneurs try to keep their day job as long as possible in the beginning stages of their business so that they have a salary while they get their business off the ground.

You need to be realistic about your financial situation. How much will you need to start your own business and how long before you are realistically able to pay yourself a salary?

2.    Buy a business

Buying a business is another way to go about setting out on your own and being your own boss. The advantage of this is that you can see if the business has a proven track record.

This is very handy when you go to the bank to ask them for a loan. Proven financials will give far more of a chance of getting the money that you need to purchase the business.

For example, if you are looking to buy a pub, buying an existing one will come with an already established customer base and supplier relationships. You will just need to choose the right one to buy.

3.    Find a partner

Going into business can be made a lot easier if you’re able to find the right person to partner up with. Having a partner can double your resources in terms of skills and capital!

It is, however, vital that you find the right person to partner up with. The wrong partnership can turn sour so spend time making sure that you have the same goals and ideals.

4.    Find investors

The financial pressure of starting a business can be the single biggest reason to stop you sacking your boss. There are, however, a lot of financing options that are not necessarily the traditional routes of looking to banks for loans.

Why not look to angel investors to help you get your business going? If you have the right idea and you are willing to put in the time, there may be the right investor out there who will believe in your vision.

If you are able to carefully chose the right path to becoming your boss, there is every possibility that you can enjoy the process. Every future boss must find the option that is right for them and their circumstances. If you are able to do this, you’ll be on your way to success!

 

By Matthew Hernon: Account Manager at Dynamis looking after Business Transfer Agents and Franchises across BusinessesForSale.com and FranchiseSales.com

 

 

How to choose the best business partner

Business Partners

Having a business partner that you can bounce ideas off, share the work load and motivate each other is a great help to a young business. 

They should also bring complimentary skills and additional expertise that allows the business to be driven forward faster.

 

 

Sounds perfect doesn’t it? Yet even with all of those boxes ticked, partnerships and businesses can flounder. Here’s how to make sure that your business gets the best from the partners:

 

  1. Mutual respect & compatibility – many businesses have partners who may not want to be best friends, but they do need to get on with each other. You will spend a lot of time together and it should be enjoyable or at the least, not dreaded.
  2. Attitude and work ethics – it often the case that one partner is slightly more flamboyant / extrovert and others perhaps more reserved or technical / financial, but all should share the same attitude towards work.
  3. Company mission & vision – if the partners don’t agree on the basics of what the company is in business to do and where they eventually wish it to end up, then if not at first, certainly later there will be a fallout.
  4. Long term personal vision – coupled to the above, individuals may have differing personal goals. If one is looking for a comfortable lifestyle business and the other seeing it growing to corporate status, or perhaps one partner sees it as a short-term venture, the other as a commitment for life, it’s easy to see how harmful disagreements could happen.
  5. Defining areas of responsibility – stepping on each other’s toes is not only duplicating activity, but at worst will provoke great arguments. It’s easily avoided by defining who is responsible for what and shares the work according to preference and expertise. Best to do right at the start.

Putting together a partnership agreement (here are some agreement tips) will allow you to explore those areas and in documenting the way you will work together avoids misunderstanding.

If in doing so if you realise that there are major differences of expectation you can either work through them, or take the opportunity early to accept that the partnership is not meant to be.

 

 

Finding business opportunities from market changes

Opportunity from market changeBusinesses are often wary of change. It creates uncertainty and development projects get stalled. Instead of seeing change as an opportunity, business leaders start to plan for worse case scenarios that may result from the change.

The businesses adversely affected are normally large organisations with a vested interest in the status quo, however for smaller more flexible businesses and certainly start-ups, these market changes can be a fantastic opportunity to grow.

There is always change, in reality nothing stays still, as the bones of once giant corporations will testify. In the past many have been caught out by technological or fashion trends, but now we also have global changes such as Brexit, migration and the fall out of Mr. Trump’s policies that will add to the melee.

So how do we go about spotting those changes that are likely to produce great opportunities?

1. One way is using Brainstorming -  Here are a few guidelines that should be useful, you can amend these as you wish, but it gives the method:

  • Basic technique – Using colleagues, or friends (5 to 12 is ideal, but if you are a one man start-up finding even just a couple of friends to help will get you going), jot down thoughts on a flipchart or post-it pad, no idea is initially too crazy and no one should be dominant.
  • However give it structure (see below), address a specific question and having a team leader will facilitate the process.
  • Firstly ask what changes are going on in the world / your market place
  • Have your brainstorming session on that question and then collate the results into groups that comprise similar changes
  • Looking at those groups of changes, rank the groups in order of possible interest, taking into account your market, business and ability/expertise to address
  • Now starting with the first change have a brainstorming session on the question “what will be the consequence or impact of that change to people, or the market”
  • Again collate and rank the results
  • Then ask the question “What opportunities will there be to these consequences of the change”

You will see that we are identifying changes and then delving deeper into the impact of change to discover opportunities that we can address.

2. You can also look at recent entries to your market, are these businesses addressing new opportunities that have arisen from change that you can expand on, or that may inspire you to think of similar opportunities.

3. Another way is to think about those established companies that are going through tough times – why – what is taking their custom?

In all of the identified changes, think about the basic strengths of your own business (or yourself if an entrepreneur looking for a potential business). What is your core knowledge / expertise? How can that be applied to creating an opportunity from the changes?

In every change there are going to be people that spot the opportunities and make a lot of money, think of when financial regulation of the stock market changed in London and the fortunes that were made, or how Russian entrepreneurs embraced new market conditions after communism fell.

You can be one of the people that do very well out of the changes happening today, but only if you take the time to spot the opportunities and then most importantly – act on it.

What should you do before leaving your corporate job and starting a business?

Starting a businessLet’s face it there are a lot of attractions to having a regular salary, perhaps expenses paid and some security. So why would anyone venture out on their own?

Yet every year thousands of people do exactly that.

Having previously been in large corporations myself for over 20 years I can sympathise with those that dream of controlling their own destiny but can’t put aside the golden chains. I eventually decided the benefits outweighed the risk and only regret not doing so earlier.

Certainly it is easier to take chances when younger and with fewer responsibilities, but with planning anyone can start a business at any age.

Now I’m not advocating that you short change your existing employer by using their time, however in your own time there are things you should do before making the plunge:

  1. Firstly don’t quit too soon and for the wrong reasons. You have cash coming in and can do a lot of pre-start-up work before losing that income. You may have to put up with a bad boss, or uninteresting work while getting the business you want ready.
  2. Put your business plan in place for your new business while still working for the company. I know it may be more enticing to just go and get started, but you can make the chances of it being a success by doing this now while someone else is paying you.
  3. Check and double-check that the market and sales are going to be there for your start-up. Just because you have a great idea doesn’t mean that it is a “commercial” business that will pay its way and deliver a profit. Do your market research see… How to do a sales plan
  4. Work out true costs and likely sales, don’t fool yourself with vague and woolly imaginings of how it will all come good somehow.
  5. Start making the contacts that you will need (suppliers, manufacturers, staff, potential customers). Clearly you will need to be sensible about this; word getting back to your present employer would not be helpful.
  6. If it is a business that does not compete with your existing employer, you may well be able to test its viability, learn what works and get initial sales that you would be able to build on, while still in employment. Working in the evenings, week-ends and on your time off is not easy but will help prove the concept and give you a rolling start.
  7. Think about your cash flow. Have you got enough resources to see you through the initial build-up of business, or have you identified immediate contracts / customers that will pay in a timely manner to cover your outgoings.

Lastly, if you have done all of that, thought it through and are ready, do it!

Many dream – few do.

See…Why Businesses don’t get Started

 

The Future of Retail: Your 5-Step Ecommerce Start-Up Plan

ecommerce-240So you’ve made the decision to launch an ecommerce business? Congratulations – you’ve chosen a great path for your new business.

But like every new venture, if you want to give yourself the greatest chance of success, you’re going to need a solid plan. Everything from the style and tone of your content, to your web design and even the products you sell will need to be carefully considered and worked into an overarching business strategy.

This might sound daunting, but if you know what you want to accomplish, then the planning phase will probably be easier than you expect. Nevertheless, let’s take a look at the first five steps towards launching a successful online store, so you can be sure to get your ecommerce business off to a positive start.

Don’t forget to also read these top start-up tips to help propel you into business success in 2018.

1. Find That Niche

You may already have a product or service in mind for your ecommerce business. However, with so many online stores vying for the top spot in search results, you need to choose your niche carefully. To do this, you will need to find something that your business can excel at, and that sets it apart from the competition.

The trick to this is to find something for which there is demand, but not too much competition. A good place to start your search is Google Keyword Planner, as this will enable you to see how popular a particular search is, as well as the potential competition for that keyword or phrase.

Search isn’t the only place to look though – mine for data on forums like reddit and Quora, and scour social media for relevant posts and updates.

Once you have figured out your niche, you’re ready to construct the rest of your marketing strategy. Remember, having a niche does not mean you can’t sell or promote anything else; it simply serves as the focus for your business, and the main draw for your customers.

2. Set Your Budget

Having a clearly-defined budget is essential if you want the launch of your ecommerce store to go smoothly.

●    List your confirmed funding sources, and reach out to potential investors. Don’t rely on any funding source that isn’t definite.
●    Plan for setbacks. Figure out the cost of remedying potential problems, and budget accordingly. Tying up a portion of your capital in a recovery plan is far better than falling short in an emergency.
●    Take calculated risks. No business venture is a guaranteed success. However, you can greatly increase the security of your investments by weighing up the risks against the likely ROI.
●    Don’t cut corners. Careful budgeting means you can make savings and spend more efficiently as a result of planning and forethought. But remember that a greater initial outlay can sometimes mean lower long-term costs. Always consider your future costs when weighing up a purchase. Is it scalable? Is it future-proof? How much will it cost to maintain?

Knowing exactly what you have to work with is extremely useful when constructing your business plan and content schedule. Even matters such as selecting your ecommerce platform are heavily dependent on your budget, as different platforms and packages come with varying costs.

Keep in mind that your budget can always be adjusted if you secure additional funding. However, it is far better to base your plan on funds that you have confirmed, than to have to start from scratch if a planned source falls through.

3. Scope Out the Competition

Now you have the bare bones of your business, you need to bring yourself up to speed with the competition. Visit their websites, explore their target keywords, and consider signing up to their mailing lists.

These insights will help you to understand the sort of things customers in your industry have available to them. This enables you to create something that is new and different, while still catering to the same needs. It is important not to copy your competitors, as not only will you fail to stand out, but you will also have a much harder time ranking in searches.

While checking out your competitors, you may even find some that you could collaborate with. Perhaps you fall within the same industry, but are targeting different, yet complementary niches. This could be a great opportunity for guest posting in their blogs, or setting up a mutually beneficial partnership.

Another way to scope out the competition is to find similar websites that are listed for sale and delve into their sales figures and results. It will give you a good idea of what’s been working (and not working) for other retailers, and may alert you to a niche that’s become oversaturated. You may even find the perfect store and domain name already built – ready for a savvy buyer like you to snap up!

4. Design For Your Audience

Once you know who your audience is, you can decide on your marketing message, the aesthetic of your store, and even the social channels you will focus on. While it is important that your brand’s image reflects your aspirations for your business, it is also essential that you keep the needs of your audience in mind at all times.

Of course, it can be hard to define exactly what your audience will like the most, so this step can include quite a bit of trial and error. Split-testing is particularly helpful here, as it enables you to make complex design decisions, while gaining an insight into the preferences of your customers. This can be used for everything from your landing pages, to ads on social media, or even targeted promotions.

Depending on your chosen platform for your store, you may have access to a range of analytical insights based on the interactions of your customers with your website. This data will be invaluable for the growth and evolution of your business, as you will be able to identify the strengths and weaknesses in your marketing strategy, and optimise your approach accordingly.

5. Plan Your Website

The final stage of setting up your ecommerce store will be creating the store itself. A great option for many budding entrepreneurs is to use an ecommerce CMS. Platforms such as Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce offer a range of functionalities, and varying levels of customisation.

You should base your choice on your budget, as well as your specific aspirations for your business. Shopify, for example, has an app store with over 1000 applications to choose from to help you customise your store. Others, such as Symphony Commerce offer pay-as-you-go pricing structures, which can be fantastic for a fast-growing business with limited startup capital.

Before settling on a platform, make sure it has all the features you require, and that you are comfortable working with it. Don’t be afraid to contact support services for your preferred platforms if you have in-depth questions about their functionality. It is far better to make an informed decision than simply hope for the best.

Of course, you do not have to rely on any of these platforms. If you are a confident web designer, or you have a team in place to handle this for you, then the greatest flexibility can come from setting up your store from scratch. Keep in mind that there are important features that you will need to include, such as a secure payment system, and a legally compliant means of collecting and processing customer data.

Once you’ve achieved all that, you’re well on your way to ecommerce success. Of course, the work has only just begun, so don’t relax just yet. To ensure that you maintain this success, and give your business the opportunity to grow, you will need to keep improving on your work so far.

Start with your onsite analytics, to gain insights into how well your content performs, and how your customers interact with your website. From this you can learn which products are your most popular, and which might need a little more promotion. You can also see who makes up your audience, which will ultimately help you to make better decisions about future marketing campaigns.

The more you learn about your customers, the better you can cater to their needs. And, of course, happy customers are more likely to buy more, recommend your store to others, and come back to make purchases in the future.

 

Victoria-Greene-100Victoria Greene is a branding consultant and freelance writer. On her blog, VictoriaEcommerce, she shares tips on ecommerce and how entrepreneurs can develop their businesses. She is passionate about using her experience to help fellow entrepreneurs do better.