So, you’re a startup business or thinking of becoming self-employed ? Or maybe you’ve tried, failed and are trying at it again? Whatever your situation, it’s advisable that you realise a few things: starting a business isn’t for the faint hearted; you need real determination, passion and a willingness to sacrifice. Now I’m not talking just about working late nights and weekends, I’m talking about stress, anxiety, not seeing your family regularly and generally being overtaken by the new baby in your life; your business.
Yes your business is like a baby, it needs careful planning, aspirations, goals and a carefully routed plan to growth. Without this planning, your business is pretty much doomed to failure and only luck will be your saviour. For the rest of us, luck is not an option, we have responsibilities that simply cannot rely on luck.
If you’re ready then, let me tell you how I started my business: Bootcamp Media.
In the spring of 2012 I decided that after 12 years of working in web design and marketing for someone else, it was time to branch out, spread my wings and try to go it alone. So I started with a simple idea of what the new business was going to be about. In my case, it was a web design and online marketing business. I started with all the things that, at the time I felt were wrong within the industry and the business that I had been working in. I knew that I wanted to offer something different.
I quickly wrote out a list of problems and how best to solve them. This allowed me to start putting together a document for my, as of yet unnamed business. The document included things like products, services, prices, customer feedback, delivery and various other points that I felt needed addressing. Looking back, it wasn’t clear to me at the time, but this process was actually the foundation for my business plan. When I stopped writing, I quickly realised that I had a pretty coherent plan of what I was going to do and how I wanted it to proceed.
The Business Plan
Business plans are a very confusing thing to someone who has never put one together, so I did the first thing that came to me naturally: I Googled business plan templates. When I found the right template, I started to fill in all the information that I had to hand. Gradually things made more sense to me and with help from the template, I was able to fill in the blanks fairly easily as it prompted the things I’d missed out during my own brainstorming. By this time I had a pretty good idea of what the business was going to be about.
Cash Flow Projections
Of course I had to do some research around costs and this is something I encourage you all to do at the start. It was after I finished the business plan that I had to put together a cash flow chart. Wow, all I can say is be prepared for a reality check- I certainly had one! A cash flow chart can really bring things into perspective. This document is the one thing that the bank manager or investor is going to want to see if you’re going down the funded route. Get this wrong and you can kiss your venture goodbye. I’d advise that you put aside a lot of time to get your costs written down so that you can make a realistic and achievable cash flow chart.
Start off with the following:
- Equipment (one off and on-going costs)
- Services e.g. Subscriptions, accountants etc.
- Products or services costs
The list above is not exhaustive by any stretch of the imagination. But it should at the very least, get you to start thinking about your overheads.
The next thing you need to think of is your potential sales and what turn over you’re going to generate. Now this part really is guess work; it requires you to be realistic but at the same time optimistic. Here’s an example of what should be included:
- Products/services including costs
- Projected items sold per month
- Projected sales per month in GBP
- Less commission if required
- Less cost to manufacturers / buy if required
- Total sales
It’s important that you do all the above over a period of 12 months, which should give you your projected turnover. A key thing to remember though is most businesses do not make a profit in the first 12-18 months of trading, however, think optimistically- this isn’t always the case.
Once you have your figures, you can then sit back and relax…wrong! Now you have to give your business its own identity (this will of course be built into the business plan.) It took me 2 weeks and a lot of head-scratching to come up with a name that meant something to me. The whole process of this is a very personal thing and I encourage you to get others involved in helping you choose the right name for your business. But build a meaning and a story around it; it’s a good talking point with future clients, trust me.
There are free tools online that can help suggest names, or create made up names for you, but be careful to not fall foul to names which have double meanings, especially if you’re thinking of trading worldwide. This could have serious repercussions for your business and brand. I’ll give you an example: a while back, ok a long while back, Vauxhall (General Motors worldwide) created a car in the UK called the Vauxhall Nova but in Spain it had to be called something entirely different because ‘Nova’ in Spanish, translates to literally ‘no go’ or ‘slow.’ Now you wouldn’t exactly want to be seen in a Vauxhall ‘No Go’ would you? Another example is Apple introducing ‘Siri’ to the iphone 4S. It’s a great device and great innovation, but in Japan the name ‘Siri’ is not far off the word for ‘buttocks’- I bet Android would agree on that one.
I suppose what I’m trying to say here is, take your time and come up with something meaningful and then check what that name means in the markets you want to explore.
Once you’ve settled on your name, start addressing the branding and actual message of your business.
Now you have your name, your cash projections, your business plan and last but not least, your funding; be that a bank loan, your savings or an investment. Whatever it is, your job is not quite done yet.
The Shopping List
- Logo design.
- Print stationery (if you need it, but my business doesn’t have print stationery).
- Website- One of the following will be what you need:
- Content managed website/blog.
- A bespoke website, with functionality to cater for your clients
- Social media channels e.g. Facebook, Google+, Twitter and countless other options which may or may not suit your business.
- Search marketing:
- Search Engine Optimisation (Google, Bing, Yahoo and other search engines).
- PPC or Adwords on various platforms including Google, Bing, Facebook.
- Content strategy – Creating content that is relevant and engaging, something that will help your users or benefit the community at large; make it count.
- Offline advertising, like Journals, Magazines, Trade Magazines, Radio TV; which ever is relevant for your business.
- Business networking events, Exhibitions and Launches etc. Get out there and talk about you and your business.
The list provided is not exhaustive, but it should give you an idea of what is needed in business today, some may not be relevant to you but I can guarantee at least 75% of the list will need to be added to your business plan and cash flow.
A further bridge you have to cross is finding the right partner to help you deliver the above. This is by far one of the most important decisions you will make, and how you go about finding them is equally important. I suggest you try word of mouth recommendation first and then search online for the services listed above. Get a comparison of the services and costs, but don’t buy based who the cheapest buy is, but instead on who can deliver what you need within an agreed budget and who can deliver what you need on time. As often is the case, the cheapest is not always the best option. Go with the company that has a good track record with its clients, call them and ask for trade references. Don’t be shy about asking for this as afterall, this is your business we’re talking about.
So, this is the start of your business. But this is not the end of the lesson by any means. When you start there is plenty of learning to do, but that I’m afraid, will be for another post.
Checklist – https://openclipart.org/detail/169719/checklist-by-dako
Graph – https://openclipart.org/detail/186811/profit-chart-curve-by-simpletutorials.net-186811