In your first year of business, every day is overwhelming, with competing demands for your time and attention. As well as being the founder of your business product or service, there is the marketing side, growing a customer base and figuring out financial plans. You have to balance growing your business with operating it, find money to pay bills as well as fund areas necessary for growth and keep everyone on your team motivated.
This is where some start-ups can find it a little daunting but remember that you have made it. You got this far, which is huge and you should give yourself a well-deserved pat on the back. You decided to take your passion and turn it into a business, and the destination is worth all the effort.
There is no denying that the first year of business is always the toughest. It’s the year where you will make mistakes, and you’ll have more highs and lows than any other time of your life.
If you’re setting out on the first year of running a business, here are five essential factors to bear in mind throughout the twelve months to create long term success.
1. Make Finances a Priority
One of the main reasons that small businesses fail after the first year is because they didn’t get their finances in check. Finances must be the biggest priority for the first year of business and you need to carefully manage your burn rate to ensure you can survive to revenue positive. Plough too much money in too quickly and cash flow problems will arise over time. Don’t put enough money into the start-up phase, and you’ll starve the organization so that it seriously lacks quality across various areas.
It’s common for small businesses and start-ups to get a loan to start them off. Even if you don’t have the best financial history, you can get loans for bad credit these days. Just remember only to take out what you absolutely need. Something to think about that will impact your future is that you need your burn as low as possible at the beginning.
Maintaining tight control of your finances may seem a little strange, especially if you came out of corporate employment where there were deeper pockets and more resources. You just have to learn to do more with less, hiring employees with cross-functional skill sets so they can move from 1 task to another rather than hiring people who can only do one thing.
Don’t be afraid to seek help if you struggle to get your head around this side of the business in the first few months. You’ll find there are plenty of tools online that provide guidance, including government websites, start-up networking grounds, and SME handbooks to help you take control of your finances.
2. Make your website your ‘shop window’
Thinking about how customers will find you is one of the most important aspects of your business. No matter what business area you’re in, always look at building a high-quality, easy-to-navigate website, since consumers now do much of their search online, even if they don’t buy there. This should come with clear and concise branding, a strong company message, and all the information customers need.
You can build your own on websites like Wix or Squarespace. They are fairly easy to use, but they need a lot of your time to set up and manage. The bigger problem is that, as your business grows, you may outgrow their options. And, their SEO (the critical element necessary to help users find you) is terrible.
If creating a self-hosted website seems too challenging (which isn’t the case, not today where you can get drag-and-drop functionality like Wix from a simple plugin), employing a freelance web designer and website builder will save on time, but will cost more money, so weigh up which one works for you.
3. Seek support from friends and family
During your first year of business, family and friends are a key element of your life. Therefore, a supportive network around you is crucial. Explain to your family and friends that your business will be taking priority, and their support would be highly valued.
See if they can help spread the word. Could they share your blog posts or special offers on their social media pages? Maybe they can have a loyalty discount code they can pass on to people they know for you?
There are lots of ways that people close to you can help – just start brainstorming!
4. Participate in local activities
It might be that your business runs purely online, or it could be that you have a brick and mortar storefront. Either way, you shouldn’t ignore exposure across your local community. Increasingly, folks want to support local businesses, even if the business is online. Seek out opportunities to engage your community; whether it’s sponsoring a sports team, hosting an event for a local charity, putting a jar in your store to support a GoFundMe campaign. Don’t ask if you’re not willing to give back to the community.
If there are any local magazines or newspapers in your area, contact them about running a business story on you. Local media love a local success story. If you see any events or fundraising activities around the area, see how your company can support them. These not only involve you in the local community but help spread the word about your business.
5. Build a business plan with extreme care
If there is one area you must get right within the first year, it is your business plan. If your business plan is well structured and covers everything in detail, it should guide your managerial decisions throughout the launch period, and as you grow your business.
A detailed business plan becomes your ‘bible’ – a confirmation of your vision structure, the strengths your company has, your business USP (unique selling proposition), in-depth target market, a detailed marketing plan, product and pricing plans, and finance and sales strategies.
A successful business doesn’t grow overnight. It will take time to build but with focus, effort, and passion, you can build the basis of a powerful and successful business within twelve months.
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