Five Things To Do Before Writing Your Business Plan
Starting a new business comes with hurdles; being prepared for those hurdles—and trying to get ahead of them—can decrease the impact they have on your business. An important step in preparing for the challenges that your start-up might face is writing a solid business plan. What goes into a business plan is easy enough to figure out, but there are more abstract things to consider before you write it out.
Determine your Purpose
Making a profit is important, but it’s hardly the only thing that matters when you start a business, experts say. “Business plans … encourage entrepreneurs to focus on what they are going to do,” said Alan Williams, co-author of The 31 Practices. “This overlooks two more important questions: ‘why’ – why it exists and why employees would want to get out of bed in the morning, and ‘how’ – the values of the business, what it stands for, how people representing the business will behave.” Williams noted that entrepreneurs should take time to identify and articulate the business’ core values, which will serve as your organization’s compass for all decision-making.
Build your Vision
Experts say the key to success is having a clear vision of what you want to accomplish as a company. Before you write a business plan, you should come up with three to five key strategies that will enable you to achieve that vision, advised Evan Singer, CEO of SmartBiz. “Sometimes, less is more,” Singer said. “It’s far better to do three things very well versus 10 things not so well.” Tied in with building the vision for your business is also putting together a mission statement. The mission is the “why” you’re doing what you do From there, it is an easy transition to develop your “value proposition” statement that defines what makes you unique in the marketplace.
Clarify your Business Model
A good financial model should include many of the details you would put in your formal business plan – for example, hiring, pricing, sales, cost of acquisition, expenses and growth. As with a business plan, your model should be revisited and updated as the realities of your business start to unfold.
Identify your Target Market
This can be a tricky obstacle to get through. To help narrow down your market, Grant Leboff, CEO of Sticky Marketing Club, suggests you answer the question, “Why am I uniquely placed to solve the problem?” “If you are unable to answer the question, you either have the wrong target market of the wrong offering,” Leboff blogged. “In this case, more work will need to be done before you start targeting your potential customers.” If what you offer isn’t the most attractive option to the type of client you want, you might need to change you’re offering or define your target market differently.
Test your Business Idea
Go out and talk to industry experts, potential customers in your target market and ask for some honest feedback. What do they think about your business idea? Who, specifically, are you targeting with your business? How big is the market? Will your market buy what you are selling? Who is your competition? The act of writing a business plan will not make your organization successful, but it does give you a map to get there. The forethought put into the plan identifies the milestones with which you can mark your progress.
Can An Employer Ask About Age?
If a job candidate is googling this question after a job interview at your company, you may be headed for trouble.
The Equality Act exists to prevent businesses from hiring or not hiring based on personal characteristics that are not relevant to an individual’s ability to do the job, including their age. If you intend to grow your business, it makes sense to establish policies and procedures now to help ensure you don’t become a statistic.
What can you do to help keep your business from violating the laws protecting against age discrimination?
Below are a few tips that can help
In your employment adverts, avoid language that could land you in trouble. (For example, “Looking for a young, energetic professional…”) This includes any mention of age limitations, preferences, and outright specifications in job adverts. Only use phrases like ‘recent graduate’ or ‘highly experienced’ when these are actual requirements of the job. Otherwise, you could discriminate against younger or older people who might not have had the opportunity to get qualifications.
You may only ask for someone’s date of birth on an application if they must be a certain age to do the job (example: selling alcohol.)
You can ask someone their date of birth on a separate equality monitoring form. You shouldn’t let the person selecting or interviewing candidates see this form. Research best practices for interviewing job candidates by phone and face to face, and get a firm understanding of job interview questions that are unlawful.
Don’t establish company-wide policies or practices if they will adversely affect applicants or employees who are of a specific age group.
Make sure your managers and employees understand that age-related harassment is illegal.
Realize we’ve merely glazed over the tip of the iceberg with the considerations above, so I encourage you to consult with a human resource professional and/or attorney for guidance and feedback on your hiring and employment efforts.
Avoiding a job discrimination lawsuit shouldn’t be a concern that keeps you up at night; it’s something that you need to be vigilant about by having sound standards, procedures, and training in place. You’ve worked hard to bring your business this far – don’t let sloppy hiring practices stand in the way of your success!
Here are a few common Mistakes when Starting a New Business
Starting up a new business can often be hard work with things like creating a business plan, finding business premises, advertising, employees and of course raising finance.
Have a Clear Business Model
To help your business succeed it is important to have a clear business model and understand exactly what they are about and make sure you are very clear on how to go about operating. Having a vague operating model and thinking you can adapt as you go is often a mistake.
Researching & Market Testing
Don’t make assumptions about what you potential customers want. If you build a business on an unproven and understood market you may come have problems down the line. The key is to launch even if it’s not the final product or service so you can test the market and collect customer feedback.
Finance & Investors
If you take funding from people or companies who don’t share your values, it can be difficult to retain integrity and stick to your mission.
Being Afraid to Delegate
Being an entrepreneur is a really tough job, much more than being a manager. The ability to truly delegate when an organisation reaches a certain size is the toughest challenge for someone who has built a business from scratch, considering the emotional element often associated with it.
Failing to recruit the right people for the job
Businesses often compromise on their team. It sadly becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy as subsequently they will only be able to continue attracting mediocre people. The best people typically only want to work with the best people.
Don’t believe business success will happens overnight
You have to understand and acknowledge at the start of a business that it is a long-term thing. The businesses that we hear about making millions overnight in there first few months of trading are an exceptions to the rule.
Don’t let work take over
When running a business you should watch out for overloading yourself. Before you know it you will be working around the clock and this will affect your health whoever you think you are. Starting up and growing your own business comes with great responsibility and takes time, effort and commitment. You must remember there is more to life than just working.
So you have your business idea. Your products and services are desperately straining at the leash waiting to get out there and make you some money. You have done your research and you know that there is a gap in the market wide enough for your business to succeed. But you need some capital. Where do you go?
The Good Old Bank Loan
Well the standard route for entrepreneurs wanting to launch a new venture would be to talk to the bank. All of the main banks and financial institutions offer start-up loans for new businesses and comparison sites such as Money Supermarket can give you an indication of rates.
More often these days however start-ups are looking to Alternative Finance to get their ideas off the ground. You may choose peer to peer methods from companies like Ratesetter, Zopa, Funding Circle, ThinCats, LendInvest and MarketInvest all explained nicely on Befuddled .
Or if you are ready for some close public scrutiny you may choose to put your idea up as a crowdfunding opportunity. Read this article by Steve Fiore as it contains some really good advice for anyone interested in getting start up capital via crowdfunding sites
If you are looking to invest in a crowdfunding opportunity then check out MoneyWeek’s funding centre comparison tool which will help you to navigate the many opportunities out there.
If you are looking for capital in order to fund a website for your business then talk to us at Magpie Image Ltd about our payment options and monthly subscriptions. You may just find that you don’t need quite as much start up capital as you first thought!
Is a NED the best kept secret of a successful business?
Many people will have heard of the term non-executive director (NED) but few fully understand what they are, much less what they can potentially do for a small or growing business.
It’s assumed by many small business owners that NEDs are the things of big businesses or major corporations, but recruiting the right NED can help a small business gain experience, knowledge, contacts and ideas as well as constructive criticism – all of which cannot fail to be of value to a company regardless of its size.
So what are the benefits of NEDs?
Got the T-shirt
A NED can fill a gap in a small business owner’s experience or can add industry knowledge of a specific sector the business is targeting. Whatever the reason a NED will be an experienced business person with a respected background who has probably helped a number of businesses find their feet, grow or survive tough times. And, if a NED is faced with a situation they’ve never dealt with before, they’ll know someone who has.
Think outside the box
A NED doesn’t work with a business full-time and won’t be concerned with day-to-day issues but will instead look at the bigger picture. What is the direction of the business? Are targets being met? What environmental changes might affect the business? Which competitors to watch out for and what are the plans to keep ahead?
A NED doesn’t work with the business day to day, does not engage in office politics and retains their independence. In addition, a NED will have witnessed changes sweep over the business sector in the past. All of these factors mean they will have the ability to advise with confidence and make unbiased decisions in the interests of the business.
Connections that count
A successful business is a connected one and a great way of making connections is through networking. However, for a small business it can be time consuming and can often prove difficult to build a trusted network of contacts. A NED, in many cases, can offer an address book of relevant contacts to go along with their own experience. This could be suppliers, distributors or potential customers to help boost business or a marketing guru or potential partner to add a new dimension to your business.
Keeps the management team in check
Many boards become the victims of bad habits; missed agenda items, conversations being side tracked, and opinions being discounted. The introduction of a NED will not only help to keep things on track but can help alleviate tensions and “put out fires”. Time is important for small businesses and meetings need to be specific and to the point.
In fact NEDs can round off a board by not only providing experience and knowledge that other directors may not have, but by being able to take a more objective view of issues affecting the business and offering a wider sense of the possibilities for growth.
Here are a few things that will help you have a successful working day
A Successful Working Day – Step back and reflect:
It’s important to take a moment to look at the big picture. It’s easy to jump in head first. Look at the larger goals in order to better prioritise and Strategise
Take a few minutes to think about where your business should be going. Pursuing strategic clarity is a worthy objective. It’s hard to get somewhere if you don’t know where you’re going.
Check your to-do lists and calendars and update
It’s important that you take a quick look at your to-do list and calendar to know what’s ahead. Missing any early meetings or deadlines will cause stress and problems.
Acknowledge and plan for the tough projects
There are always difficult projects that get put aside. Address how you’re going to attack them so they don’t have them hanging over your head.
Write something that requires thought
Writing requires discipline, and research finds that willpower is at its peak early in the day. The first hour of the day can be a great time to write a well-crafted email introducing yourself to a new client, a proposal or report, marketing materials, or even an op-ed or article.
Glance at emails
You want to start the day in a proactive fashion, not a reactive fashion. However, I’m pretty sure 99 percent of us do check email pretty near the start of the day. The trick is to glance at it, and not get bogged down in stuff that doesn’t matter.
The latest headline or office drama can cause anyone to be distracted, no matter how high up the chain you are. Focused professionals inherently know when they’re taking themselves off-track.
It’s better to put meetings at low energy times which is mid-afternoon for many people, and do projects that require focus at high-energy times when you feel most motivated to tackle them.
This one is difficult for most people, but successful individuals understand the importance of creating a few minutes of peace before jumping in. Taking a moment to stretch and breathe will help you make better decisions during this chaotic time of day.
Success is indeed a mindset. If you’re mindful of what it takes to succeed you’ll likely revisit these priorities throughout the day and stay on task.
Business Start Up
Being your own boss can be satisfying and rewarding, however before you jump in with both feet you need to follow a few simple points
You need to think of an idea for your business, something different and unique and you need to think about the economics of the idea and are other people pursuing the same concept. If so, you will need to make your business stand out of the crowd know if you are going to be legally protected.
Create a Business Plan
Having done a business plan helps you to gain a vision and direction as you begin your business journey. Your business plan is your blue print.
The Business Entity
This is where you decide how to legally structure. Some businesses can become very complicated. They each have their pros and cons.
You need to think about who your target market is. Your target market is where you need a specific group of people that your company has created products or services for.
Creating a Website
Creating your business website is one of the most important things you need to do for your business. The website is essential, it tells people who you are, where you are and encourages the customers to buy off the website or make enquiries regarding your services. Plaese click here to read more about our website services
You will need to understand how to get your products or services out in the market place and to show people they exist, get your name out there, gain custom. If people don’t know they exist, how will you sell your products or services?
You need to start thinking how you are going to be able to fund your business, and get to know how to do your tax benefits?
Before creating your business remember to research, some businesses can be slowed down as the preparation is not done to high standards, unexpected effects are sure to come up, so make sure you check things out.
These points are a simple guide to help you make the successful leap to entrepreneurship and owning your own successful business.
When doing the research for your new business name you will need to think carefully for both legal and marketing purposes.
A great name could prove to be your most powerful branding tool, so naming your business requires a lot of consideration.
What’s in a name? The modern business world has changed so much and a name is no longer the thing that just goes on a business card or name plaque. Your business name has the potential to be seen all around on the internet and of course social media. Here are a few steps to help you when thinking about the business name.
What type of name you want?
There are only a few categories of a company name:
First is the “firstname and surname” or place name
Second are the made up names
Third you have evocative names from everyday objects (Orange or Apple).
The type of name you will choose should reflect your type of business. Think about the names of businesses you will be competing with and think about how your customers would feel about using your potential name to decide which type of brand you want. From here you should be able to build a shortlist.
The Companies House check
Next step for the naming process should be the Companies House website where you can check whether the names you have chosen for your company are already taken. They also have a great App for this that I have used on an iPad.
Is the Domain Name is available?
You will also need to check that you can get a website which is more or less in line with the company name. For UK companies trading largely in the UK it is still the case that a www.companyname.co.uk URL is what your customers will expect to see. You will also want to defensively register variants of the name. For a UK business it is always a good idea to get both .co.uk and .com – Search online for your shortlist of names
The last check is to make sure that when you type search terms for your business like “Morgan Butter products” that none of your competitors appear and no dodgy brands or links come up. You will also need to make sure that no products or services belonging to other people have the name you have chosen.
Its always a good idea to check the name for feedback with potential customers, friends and family to get a feeling as to whether the name is going to work.
After theses simple steps, you’re pretty much ready to go ahead and finalise your name.
As soon as you have decided, remember the domain name is as important as the company name so get these registered as quickly as possible. This is a service we offer, so if you need help please get in touch by clicking here.
Here are a few Small Business Marketing Ideas. As a small business owner you may not have the resources of a large brand. However you can still make a strong impact with targeted and creative ideas that will both help you to get your business in front of new potential clients / customers and engage the customers you already have.
Here are a few marketing ideas to help you re-think and open the potential power of your marketing efforts.
Optimize your Online Presence
If you already have a website and start thinking about ways to optimize it. Your website should be more than a simple couple of pages displaying your telephone number and location. It has the potential and should be the most powerful of your marketing tools. The best websites are those that offer real content
Consider starting a regularly updated blog that offers both updates about your business and other interesting content, such as industry news, ideas observations. This will help you establish a unique point-of-view and further clarifying your brand. Additionally, invite readers to sign up for your email distribution / newsletter or to follow you on social media. Finally, be sure your site is mobile friendly as more and more people are accessing the web via mobile devices and Google has now made this a important requirement.
Make sure your business is enabled for reviews and feedback and be sure to respond to both positive and negative. Reaching out after negative feedback demonstrates responsiveness and a commitment to customer service that many larger companies can’t deliver.
Most businesses now have at the very least a Facebook or Twitter account, but why not expand to Instagram, Pinterest or Google+ to reach a new customer base and further show your creativity and vision? A Google+ page can be highly effective for your local business as it enables special local features on Google search. You can also use these profiles to become active in social communities that are relevant to your service or product.
Think about what makes your business effective i.e. the opportunity to form close, meaningful relationships with your customers. Small businesses are not stuck behind the layers of professional firewalls. Create a voice for your marketing that is personable and unique, and use that presence to build your online relationships through an email newsletter and strong social media. Start a loyalty program that gives preference to repeat customers, and consider a referral program that honours customers who tell their friends about you.
Mobilising your community is still one of the best ways to create buzz. Collaborate with other local non direct competitors to cross-promote or to pair your services as part of local packages. Once you get to know the rhythms of your neighborhood, you’ll be able to craft your brand to more directly meet the needs of the people you’re serving and be able to meet your customers with your marketing message. You will demonstrate a real commitment to making your business integral to the growth of your neighborhood.
Food for Thought
These are just a few small business marketing ideas and tools that can be simple, effective and will help you extend your reach. With a bit of creativity and hard work you can attain the same results as a big marketing firm even without the big resources.