Advice for startups in their first year
Starting a business can be daunting. As a business owner for 16 years, I’ve learnt important lessons on the way. I wish I’d known these five tips when starting out, but for anyone starting out here are some vital lessons I’ve learnt.
Play to your strengths and recognise your weaknesses
Understand what you like is likely to be what you’re good at and things which end up still on your list on a Friday morning, are probably the things you don’t like and really, just aren’t very good at. Knowing this will allow you to keep one eye on support for your weaknesses at all times.
I would always say understanding every element of your business is essential and being able to physically do everything is also incredibly valuable but in order to grow you need to outsource, starting with support in areas you are less keen on should help drive your business from day one.
Ask your friends and family for feedback
Talk to potential customers, hone in on your target audience and talk to them. Utilise objective people but understand your friends and family are unlikely to tell you the truth and much more likely to tell you what you want to hear. If you can, try to ask friends of friends and family or work colleagues of friends and family.
What you need in the early days is brutal honesty to fine-tune your product. Above anything else, the product is what matters, taking your time over minute details is something I would strongly endorse. The foundations of your business lie in the quality of your products and once you’ve cracked this, the rest really is marketing, sales and problem-solving.
Having a KPI tracker is a very simple yet effective way to stimulate growth. It is easy to run so fast you forget to review initiatives you have created to see if they work. Whether it’s email marketing, partnerships, B2C development or promotions, understanding what impacts your sales but also what brings the most value, is key to growth.
Keeping a monthly record of each element of your business and initiatives that you have tried and tested will allow you to see what works and what doesn’t before you throw any serious amount of budget in any one direction.
Count every penny
With accounting now 100% digital, seeing every transaction and reconciling it on a daily basis means you can have instant access to information about money. Whilst spending and investing are essential for growth, monitoring every single penny is what truly counts to ensure if something is profitable you are watching it but more importantly, if it isn’t, you put a stop to it as quickly.
There is very little you can’t teach yourself online, social media is a gold mine of free information from highly qualified experts. Whilst spending hours scrolling isn’t good for anyone, scrolling with purpose can give you access to information, people and skillsets you would never have found in an office twenty years ago.
Whether it’s marketing related, accounting, inventory management or sales, I ran our business from self-taught YouTube tutorials for years and whilst it may not be the quickest route it gives me a level of understanding across all elements of the business that in turn allows me to make informed decisions when outsourcing.