Your 4 first steps in starting a business

So many entrepreneurs get stuck before they get started. They don’t know where to start, they don’t know what to do. They know what a growing and successful business looks like because they see them everywhere, but what about one that’s still in its infancy? They are not lacking in motivation; they just don’t know how to use it.

I asked entrepreneurs to tell me what they would do first if they were starting from scratch. Their responses fell into four categories: Decide on your business idea, become well acquainted with the target group, prepare for success and then enlist the help of a mentor. Here are the details.

Decide on your business idea

First things first: Know what your business will be. Without a defined business idea, it’s easy to find yourself on a continuous research journey. Daniel Priestley, founder of Dent Global, knows exactly what he would do. “I would put together a team of four for a brainstorming session. We would come up with 5-10 ideas and create landing pages for each one. We would then test the popularity of each idea with real customers and plan a launch event for the winner.” A solid team, a proven idea and a deadline to launch: easy. Kaybe Mega Marketing’s Kriss Britton also focused on the launch, which he believes should be “as soon as possible”. He added: “Too much time is wasted coming up with ideas or perfecting everything. Start fast, fail fast. Learn, progress and iterate. Make a rough draft.”

Validation and Product Market Fit are the first pieces in the puzzle, and there are multiple ways to find them. Keir Spoon is a trainer starting from scratch sharing what he’s doing right now. “I talk to as many entrepreneurs as possible. Test my message and offer with a live webinar. Blog my findings on Medium.” In those early days, validating a service with actual customers and documenting the journey was a solid move.

When the practical steps of your idea start to make sense, don’t forget passion and purpose, these entrepreneurs say. “Make sure you have a genuine passion for the idea,” said Embellish Truth’s Bharati Manchanda, “it will guide you through the ups and downs.” Business mentor Emma Hine wants you to “know your purpose, including the reasons why you want to start the business and what you want your life to be like. Then build a strategy that has that at its core.” Adrian Kidd, financial planning coach, went one step further and said, “Do something that makes a difference in the world or in some way that makes other people’s lives better.” He believes that “everything else fits together” and you appear more authentic.

Graphic designer Ollie Booth asked himself a simple question: “Do I love it enough to spend weekends and evenings working on it for the next two years?” He believes maintaining income during this time is the hardest.

Conduct your customer research

You don’t have a business without customers, so it makes sense that step number two focuses on them. Forget the product and “focus on the market,” said Loud Llama PR founder Paris Collingbourne. “You can have the most revolutionary idea in the world, but you won’t get anywhere if there’s no market for it.”

Ed tech entrepreneur Matt Jones starts with a conversation. “I would find some potential customers and speak to them to confirm the need.” He would determine if he could “fix a pain point for them” and go from there. Biz Coach UK founder Rohit Nanda would identify what makes his company different and then “focus on how it appeals to my potential clients’ hot buttons”. He said that everyone has a “problem they have that they don’t want,” and your solution could be one they don’t know they need. “It’s how you frame your message,” he added.

While it may be tempting to acquire clients at this early stage, publicist Crystal Richard wants you to “screen new clients and be more selective.” Especially if you’re starting a services business, the rush to sign clients “can mean you’re working with anyone to fill your pipeline, including clients who aren’t a good fit.”

The Design Sheppard author Stacey Steppard believes that step two should be your very first step. “Start building a community around your new business idea before it even exists.” She advised you to “sort through your brand message and share it with your community on social media and through email and content marketing.” She believes the secret to attracting people to you and your new business is to “share the journey from day one.”

Set for success

What’s next? Set for success. Once your idea is complete, tested, and in demand, lay your foundations and line up your ducks to make it a reality. Welcome to the execution phase, where your job is to build traction and get momentum going.

Blogger Tom Bourlet would “create a solid business plan with a gap analysis, competitor analysis, financial information and budgets.” He would include a “marketing strategy, a content plan and a recruitment strategy” and believes that “the biggest mistake is not preparing.”

Business owner Viva Andrada O’Flynn starts her business around SWOT analysis with an internal and external approach. “I would take stock of my experiences, what I enjoy doing and who I am as a person. I would explore what’s going on with the market, the location and the world.” She would make this her unique selling proposition to find out “what I could do better than the people in the field and what I could do to attract potential customers to offer added value”.

Entrepreneur and author Lucy Werner said you should “assess the intellectual property of your brand name and buy a domain name. Build the brand and take your audience with you on the journey.” Marketing and PR consultant Sam Martin adds, “Secure your social media handles and make sure they’re all consistent.” From experience he knows this can hit brands too late when they are “surprised to find that the name they think belongs to them is already gone”.

Immortal Monkey founder Estelle Keeber would find it easier to focus on maximizing social media and have a solid plan for doing so. “It’s a great first step and your greatest free marketing resource,” she said.

While some advice so far has been to set up cheaply and fail quickly, PR freelancer Kelly Chin says don’t skimp on your website. She would “spend money to work with a reputable developer to create a working, fabulous website, rather than doing it cheaply and having to spend more to fix it in the long run,” which she also believes “the launch date.” Kelly The Poet would also invest, but “in social media marketing courses to learn how to share my story from day one.”

Find a mentor

You have your idea, you know your customer and you know what needs to be done to win them over. There’s another crucial step that current entrepreneurs are recommending for aspiring entrepreneurs. “Surround yourself with the right people,” said Count On Us Recruitment founder Fiona O’Neill. “Join business groups, ask them questions, learn from them. Learn from their mistakes and their accomplishments.” Few have made big waves without a mate, and O’Neill agrees. “Starting a business requires a certain mindset. Being around others who have the same mindset is key.”

Activist and business owner Tony Robinson OBE would take more of a shotgun approach. “Ask any existing business owner who really understands how to sell to your prospects how you can test trade at minimal cost.” Learn and emulate someone with existing success in your field.

Digital media entrepreneur Euan Cameron says one should find several of these people by “putting together a council of experienced consultants”. He believes “the board is essential in the early days to keep you accountable, focused and on track. It also opens doors that are often closed to startups without a track record.”

A business coach could also keep you on the hook. After twelve years in the multiple company business, entrepreneur Sian Lenegan would secure hers. “My first step would be to introduce accountability,” she said.

Getting started can be the hardest part, but once you gain momentum, your business begins to grow. Set the wheels in motion, sharpen the knife before cutting, prepare to jump; all are essential to the success you seek. Come up with your amazing idea, plan your first actions, dig deep into the minds of your customers and learn ahead of others on the roller coaster ride of entrepreneurship.

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