It’s January 13th 2018 and hundreds of entrepreneurs both young and old (but mainly young) are gathered in East London to consider anything and everything to do with starting a business. A great day with loads on on offer – so ‘pick and mix’ was the way to go.
The event was also refreshingly free from business bullshit and the hero-worshipping of edgy, sweary entrepreneurs spouting ‘awesome’, ‘cool’ and ‘disruptive’ all day. In no particular order (as they say on Strictly) I picked up the following tips by keeping my ears pinned back during the day.
The recommended maximum number of questions and completion time for market research surveys is 22 questions and seven minutes (after that there’s a severe drop in response rates)
Success in starting business is largely down to a combination of ideas, skills and persistence, and lot of them – 90% of business start-ups fail within a year, 47% of retail businesses survive for 10 years
Making products is not business, selling products is the business
Focus on your passions, understand the core mission of your new business, be clear why you are different from other similar businesses (the competition)
The difference between masculine and feminine marketing is the difference between ‘hard sell’ and ‘heart sell’
Talk to as many people as possible- share your ideas freely. Unless your product is technical, forget patents (they’re expensive) and concentrate on protecting your trade mark
Get your products out there as soon as possible – stop talking, start selling – just do it!
Write down 50 people you think should know about your new business, decide how you’re going to reach them, and tell them
“Success is selling something that doesn’t come back to people who do” A cliche, but true.
Work hard, be nice to people, do your research, know your customers, be prepared to sacrifice sleep
Start small, never stop learning and the business will grow with you
When you start out in business think about your definition of success – is it making money, making a difference, or what?
Ideas are worthless, execution is everything
In your business pitch start with the pain for your customers
When you start business planning, list all your assumptions and test each one [before someone else asks you awkward questions]
Mentors are great for keeping you on track and keeping you going, particularly at start-up stage
The highs and lows are more extreme when starting your own business [rather than working in someone else’s]
Know your strengths and [particularly] your weaknesses when starting a business
Tough times at start-up stage can be a springboard for great business development
Understand your brand, focus on the core of your mission, follow your passion, talk to lots of people
Starting a business takes three times as long as you think it will
There’s no right and wrong way to write a business plan. It’s about getting the job done – which is probably to make the best case to readers (investors, collaborators, potential customers) to persuade them to support you and your business idea.
Below are 10 questions that most business plans should aim to answer…
Why are you the right person to be setting up in business? What’s your personal and professional situation – relevant life experience/ relevant training and work experience. What are your interests outside of work but relevant to your business success?
Why is this business particularly attractive to you? What’s the source of your passion – personal and professional? Why you will put in the extra effort and time to succeed when the going gets tough?
Who will buy your products or services? Define your target market/s in a meaningful way (their demographics, attitudes, behaviours)
Why will people want to buy your products/services? What ‘needs’ do your product/ service meet? And what ‘wants’ will you satisfy such that people will buy from you rather than your competitors?
How do you know that there is demand for your products and services? Explain your market research – show real, meaningful evidence of there being enough people willing to pay for your product/service. The views of your friends and family don’t count! The best market research is test-trading
How will your business plan show the figures add up (with more income than expenditure)? This is your best estimate to show there are enough people willing to spend enough money to allow you to pay your bills (use your market research and cost/sales estimates to make the case )
What is ‘plan B’ if things don’t turn out as planned? Will you … Scale down? Slow down? Do something slightly different? Do something completely different?
How do you know the overall business idea is realistic? Can you point to others doing the same thing successfully? How self-aware are you about your strengths and ways to compensate for your weaknesses?
How will you monitor the performance of your business? How will you know how well you’re doing? This is about more than just money – the ‘bottom line’. Will you set targets and milestones, identify relevant measures – outputs and outcomes – over the short/medium/long term.
What will success look like? Imagine yourself in 12 months – what will a typical day / week look like? What‘s your vision for the period covered by your business plan?
Show development stages in your business plan. Targets for month 3, month 6, and month 12 perhaps
Make your plan sound certain (be positive but realistic and honest) even if some elements are not very fixed
Keep it simple – write for a 12 year old with no knowledge of you/ your business Quality is more important than quantity
Know where your figures come from (and explain the main assumptions in your plan)
Add other materials, such as photos, at the end if it helps the reader get a better grasp of you and your business idea.
“People don’t buy what you do, they buy why you do it,” says marketing consultant Simon Sinek. When you want to get people on board at an early stage in developing your business, it’s more important to ‘sell the vision’ as people’s feelings about the enterprise are likely to influence their behaviour much more than the details (which come later).