Detailed planningNow that you’ve decided what business entity you’re going for, it’s time to put pen to paper and scope out some seriously detailed business planning.
By now you should:
- Understand your business idea and where it fits into the market
- Know the type of business entity you’re setting up
- Understand who (if anyone) will be joining you on the journey
- Have an outline figure for the build cost of your product (or service) and
- Have determined whether you need to balance the new project on top of your ‘day’ job (most people do, at least until the money starts rolling in)
If you've considered the aforementioned, then congratulations are in order: You’ve reached a juncture where you now need to take some time to carve out a well-mapped route that’ll detail just how you're going to get your new venture off the ground, so that you can begin to trade.
Imagine you’re a carpenter – would you deliver a handmade chair that had chipped bits of wood and coarse splinters sticking out? Of course not! So it's important to be as polished with your written work and figures as you would be your practical work, treating it with the level of professional attention it deserves.
You’ll need to be precise in your preparations and ensure you have all the right tools to assemble your ideas in a manner which is smooth on the surface and crafted with care and passion. You need to put together a solid plan.
Going against the grain may not give you (or potential lenders) quite the finish you’re looking for. If you hand over a business plan that’s rough and packed with splinters, it'll attract attention, for all the wrong reasons.
Understanding the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in your chosen field is absolutely critical to your businesses success, as well as your ongoing survival.
While the SWOT acronym may appear to be just a bunch of letters thrown together, it’s really not. Understanding the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats that are relevant to you and your chosen sector are vital components of business planning and evolving trade. Take the time to plan your project and you’ll have a greater propensity of success during every stage in the running of your business.
Here’s an outline example of how to construct a SWOT analysis of your own:
Strong capital injection
Business partner with substantial experience in Research and Development (R&D)
Impressive product ‘user testing’ feedback
Low cost build
Prolific in digital marketing and Social Media
Evidential gap in UK/European market
Volatility in new business partner relationship
New company with no track record
Timescales, deadlines and existing work-related pressures
Lack of robustness of processes
Poor knowledge/contacts of key business stakeholders
Strong trading markets in UK, Ireland and Internationally
Potential to effect E-commerce business with online sales
Possible to ‘drop-ship’ and reduce costs
R and D funding available
Empirical evidence of fast market growth
Currency fluctuation risk
Import duty rises
Poor product reviews/online trolling
Environmental changes E.g. weather
Ongoing technological developments
BREXIT and trade barriers
What's your USP?
USP stands for ‘unique selling point’ and it’s good to have one. You’ll often be asked what’s different about you and your product and why it’s so unique, so it’s important to have an answer. Not just an answer, a really good answer which highlights the function and capability that sets your product or service apart. Spend a bit of time exploring this area and if you need to go back and revisit the design of your product or service, because it’ll be time well spent. Practice your 'elevator pitch' too. An elevator pitch is a concise summary that should last for no more than 60 seconds and that sparks interest and promotes your product or service. It's a summary of the value of your proposition that can be told in as few words as practically possible. It's not as easy as it sounds, so get practicing!
What the market is (often) looking for is something different - and different doesn’t have to be complicated. If you’ve a product or service that can solve a problem or that can make a real difference to how people live or work, as well as standing the test of time, you may well be on to something.
When it comes to user testing, there’s no better method of establishing how people feel about your product, so don’t be afraid to put it out there to receive some genuine feedback.
User testing allows the design and development of your product to be open to constructive criticism that should make it better, more user friendly and identify ways it could be improved. Running constant user testing groups or forums and re-evaluating the feedback, before modifying your build could save you both time and money in the long run.
Don’t be precious about your product either – you’re not building or creating it with yourself in mind. What you’re doing is for the greater good, so try to look at the bigger picture by remembering that it’s the people who ‘vote with their feet’ that will have the final say.
Intellectual Property (or IP as it’s often referred to) is a form of legal protection placed on a product(s) so that it’s not copied or mimicked by another manufacturer. Whether it’s a patent, trademark or design you apply for, you need to contact the IP Office and follow their guidelines on Intellectual Property to see exactly what falls under the remit of IP and whether your product can be protected (or not as may be the case).
By clicking on the Intellectual Property link above, you’ll be able to establish what intellectual property is and what you can do to stop people from stealing or copying:-
- The name(s) of your products or brand(s)
- Your inventions
- The design or look of your products, as well as
- Things you write, make or produce
There are a number of grants and business investment solutions available for start-up businesses. Depending on the region you live and work in these funders will vary significantly.
From Research and Development to Grant and Proof of Concept funding, there are a wide range of business and personal investors out there who are looking for the next big invention. So if you have a strong proposition you think your chosen market is really going to benefit from and can back this up with corroborative evidence, you’re ready to engage in some market activity.Banks tend to be conservative when it comes to fully funding business start-ups because of the risks associated with both a new business and a new concept. Where they may be of real assistance, though, is with Matched Funding. This is where your total project costs are, for example, £50,000 and a local investment department has agreed to give you half of that sum. If you provide the bank with clear evidence of their investment, as well as the following (see below), your chances of securing matched funding are definitely on the up.
Now’s the time (assuming you haven’t already done so) to start looking around for some business funding.
Here’s a typical list of what you’ll need to provide:
- Evidence of the investment offer by way of an Offer Letter etc.
- Comprehensive business plan (between one and five years)
- Cash flow forecast (generally 12 to 24 months)
- Detailed budget
- Statement of Personal Assets and Liabilities
- Six months personal bank statements (business too, if you have any)
- Details of any collateral (in case they offer you secured funding)
- Business licences/Proof of Concept/IP/Trademarks/Patents etc.
They’re likely to carry out a full credit reference search on you too. There’s a lot at stake when any investor hands out money for a concept that’s ‘new to market’, so be realistic about your expectations.
There’s so much more to say when it comes to regional funding, but if your business is based in Northern Ireland, you might like to check out the following links:
The world is shrinking.
In principal that's down to technological convergence and the fast-paced digital changes that are constantly emerging. What that means for businesses is that the world is far more accessible – all four corners of it! – and that global movement and transportation has opened up markets that once seemed so very far away.
What it means for marketing and digital communications is pretty much the same – the world is far more accessible thanks to transmedia (multiple digital platforms) and the virtual openings that each media channel has delivered.
If you have a retail shop, you’ll have a shop window used to sell your stock, positioning it in a way that attracts interest and converts sales. It’s no different when it comes to considering your digital presence.
So think about investing in the following media channels and try to incorporate your digital media strategy as part of your overall business plan:
- Business Website – either build a website yourself or have someone build it for you. Most web-based packages come with a domain name, for example, www.woodsidecarpentry.co.uk, plus a linked email address, like 'firstname.lastname@example.org', as well as a ‘how to’ guide that can talk you through the build yourself, if you’re technically inclined. Your website should showcase your product and service(s), offer reviews and testimonials (although this could go either way!), feature a section 'About' your business and your 'Contact' details. Down the line (and if you want to branch out into online sales), you’ll need to add some sort of E-commerce plug-in that will allow you to upload things like a stock inventory and accept payments online. (there's more on Ecommerce solutions under 'Growing your Business').
- Social Media – think about Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest if you want to have as strong an online presence as practically possible. YouTube is also incredibly popular when it comes to ‘How to’ videos and tutorials. On a budget, if you can demonstrate how well your product works, why not consider adding a series of YouTube clips or vlogs (video blogs) as part of your overall digital plan? With smart phones and tablets that have superb editing tools, there’s never been a better way to enhance your online presence.
- Posting Content – when you post make sure it’s error free. People are very unforgiving when it comes to typing errors or incorrectly quoted prices, so check, double check and triple check your work before you post it. Consider using a Social Media managing platform that will allow you to schedule your posts across a variety of digital channels too. If you’re going to be stretched in a few weeks’ time, for example, simply schedule all your posts in advance, then sit back, relax and think of nothing but your ongoing success and how it's all under control!