You have a business idea, and your business plan is in the works — you’re on the right track! To help you go from just starting to startup, our team of experts is sharing their top tips & advice for entrepreneurs looking to take the next steps in their entrepreneurial journey.
1. Think big, start small
There is a lot to be said for starting a reduced, simplified version of your ultimate business idea. Many entrepreneurs find themselves waiting for ‘confirmation’ that their idea is successful, but that perfect information is exceedingly hard to come by. A great approach is to think “what is the very least I can do, and still complete my mission?” This will allow you to begin selling without a need for a major up-front investment, and learn a lot about how your larger plan will really work.
2. Consider joining an industry association
There really is strength in numbers. Joining an industry association, business association, or Chamber of Commerce has strength in numbers by providing advantages such as potential savings on gasoline, insurance, credit card rates, banking, legal services, business supplies and more.
For example, the Alberta Chambers of Commerce website lists their member benefits after joining the Chamber. Their website also provides a searchable listing of the Alberta Chamber Members. This can help with marketing your business. Also, providing a link to your website is great for SEO.
These business groups/associations sometimes also provide industry statistics which may only be available to members. As well, their websites often have industry news, resources, events, etc.
3. Find ways to collaborate
As mentioned above, there is strength in numbers. Collaborating with other businesses may allow you to reach your target market quicker, may open your business up to new customer groups, could allow you to reach customers in new ways, or may offer opportunities for cost savings by partnering with someone for delivery or bundled packages. It also helps to have as many connections as you can with other small business owners, so you can learn from and grow with each other. This may require a shift in perspective, requiring you to look at competitors more like partners, so it’s important to make sure that any collaboration you undertake will be mutually beneficial. You may also want to think of ways you can collaborate with businesses outside of, but related to, your product or service category. For example in Edmonton, the YEG Community Box and Uproot Food Collective have recently popped up, allowing many local businesses to sell their goods through one platform.
4. Have a business contingency plan
One tip that I have for people looking to start their own businesses is to have a business contingency plan. I see a lot of business plans, and a lot of entrepreneurs ignore this section. Planning is important for every aspect of life. Having a contingency plan provides business owners alternative actions to respond to any uncontrollable events or changes that may occur. Business owners need to be proactive and put a plan in place, even though you may never need it.
Without a contingency plan, you are opening yourself and your business up to unnecessary risks. Here are some important benefits of a contingency plan:
- A good plan will minimize the loss of production
- It will prevent panic & promote action
- Empowers staff during the tough times
- You’ll feel more prepared overall
5. Let the experts be the experts
If you do not have the knowledge and skills to properly set up your business yourself, seek professional advice. The cost of mistakes can be very high, and you’ll end up hiring a professional to fix your mistakes. Accountants and lawyers can be costly, so make sure you get it right the first time.
Our Expert Program offers complimentary 30-minute sessions with accountants, lawyers, and other industry professionals. Consider booking one to get you started!
6. Get the right business insurance
7. Get digital!
More than ever, setting your business up online can be critical to its success. With the recent impacts of COVID-19 forcing many, if not most, businesses to implement an online sales strategy, it is critical that your eCommerce platform is set up so that your customers have access to your products and services. Haven’t set up your online store yet? Our blog has some helpful tips.
Don’t neglect social media, either. It can be one of your most powerful marketing tools; it allows you to connect with your audience in new and different ways and listen in on the conversations your consumers and your target audience are having. It is the easiest way to reach your audience without needing to spend a lot of money, keeping in mind that you can invest in advertising on some platforms if it feels right for you and aligns with your business goals later down the road. Marketing your small business will be critical as you launch!
8. Validate your assumptions
Starting a business is one of the most satisfying and rewarding endeavors in life, but it is not without its own frustrations and disappointments…more so in recent times. One way to ensure success is to plan and validate your ideas before investing your time, energy, and resources.
It is okay to make claims about your products, services, and customers as part of the business planning process, even during or post COVID-19. However, it is not prudent to think people will come just because you built it. Validating assumptions made on an idea or a new concept for an existing business is often overlooked and underestimated. Validating your business can be as simple and non-threatening as an observation: asking potential clients about what they like or calling up a competitor company with similar ideas and concepts to learn about their services.
Remember that business is not just an “Art”; where it is flexible and subjective on things like your company values, brand colours, designs. It is very much a “Science” too. Science is factual and systematic and often plays out on your market research, operation, and financials. Be sure to use a scientific approach in testing your assumptions. This guarantees a credible result.
And finally, do not wait to completely confirm every assumption before you make the leap to start the business. I personally encourage my clients to make the jump at 60-70%, after all, business is a risk and you should make room to be an “educated” risk-taker.