There you are, on the brink of greatness, launching your small business from the ground up. Here are a few tips to help your project thrive, based on my own experience.
Have a consistent brand
Branding isn’t just for the big guys. In the early days, you’re going to be spending a lot of energy marketing your business and building up a client base. Consistent branding will help people recognize you and get a feel for who you are and how you work.
Seasoned marketer Sujan Patel recommends putting together some brand guidelines, including things like your logo, brand ‘voice’ and any mascots or spokespeople.
As well as matching things like colors, fonts and packaging, make sure your customers’ experience with you is consistent too. It’s no use if you’ve got a cheerful, helpful website but your staff are abrupt or shy on the phone.
Take a look at this blog post for some more brand identity tips
Be ready to change
You need a detailed business plan – no question. Without a statement of intent you won’t be able to secure finance or define your market niche. But you don’t have to stick doggedly to your business plan long-term. Be prepared to test, learn and go with what works and let go of what doesn’t.
An associate of mine started out her business with a mobile app that helped people find the cheapest parking near their location. At 79 cents to download, it wasn’t expensive, but a competitor launched a free app with fewer features. If she’d been willing to explore an ad-funded model instead of sticking to her guns on the price, she might have kept her market share. Unfortunately, the competitor’s app became way more popular.
If you don’t do it right, networking won’t amount to much more than a heap of business cards or LinkedIn contacts you never speak to again. If you’re attending a networking event, do a little prep work beforehand. What do you want to get out of the event?
Think about the kinds of people you’d like to meet. Is it recruiters, suppliers, potential hires, freelancers? What gaps are there in your business network that you’d like to fill? When you find someone you think you could work with, see if you can close on a meeting right then and there. Ask them to meet you for a coffee later in the week, or invite them to check out your offices one afternoon.
If you’re shy and the idea of networking fills you with fear, take a look at this infographic which has some networking tips for introverts.
Look after yourself
Entrepreneurs are renowned for their total dedication to their work – or to flip it around, their total inability to switch it off (certainly sounds familiar to me!). Of course, you need to be driven to succeed in a small business, but you also need to maintain enough of a work-life balance to keep healthy long-term.
I really believe that taking time to relax in whatever way you most enjoy, and spending time with friends and family who make you feel happy and supported is such a fundamental part of your wellbeing. I’ve come to realize that the business can take care of itself for a few hours, and you’ll be able to recharge your batteries so you can return to work with even more enthusiasm than before.
The companies I mention or link to in this post are just examples that I thought you’d find useful – I don’t endorse them or their services. I have no affiliation with them and make no representation about their services.