Are you exploring the possibility of running your own business? Or perhaps you have already started up, but like any good business person, you are always striving to improve and do better? Either way, you are bound to find some inspiration in our guide, 8 steps to running your own business successfully.
Make your message clear
What is it that you do, what does your business offer people? Define this as specifically as you possibly can for yourself first, as you need to be able to explain and convey this to potential customers.
Once you have done this, you will need to think about what it is that sets your business apart from every other business in your sector. What is your USP? When you have decided and can articulate it clearly, you need to consider how this can also be communicated.
You need to reach people to offer them your services, products or skills and you can only do this if you are very plainly setting out what it is that you do, your message must be clear. So whether you are an investment expert talking about Alternative Beta or a dog behavior specialist explaining canine enrichment, your business values, mission, branding and reputation all needs to be built around exactly what it is that you do.
Be creative with your branding
Now that you are clear on what you will be offering potential clients, you need to think about how that will all be branded.
Your key product or service needs to be apparent in your branding, and ideally a sense of your values. You will want to create things such as logos, signage, websites, avatars, packaging, advertorials and so on, and all should carry consistent branding and imagery.
You might want to get a graphic designer involved here if this is not your field of expertise, and it is not too late to do this if you are still a fledgling company. You need your brand to stand out in the crowd.
Prioritise your bookkeeping and administrative tasks
We know that these are often not the most exciting of tasks, but these really do need to be prioritised. You cannot afford to make errors here and it is your obligation to understand what your responsibilities are in these areas.
Many companies do hire employees expressly for this area, they outsource to specialists or they invest in accounting software. It is worth exploring your options here and selecting the most appropriate course of action for your business.
Do take the time to explore all that you need to fulfil in terms of your tax requirements and do so from the outset.
Build the best team
Your business will need to rely heavily on your team, so you will want to build the best team that you possibly can.
Firstly, you need to recruit well. When looking for a new applicant, define exactly what the role will involve and what you will require from candidates. Be as specific as you can possibly be as it will help you to tailor your interview and assessment tasks. There should be two people interviewing and do your best to put applicants at ease so that they can relax enough to show you their true personalities.
Assuming that you have now recruited the right people for your business, you will want to invest in their training. Get this one right from day one so that they feel comfortable and confident to do their jobs correctly and to a good standard. Put training in place for any new procedures introduced further down the line for them too.
You will now want to provide ongoing coaching and support to everyone. Hold regular staff reviews on an individual basis, giving you a time to recognise great work or address any performance issues and create a plan to rectify them.
Create a happy and motivated team by leading honestly and positively, rewarding good performances, offering fair salaries and benefits, incentivising over achievements and encouraging involvement and input from everyone. People who feel valued in their roles are likely to perform well in them and remain in them.
Focus on your premises
Your office or store is where you will be spending a lot of your time. You will want to get the office design right, for you, for your team and for your customers.
It makes sense that you will want your premises to reflect the business that you run so it does need to be fit for purpose. You will then want it to be inviting to visitors and well-signed for them to be able to find it. If your town has a particular area where certain sectors can be found, aim to be well-positioned there. For example, there may be a street where many realtors can be found, so if you’re in property, be there. You don’t want to miss out on picking up easy footfall like this.
Inside, think about the ambience that you would like to create. Make it welcoming and a nice space for your team to work in. Add splashes of colour or comfortable seating, a decent coffee machine and the right equipment for them to be able to carry out their jobs efficiently.
Produce a marketing strategy
What is the plan to market your business to its fullest? Which areas are the ones that make the most sense for you to focus on? There are plenty of ways to market your business, some free and some very expensive, so what will work for you?
You will need to define the customer that you are trying to attract in order to produce an effective marketing strategy. Work out where these customers spend their time and what forms of marketing and advertising they are likely to pay attention to.
It might be a huge billboard or a television advert, or it might be more subtle placement in specialised blogs or messages to their inboxes. It might well be a mixture of many different options, but you need to be clear on where your budget is going to be best spent on this one, and what the message is that you are looking to promote.
Any business will benefit from word of mouth marketing and recommendations. Some businesses are entirely built on these. Do your best to encourage happy customers to help you to spread the word, whether they tell their next door neighbor or they leave you a brilliant review online, it will be very powerful as trusted recommendations cannot be beaten.
In order to spread the word about your business and build connections, you are going to need to get social.
It is worth looking out for local networking events to build relationships within your area, attend conferences that are relevant to your industry and chat online in relevant forums.
Social media is very powerful nowadays and many potential customers are likely to be found on some of these platforms. These are free to use in the main and are an excellent way of telling people what you are all about.
Do a little research into the most popular social media platforms and work out which ones would be best for you to focus on, as trying to cover them all can be very time consuming. To decide which ones to use, consider the ones you are most comfortable with, the ones where your potential customers are likely to be and the ones that your closest competitors are using.
Start with just one or two platforms and being sharing content and status updates there. You will soon learn the sorts of content that gains the most engagement and interest so you can start planning your content effectively. Do interact with everyone who chats with you, acknowledge comments and complaints, and remain professional and friendly at all times. This is often your public persona and it might be all that people ‘see’ of you.
Chat with your customers
We suspect that you do this, we hope that you do this. Chat with your customers, get to know your customers, get to better understand their needs.
You will want to do this on an informal level, as it will help you to build up trust with them and breed familiarity and loyalty. It’s also simply an enjoyable thing to do.
On a more formal level, you will want to regularly ask for and use customer feedback. So many businesses miss this step, yet it is both easy to do and absolutely crucial to do.
You can ask directly face to face, over the phone or via email. Or you might use an outside provider who will gather feedback on your behalf. This can provide a level of anonymity to your clients and you might find that some prefer feeding back this way. It is worth trying out a combination of all methods to see what works best for you.
You are seeking to uncover positive experiences that you can use as testimonials and reaffirm that what you are doing is right. You are also looking to better understand any areas in which your service fell short so that you can rectify this for future customers and reassure the individual concerned that you are looking to improve.
What other top tips would you add to this list?