By Adebayo Oluwaseun
So, you have decided to brave the odds and set up your own business? Congratulations! You have joined a critical mass that serves as the life-blood of any economy, whether big or small – entrepreneurs. However, to succeed on this challenging but rewarding adventure, you need to be guided so you don’t end up in the pitfalls that dot the business landscape. Many entrepreneurs and business owners have ended up ruining their projects because they weren’t properly informed. You will do well to follow these tips and guide as you start off your business.
• Be motivated by a need to provide solutions to problems. Why exactly are you setting up a business? To make profit? For self-gratification? To compete? These may be legitimate reasons to set up a business but the need to solve a problem should be the prime motivator because businesses that focus on solving problems outlive others. Think what life would be like if we didn’t have the telephone companies, the computer manufacturers et c. These businesses will always be needed because they are meeting needs in our lives and work. Before you start up your business, ask what needs or problems you want to solve. If you have not found any, look for one and let it motivate you.
• Study your market. Now that you have identified a need, ask yourself: “who are those in need of my product or services?” Don’t start up a business when you have not understood the market you intend to serve. Ask critical questions like: who are those who make up the market? Are they young, middle-aged or old? What’s their income range? Tastes? What’s the competition in the market like? Is the market saturated or is there room to accommodate new entrants? These questions are critical to the survival of your business. Take time to research them.
You will need to do a feasibility study of your market in order to answer the questions you have asked and many more. Many new businesses have failed because they entered the wrong market or did not properly understand the market they entered into. Don’t go their way; study your market!
• Have a business plan. You are convinced you have a fighting chance. Isn’t that so? You should then map out a plan on how you hope to succeed. Your business plan helps you to think through the factors critical to the success of your business. It answers questions like: how do I hope to get financing? What strategies are in place to capture market share? Where would my business be located? Will I serve more than one location? Your business plan must be comprehensive and realistic. In seeking financing from investors and financial institutions, a good business plan can do the magic and help you attract the capital you need.
• Register your business. A registered business has legal status. Some clients will not do business with you if your company isn’t registered. You will not be able to take advantage of regional and international opportunities if you don’t register your business.
• Get professional advice. One major mistake many entrepreneurs who are just starting up do is to assume they can do everything. They refuse to let the experts handle professional matters. You should not tow that line. Get a legal adviser to handle legal matters and negotiations. Let a professional accountant handle your financial documents and statements. Don’t hesitate to consult professionals when you need their services. It may cost you a little more, but, ultimately, their inputs will positively impact on your business.
• Start within your means. Many big businesses today started small. The capital grows with the business. Don’t get neck-deep in debt to start your business. You may not have access to huge capital now; start with what you have and you’ll find that as you grow, the needed funding will come.
• Get adequate exposure. You have started your business and are very hopeful. Get the word out. Let the market know you are there to service it. Produce fliers and bills showing your products and what you have to offer. Advertise in the local newspaper. If you are a professional, advertise in your professional association’s newsletter and publications. Participate in trade fairs and exhibitions where your business gets huge exposure at a relatively low cost. Another cheap way of attracting exposure is through publicity since you are not paying for it. You can also make branded t-shirts and other items carrying your business name and logo.
• Guarantee customer satisfaction. Make customer satisfaction your watchword from the outset of your business. Your customers are the life-blood of your business. If they keep coming back to you, your business will survive and thrive. The surest way to kill a business is to make your customers unhappy. So, ensure you serve your customers well.
• Be creative. Business creativity can help you attract tons of patronage. Take the Virgin Group founded by Richard Branson for example;they are always pushing the frontiers in terms of business creativity and that has been a vital key in their runs of successes. Look for non-conventional ways of offering a service. Try and add a personal touch when attending to your customers. This will attract their interest and make them keep coming back because they know you took efforts to be creative.
As your business grows, you will discover new strategies to nurture it. Be open to change and quick to spot changing trends so you can adjust your business to them. The only thing constant is change and it is so in the business world. After all is said and done, be positive and believe your business will thrive as you give it the time and attention it requires.
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