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5 of the Best Tips for Starting a Business From Scratch

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Starting your own business is the dream for many, but actually doing it and getting your idea off the ground can be an incredibly intimidating process. Statistics which suggest 50% of small businesses fail after five years could be enough to deter any potential entrepreneur from taking the leap from employment to self-employment. However, many entrepreneurs fall before the five-year mark due to a lack of research and a lack of experience. There’s a wealth of great tips and advice out there that if you listen to carefully, you can avoid many of the pitfalls where people tend to get stuck.

Here are a few tips to start your business from scratch:

1. Plan

It might not be one of the most exciting bits of advice, but it is one of the most crucial. As the famous Benjamin Franklin quote goes, “Failing to prepare is preparing to fail”, which holds very true in the world of start-ups. It can be all too easy when starting out to get carried away with your business idea and rush into the launch process.

Nonetheless, building a business plan will not only help you create a strategy for launch and the future of your business, but will also help you secure that potentially all-important investment and/or bank loan.

Your business plan will ideally cover 3-5 years of business, lay out your business objectives, market research, detailed financial forecasts, opportunities for the business in the future, highlight direct competition to your business, a marketing strategy and a business management plan. Taking time to create a plan will give you direction and goals to use as a benchmark for your success.

2. Identify What You’re Good At

Before launching your business, it is important to know what you’re good at and what you’re not good at and act accordingly. Identify your skills, such as management, bookkeeping or product design along with your weaknesses such as marketing or public speaking. This will give you a good foundation to start with.

If you are good at product design but bad at accounts, take the lead in the product development process, but find someone you can trust who can help you with the accounts side of things. Working to your skills and that of those who can help you will set you up for a much better chance of success when your business really gets going.

“Success is achieved by developing our strengths, not by eliminating our weaknesses.” – Marilyn vos Savant

3. Be Smart About Your Finances

This might sound incredibly obvious, but with so many things to consider as an entrepreneur it can be easy to overlook the most important aspects of business. Your finances are the lifeblood of the business so it’s crucial to have someone who knows what they’re doing. Keep your financial projections realistic and monitor how likely you are or aren’t to meet them.

If you are going off target, ask yourself why, what needs to change and how you’re going to change it. There is also a lot of help out there for start-ups in the form of loans, grants and investments. Think wisely if you are to go for loans or investment – do you really need it? What is the interest rate and will you be able to afford to pay it back? How much of your company are you willing to give away?

4. Build a Marketing List

Marketing is one of the most important elements of your business – if people don’t know about you, you’ll have no business. Along with your business plan, it’s vital that you put a strong marketing strategy in place. When starting from scratch, it’s important to build brand awareness and a list of warm leads.

Capturing potential customers’ emails – with their consent – via social media marketing or on your site via contact forms, will provide you with a great way to announce your company’s official launch. Using leads in email marketing often proves to be an effective and cheap way to not only get those first few orders, but also to get your customers coming back time and time again.

“You don’t want a huge list.  You want an engaged list….the gold isn’t in the list anymore, it’s in the engagement.” – Scott Stratten

5. Find Mentors

Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely and stressful experience. However, it doesn’t have to be because there are many business mentorship programs out there along with great networking events in a huge variety of industries at which you can meet potential mentors.

Finding someone who has experience in business in the same or a similar industry to yours can prove to be priceless. A mentor is not only there as a sounding board for your ideas or frustrations, but also to foresee issues in your business which you may have overlooked, guide you in the right direction, help you to avoid the pitfalls they fell into and review your overall business plan.

No two businesses are the same and no two entrepreneurs follow the same path to success, but there are few things everyone can do to turn the odds in their favour. Planning properly in advance, making realistic financial projections, doing your market research, building a marketing list and finding successful and relevant mentors will all set you up for a much better chance at success in the future.

Which one of these tips do you think will help you more in starting a business? Let us know your thought below!

Image courtesy of Twenty20.com

Chris Smith is an independent writer and blogger at Spend It Like Beckham. His blog mainly focuses on finance and sports, and he's had features on a variety of topics published on sites including The Huffington Post, The Guardian and The Telegraph.

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Are you completely new to networking?

Then this article is a great place to start. Networking isn’t hard on paper…you go along to online and in-person meetings, make new connections and build relationships, and those relationships lead to more work so you can grow your business! The challenge is that in reality, it isn’t quite so straightforward, as our emotions get involved and make things much tougher.

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Rock up with confidence

If you want to keep those nerves at bay and ooze confidence at networking get-togethers, you’ll need to downplay it rather than seeing it as a big occasion. Try not to put pressure on yourself and see it as a casual meet-up with a bunch of people with similar goals to you. To help you relax in the run-up to the event, be sure to set achievable goals and expectations before you go.

Keep your chin up and your goals in mind – positivity is key. One easy goal for your first networking meeting is very simply to speak to one other person and see where the conversation goes. Introduce yourself and your business, but take the time to listen to their story, too. It’ll only take a few minutes and will be over before you know it, so it’s nothing to fear. You may even enjoy it and want to speak to a few more people, too!

“You can close more business in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get people interested in you.” – Dale Carnegie

Where to go networking

If you’ve never been networking before, it might not be very easy to find a group – but only because there’s so much choice and you don’t know where to start your search! Groups come in different sizes and styles, so it’s important to find one that suits you and your business. Informal, formal, big, small… the choice is yours.

For your first meeting, start small to ease yourself in – a big group could prove too daunting, and stop you from feeling comfortable enough to get involved. After all, you want to make a strong first impression!

If you’re wondering which group to opt for in the long-term, give a few a go! Get a feel for them, speak to as many people as you can, and see which one suits! You’ll know when a group feels right for you, and you can see where those all-important relationships are most likely to be built. If a group doesn’t feel like the right for you, give a different one a go.

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Once you’ve made relationships with people who you trust, and they’ve had a positive experience working with you, you can even ask for referrals! But don’t rush this, as you don’t want to inadvertently push people away or try and force the relationship along too quickly.

When you do get an opportunity to work with someone you’ve met at a networking group, go above and beyond to offer more value than they’re expecting, as then, they’ll be much more likely recommend you and introduce you to more of their contacts!

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