10 Steps to kickstart your business

When you first get an idea for running a business sometimes the hardest part is knowing where to start.  Often people will gather as much information as possible and then find it impossible to translate the piles of guides and advice into a workable plan. This can really batter confidence and some people at this stage, feel like giving up before they’ve even started.

So here’s some tips to get you started – so you can give your business the kickstart it needs:

  1. Be Clear on Your Vision

As a Business Coach I support lots of women at the start up phase of their business and it never eases to amaze me how many people don’t have a clear vision for their business.  Often when I ask a client what their vision is I get the response, “I just want to sell my jewellery (or cards / make-up / training services etc)”.

If you want a viable business you really need to be clear about what your vision is.  What is your business going to look like in the next 3-5 years?  How big is is going to be?  What turnover and profit do you need?  What hours do you want to be working?  Who do you want to be working with?

Spend some time really thinking about what you want.  Often developing a vision board can help with this as you create on paper the life that you want to lead.  It really helps you to create clarity and focus about what you want to achieve – and that way, you have a starting point for developing a real plan.

 

  1. Have a Plan

Now you know what your vision is, it’s time to create a plan.  I often say to my clients that you wouldn’t get in the care and drive without knowing where you are going.  Treat your business in exactly the same way.  Your vision is your destination (although don’t think of it as your final destination – you need to continually evolve if you are serious about growing your business) and once you are clear on this you can develop your roadmap on how to get there (your plan)!

If you know you want to earn £X per year, then you need to consider how much turnover you need (pre-expenses) to achieve this; and just how many paying clients or customers you need to cover this.  Set out your plan for how you are going to achieve this (the information below will really help you) and break your targets down into manageable chunks: if you need 200 sales per year – how many do you need per month / week / day?  Also consider whether your product is seasonal – you may need more sales in the summer or at

Christmas and expect a smaller amount the rest of the year.  Either way, you should know EXACTLY when you need to achieve your sales and plan to make sure that happens.

 

  1. Identify Your IC

You need to identify who your Ideal Client (IC) is.  Someone out there needs to purchase your products or services, so it is essential that in order for you to build up trust with them – that you can speak directly to them.  I do not mean this in the literal sense (although in some cases you may), what I mean is, that you marketing has to come across as if you understand them and are speaking directly to that person.

Of course, your IC will depend on what you are selling.  If you make and sell premium, vegan make-up products your target audience might be women of a certain age, with a high disposable income who ethically minded to think about where their products come from.  If you are selling HR services you may want to target owners of growing businesses who are not big enough to have in-house services but still have HR needs.

Think about your products and who is your ideal customer. This of course, does not exclude others from buying, but it will ensure that you can develop a strategy for targeting and identifying with your ideal market.

 

  1. Identify How You Can Help

Once you have figured out who you want to work with, you need to work out what their particular problem is that you can help them with.

Think about what keeps that person awake at night.  What are their top frustrations? What is stopping them being happy?

If a person has a genuine problem – then they have a motivation to buy if you can offer a solution.

In the examples above, a woman might have difficulty finding brands of make-up that make her skin feel amazing but have no animal products.  A business owner might be wanting to take the next step in growing their business but nervous of the HR implications of having staff.  These are real life problems (albeit first world problems).

If you can identify your IC’s problem – then you have identified why they will be willing to pay for your products.

 

  1. Construct Your Solution

Ok, so now you have identified who you want to work with and what their problem is – so now you have to present your solution.  This can also form part of your branding if appropriate (i.e., you offer one product which has a clear advantage).

In order to project your solution to your IC, then you really need to think about the opposite to your IC’s problem i.e., how their life will be different (for the better) by having your product.  Focus on the results they will get!

 

In the examples above, if you focus on selling the ethical benefits of your make-up, you may make a few sales but there are loads of make-up companies out there that also sell vegan products.  Also people won’t be willing to buy unless they know the make-up is any good.  What makes yours different and what are the benefits?  It might be that your products make your eyelashes look really long or make skin feel really young and soft.  Here you have your real benefits.

The better you can describe the benefits to them, the more likely your IC will buy.  So articulate this really well in all your marketing materials and be consistent.

 

  1. Find Your Market

So you know who your IC is, you know what their problem is and how to communicate your solution to them.  So where do you find them?

Here, you really need to think about where your audience hangs out.  If your target audience is Male Accountants, you wouldn’t expect to find them (or lots of them) at a Zumba class.  So really concentrate on who your IC is, what interests they have, what do they do of an evening.  This will help you formulate where to target your marketing both online and offline.

 

  1. Get Your Message Out There

Now you have to tell people who you are and what you do.  Get the word out there – but make sure you are telling them the benefits, not the process.

Think of all the marketing opportunities you have identified in the steps above and go for it!  If you don’t, you can’t be surprised when nobody buys.

 

  1. Have A Call To Action and Follow Up

It’s great to market and make connections with your IC – but be specific about what they need to do next.

If you have loads of information all over your website about what you offer – make it clear what they have to do next to work with you or buy your products.

If you meet with a potential client and it’s clear you can work together or your product is a great fit with their needs – don’t wait for them to approach you, tell them how they can proceed.

If someone needs time to think, this does not mean that they are not interested.  It means just that: they need more time to consider. It takes trust to buy from someone, and this takes time to build up.  If someone needs time, let them know that you are still there – ask them if there’s anything else they need to know (about you or the products); keep in regular contact so that when they are ready to make that purchase, it is from you!

Don’t lose sales because you are too worried about telling them what they need to do – it is your job to get sales, otherwise your business will fail.

 

  1. Believe and Go For It!

The steps above are easy to map out in principle but I have had many clients fail to put it into practise just because they don’t believe they can do it; or they are leaving money on the table by lacking the confidence to make an offer, or follow up a lead.

These negative beliefs and fears really can hold you back – but only if you let them.  If you have negative beliefs, stop them in their tracks.  Write down positive affirmations and say them to yourself.  If you are worried about making a phone-call to follow up a lead; imagine yourself feeling really confident and making the call with ease and really think about the words you will use.  The more you practise this in your mind, the easier it will be to do – and then it will become normal.

Don’t let your limiting beliefs get in the way of a good plan – go for it!

 

  1. Review

By now you have a clear plan to get out there and have the makings of a brilliant business.  However, another big step is to regularly review how it is going.  Look at your targets and plans at least weekly and consider what has worked well and what hasn’t.  Do more of what works, learn from what doesn’t and adjust your plan to reflect.

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When the plan is no longer the plan

At the beginning of the year I set myself some mini-goals for my own health and development.  I had realised that 2015 had passed in a blink of an eye and whilst I had paid attention to my business, I hadn’t paid attention to me.  So I sat down and had a think about what I could do to increase my health and happiness.  I wrote these down and published them (above) for all to see – as I believe that setting out your intentions, creates accountability and makes people more likely to achieve their goals.

So why am I now here telling you that I haven’t followed the plan?  After all I’m a Coach and I help others to achieve their goals – why haven’t I achieved mine?  Well actually there’s a very good reason for this.  I see it in my clients regularly – and my own example is prime!

Sometimes the plan we set for ourselves evolve; sometimes, what we first thought we wanted, doesn’t turn out to be at all; sometimes the timing is all wrong; and we’re human – and sometimes we change our mind.  This doesn’t mean failure – and let me tell you why…

The plan I set at the beginning of the year, has actually let me understand a lot more about myself.  Putting myself as a focus for a change has allowed me to really understand what I want and what I don’t want.  When I decided to complete a triathlon it was because I wanted to get fit again and I had completed one before – so it was something I knew I could do.   I started my training plan and realised that actually I really love cycling; I also enjoy running – but swimming is something I dread. So I changed the goal – to pick cycling and running events (and possibly a duathlon if I find one) that challenge me.  I’m still fulfilling my overall objective to get fitter – but I’m not making myself stick to the original plan of completing a triathlon.  As a result I am really enjoying my workouts and getting stronger and fitter – and a few weeks ago completed a 60 mile cycle which I never imagined was possible a few months ago (and by the way, that’s a lot further than what was needed on the triathlon!).

I also planned to go to the cinema for myself – really to get me out of the house and do something for me.  Well again, lots of reflection and ‘me time’ has allowed me to understand that whilst I don’t mind going to the cinema, it’s not top of my list.  I have instead been out to dinner with friends and just booked my first ever trip to the ballet – something I am sure I will love.

The rest of the plan  I am pleased to say I have done and as a result I am feeling much more happy, healthy and fulfilled.  But it’s important to understand that plans do not have to be fixed.  In business especially, plans change all the time – we need to adapt to our customer needs; keep competitive with the rest of the market and keep ourselves happy so consequently, we need to adapt.

A good client of mine was recently debating this very thing: she was thinking of making quite a drastic change to her product line.  Her new products would be more profitable, had received good feedback but had alienated a few of her loyal customers of old, and this worried her.  She has since gone on to make this big change to her business and re-launched with her new products.  She now has a client base who she feels is more aligned to her ideal client, she is increasing her sales and profit, but naturally lost a few customers along the way.  Overall though, this has been great for business.

Another client was wondering why her plans for finding new premises weren’t producing anything.  There seemed nothing wrong with the plan – indeed I knew that if she followed it, she would achieve it.  So I knew there was something else: when we discussed it further it transpired that she was nervous about finding new premises as it meant making a huge commitment with her business partner; someone who she felt wasn’t pulling her weight in the business.  It led us to re-evaluate the plan and ensured that the business partner issue was dealt with before a commitment was made to the original plan of finding premises.

As a Coach of course I advocate goal setting, SMART action planning and getting the plan done but if I focused on this alone there would be lots of people achieving things that they then realised they didn’t want.  Paying attention to the plan, how it makes you feel and being adaptable along the way to get what you really want does mean that the plan is not always the end plan – and that’s completely ok.

 

 

 

You cannot separate the task & individual

In coaching I meet people all the time who want to make improvements to their lives.  They might come to me because they want a promotion at work, want to make more profit in their business or because they are struggling with workload or their work in general.

In fact, there could be and often are, lots of reasons why someone decides that coaching might be for them. But there is usually a common element to how coaching goes.  There is usually a problem the person wants to solve, we take time to discuss this and the client comes up with possible solutions – but it doesn’t end there: in fact, it’s usually at this point, that other issues emerge.  These issues have nothing to do with the person not being able to see what they need to do, or even having the ability to do what they need to do – it is usually that the person doesn’t feel that they can do it.

An example of this is a client who knows that in order to grow her business she needs to make at least 10 cold calls to potential clients per week – but does she do this? No.

In this case, the reason why the client can’t move forward is due to lack of confidence, but it can equally be past trauma, things going on at home, or concern that achieving their goal might give them a negative consequence (think of people who don’t want to achieve their income goals because they’re concerned that others will think differently of them; or it doesn’t sit comfortably with their beliefs – but negative unintended consequences could be anything).

This means that coaching is not as simple as helping a client find solutions for them to meet their goal.  I have to work with, and consider the person as a whole: working with beliefs, personal objections and confidence in order to truly make a breakthrough.  And that is why you cannot separate the task from the individual.

And employers – if you have a member of staff that is not performing, don’t just jump to the conclusion that it is a capability issue, consider your valued employee as a whole person!

Why it doesn’t need to be a Marathon

I am always inspired when I watch the London Marathon and yesterday was no exception: I just love watching the runners – all of whom have a different reason for being there; and all putting their heart and soul into it.

For those who don’t know, I have loved running since around the age of 25 when my good friend encouraged me to go along to a running group with her because she didn’t want to be the only newbie (and secretly I am sure it was so she wouldn’t be last either).  I went along and completely surprised myself that I could run for a couple of miles without collapsing in a heap.  This was a massive victory for me since I was always the girl at school who was picked last for teams in every sport.  Finally, it seemed that I had found something that I could do for me – and at a pace that suited me.  Ok, I’d never win any medals, but I was fine with that because I was happy to race for me and the things I needed to beat were the demons in my head and hopefully, my previous best time.

So since then, on and off I have been a runner (breaks for having children, poor weather, and evenings when the glass of wine has won).  I have also more recently decided to start cycling and have set a target for myself to do a Triathlon in September.  It’s not even remotely comparable to a Marathon – the triathlon shouldn’t take more than 1 ¼ hours, so is within the reach of most people.  But it’s still a goal and it’s still important to me.

And of course, whether you are running a Marathon or taking on a smaller challenge, the approach is the same.  It starts with setting a goal, breaking it down into smaller milestones and setting out all the small steps to reach each of those milestones and eventually, the end goal.  This is the approach that I am taking with my Triathlon – and this is the approach that my clients take with their goals: whether it is their goal to build a business from scratch or to get one new customer.

So what I have learned along the way – in my personal life and in coaching my clients, is that the size of the goal doesn’t matter.  If a goal is set, there is usually a good reason for it and it usually represents a stretch for that person (otherwise, they wouldn’t have set it).  Big goal or small, there are usually challenges along the way but each small step will take you towards the finish line.

So for me, whilst one day I’d love to think I could do a marathon (if my knees are up to it), I know that in the meantime my short runs and my triathlon is more than enough.  And for you, regardless of what your goal is, it’s your goal and for every step you take towards it, be proud.

My reason why

For everyone who starts a business, there is a reason why.  For those who start a business where you really need to make a living from it, there is a compelling why.  This reason why is the thing that gets you up in the morning and gets you working towards your goals.  It’s a huge motivator for success – and without a clear why, many businesses fail (or plod along as a hobby, with no real income).

So here I am going to share my story and how I reached my reason why:

Seven years ago I had just returned to work following maternity leave, having had my second child (I have two boys, if you are wondering – Charlie and Jack).  The job was ok, I was working for the NHS as a Director which was great for challenging the brain but required so many hours – and it wasn’t a job I had planned to do, just something I fell into after university and found I was good at, but wasn’t entirely fulfilling.

I used to drop my children to the childminder and then go to work, feeling guilty about not spending time with my children (it was the childminder who first saw my youngest son crawl), about missing out on nursery and school events.  Equally, when I was at home, my head was so full of things that I hadn’t got time to complete at work: I was in a vicious cycle of having Mum guilt at work and work guilt at home – and because of that I never felt fully present, or being able to enjoy the moment (hideous when you have two young gorgeous children who more than deserve that).  That was my first reason why – and still is.

I knew things had to change and so spend loads of time thinking about how I could change my career which would allow me to spend more time with the children (becoming full time care-giver was not an option as I was the main breadwinner). After much thought I knew I wanted to become a Coach, helping others: years before I did a Psychology degree and knew I wanted to help people in the workplace, but didn’t know what that looked like; I had received coaching just a few years before, so really understood the power of it; I loved helping colleagues at work to fulfil their potential and helping others, really felt like the missing piece of the jigsaw for me.  So I trained as a Coach (qualification in coaching, shortly followed by becoming an NLP Practitioner and Hypnotherapy Practitioner) alongside a full-time job and being Mum – it was so hard, but felt like a worthwhile sacrifice.  I loved every minute of it, and I knew for sure, that it was the path I was meant to follow.

I continued in my job because as the main earner, I couldn’t just throw it in – I was also stuck in the job because due to my seniority it was argued that I couldn’t be part-time either.  So taking on my new career, even part-time was difficult.   Living my life in a highly demanding job and then coming home to look after the children, clean the house and be the family organiser was exhausting beyond belief.  I was tired all the time and constantly felt ill.  I felt so lucky to have my children, but I felt that I didn’t have any quality of life.

However, I was good at hiding how I felt and was able to project a very ‘in control’ version of me at work.  I used this to my advantage and spoke to HR about supporting others through coaching within the workplace – and that is what I did for several years: coaching people from young, aspiring leaders, to people feeling overwhelmed with workload, to Managing Directors and GP’s taking on new responsibilities.  This gave me the experience and continued enthusiasm to know that this was what I wanted to do.

I then had a breakthrough, which was a restructuring at work – which enabled me to take a redundancy option; giving me money to support my family whilst I set up my coaching business.

So now, I have my amazing business – but I always use my reason ‘why’ as my vision.  For me, my ‘why’ stemmed from what I didn’t want, and by knowing what I didn’t want, it allowed me to describe how I wanted my life to be.

So now my why describes exactly what is important to me: the reason I keep going.  So I have a vision board which includes pictures of my children in a happy home which represents me spending time with them and having work-life balance.  It includes pictures of holidays which represents real quality time away from all work.  It includes me helping others through coaching and providing online programmes – because I know that helping others is important for me and is what makes my job fulfilling.  I have pictures of money because I am still the main earner and it’s important that if I am to have a lifestyle where I get to have holidays with the children and still pay the mortgage that money needs to come freely to me. It also has pictures of me giving back – charity is important to me, so being able to give back (either financially or through my time) is something that I like to do, and aspire to do more of.

This reason why and my compelling vision of what I want my life to be is a great motivator for me – and on days when things don’t go right (yes, I still get them) – all I need to do is remind myself of my end goal (my vision board) and it is enough to me to keep going.  Equally reflecting on how my life used to be, is a great reminder that I never want to be in that situation again.

I am sure my story resonates with many of you – but the good news is, that you are in control of your life and if you set out a compelling vision for yourself, YOU CAN DO IT! Start with your vision and allow the small steps to follow – and no matter, how small those steps are they will move you towards your new life.

5 Steps to Achieve Your Goals

Do you often set yourself goals or targets and then 6 months later wonder why you are no closer to achieving them?  Do you get fed up with New Year Resolutions that have fizzled out by mid-January?

Now it may not be setting the goals that are to blame.  Here are my tips for ensuring that the goals you set for 2016 get you results!

  1. Make sure it’s something you really want

I’ve lost count of the number of times someone has told me their resolutions for me to say, “Wow, great goal – why have you chosen that?” for them to say something along the lines of, “Hmmm, not sure really – just thought it would be nice to do.”  When that happens, I am 99% certain that their goal will be dust within a month.

If you have a goal it should mean something to you.  Ask yourself how you would feel if you achieved it.  What benefits would it bring you?  What would you get by achieving that?  For those people who are really clear about the reason why it is so important, success usually follows.  Find your reason why!

  1. Make yourself accountable

Keeping your goal to yourself to prevent you feeling stupid in case it fails, is again a good indicator that it might fail.  It shows you doubt yourself and shows that you are not fully signed up to achieving that goal.  Instead make yourself accountable by telling people your intentions.  Tell friends, tell family, post it on Facebook – do whatever it takes to feel that there is no way out of it!  That way, you are much more likely to see it through.

  1. Bite-sized chunks

Sometimes those goals just feel soooo big!  It’s easy then to feel overwhelmed and to feel that you just don’t know where to start – and guess what, often people then never do start.  Break each of your goals down into small bite-sized chunks or sub-goals.  I always try to keep my chunks to tasks which can be completed in less than half an hour – that way, not only does the task never feel too big, but I also can’t put it off due to lack of time!

  1. Set a date

A goal without a deadline is just a dream.  If you set a date the goal needs to be achieved by, it will give you a clear target to work to.  You can also work backwards from this date so you are also clear about when your sub-goals need to be delivered by in order to each your overall goal.  Diarise these dates and get your goal done!

For me, one of my own goals is to complete a triathlon in 2016 (17th September 2016 to be exact).  I know that in order to achieve this I need to start my fitness from January, concentrating first on running and cycling to get good aerobic fitness.  From April I need to introduce swimming and train 4 days per week and introduce specific targets to achieve each component: to be able to run 3Km in 25 minutes; to cycle 15km in 50 minutes and swim 200m in 8 minutes.  I then have reducing targets to achieve over the course of the remaining months and have a plan of putting the whole race together.  The plan is detailed, the plan is specific – with clear dates and actions.  Now you do the same.

  1. Be realistic

There’s no point in setting goals that you just can’t achieve.  It won’t motivate you and you will just set yourself up for failure.

My triathlon dream is just to complete the triathlon – if I set myself the challenge to win it, that would be completely beyond my capability and be pointless.  For me, to complete it is very realistic and achievable and so that it my goal.

For more hints and tips on achieving your goals, getting the right mind-set and more, please visit www.Facebook.com/AstaraLifeandBiz