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.

Why We All Need Heroes

This weekend I took my cricketing-mad son to the Somerset Ground to watch Somerset play Essex, and Charlie’s cricket-hero, Alastair Cook.  Charlie has loved cricket since he was around 18months old, when we used to throw tennis balls gently towards him, while he smashed them with his foam bat.  Over the years, he has progressed to being  a keen member of our local cricket club and avid watcher of any cricket match available.  Inevitably, this has led to him having a cricket hero, Alastair Cook: a left-handed batsman, like himself.

Charlie loved the match and was keen to watch how his idol played.  Knowing that my son would love nothing more than to be a cricketer himself, I asked him whether he thought he could do the same.  He thought for a moment and said, “Yes”.  This then led to me asking him what he would need to do to get there and we had a long conversation about the steps he would need to take, sacrifices he may need to make and how he would feel when he achieved his dream.  He was inspired – and not just inspired by what he saw, he was inspired to take action: the action to jump out of bed early this morning and go for a run (he hates running, but it was part of his plan!).

It made me think how important it is for us to all have heroes in our life.  Our heroes inspire us, give us something to strive for, someone whose behaviour we can model and give us a vision of success.  This helps us to plan what we need to do and most importantly, give us motivation for taking the all-important action.

Looking back, I have had many heroes in my life, ranging from my Mum (whose belief in equality and determination has been my inspiration), to Teachers, work colleagues and well-known Coaches.  All of these heroes have enabled me to form my own vision for my business (and life) and helped me to draw on what’s needed to get there.

Having a hero should not be limited to when you are a child; we all need at least one in our life as they really can make our life better.

 

 

 

 

 

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.