The number of start-ups has risen each year for the past three years, although there was a slight Brexit-related dip last year. 589k new businesses set up shop in 2017. That’s a hugely impressive figure, not least because it isn’t always easy to start a business. But if you already have a successful start-up, you know the potential pitfalls and have already navigated the choppy waters of that first year.
By now, you should be well on the way to building a profitable business, so with that in mind, here are some tips to help you take your business to the next level.
Refresh Your Business Strategy
When you first had an idea for a business, you almost certainly created a business plan. This is standard practice. A business plan helps us plot the course of our new business, highlights any road bumps ahead, and ensures we have ticked every last checkbox so that there are no nasty surprises to look forward to.
However, when was the last time you looked at your business plan? If you haven’t cast an eye on it for at least a year, now is the right time to dig it out and see if there is anything you need to amend or adjust.
All start-ups are a work in progress. Trading conditions change, the market changes, and you need to accommodate those changes. Your business plan might have been bang on the money when you wrote it, but I bet it’s not so up-to-date now.
Be prepared to adapt and innovate. Treat your business plan as a work in progress and revisit it often. Your goals might have changed in the interim, so make sure your business plan reflects this.
Invest in Online Marketing
Online marketing is critical. All businesses must invest in online marketing if they want to survive in the modern world. This includes social media marketing, email marketing, and PPC advertising. If you don’t have time to invest in online marketing, pay someone to take control of this aspect of your business. Posting content on social media and managing email newsletters can be time-consuming. You can automate some of the processes, but someone needs to monitor your social feeds and respond to queries and complaints.
If you have yet to build a social media presence, concentrate on one channel at a time – and choose this wisely. For example, if your business is visual – e.g. you make celebration cakes – stick to Instagram or Facebook. Or, if you are a tech start-up, use Twitter to connect with customers interested in your tech updates and news.
Once you have built a social media following, you can encourage people to sign up for email updates and newsletters.
Explore Funding Options
Expanding a business usually requires funding. You will need money to buy extra equipment, fund a new member of staff, pay the rent on a larger office space, or cover the cost of new merchandise.
Use your business plan to work out the details and produce a cash flow forecast for the next six months to a year. Unless you have access to an interest-free loan from a rich relative, borrowing money costs money, so it is wise to only borrow exactly what you need to fund your business plans.
For smaller amounts of funding, speak to your bank manager about extending your overdraft facility or taking out a small business loan. If your credit is non-existent or not good, investigate other options, such as a bad credit personal loan lender specialising in people like you. You may also wish to consider crowdfunding, grants for SMEs, invoice factoring, and dipping into your savings if you have any.
Look for an Experienced Mentor
A mentor provides business advice to start-ups and entrepreneurs. Mentors are usually very experienced businessmen and women who have learned their lessons and are ready to give something back to the business community. They will help you make the right decisions, offer support when you need advice, and provide access to new business connections.
Most mentors work for free, but you may be able to combine your need for funding by working with someone who is willing to invest in your start-up and act as a mentor – in return for a share of the business.
Hire Young Blood
There will come a point when you realise you can’t do it all alone. This is when you need to hire new staff to take care of tasks you don’t have the time or the skill to do. Look for people who are skilled in areas that you are not familiar with. For example, if you are struggling with the concept of online marketing, hire an online marketing manager who can write content, manage your social media accounts, and run your website. It’s a great investment that will pay dividends in the future.
Don’t forget to keep pitching your ideas to new investors. It’s always sensible to woo investors, as you never know when you might need a timely cash injection.