Starting a business is one of life’s biggest learning curves. If you have aspirations to run your own organisation, the sooner you can learn those core business lessons, the better.
Following on from one of the most challenging years in recent history – for both individuals and businesses alike – we’ve put together this essential guide with some of the most important things that new businesses need to know before they embark on one of the most challenging (but rewarding) endeavours of their lives.
Technology is key
If the past 18 months have taught us anything, it’s that technology is now more important than ever. Thousands of businesses relied entirely on digital solutions to function during the COVID-19 pandemic. Tools like Zoom, Teams and Google Drive kept communication alive, while the likes of Slack, Basecamp and Teamwork kept employees pulling in the same direction.
Technology provides us with new and exciting ways to host meetings, complete projects, manage supply chain and keep customers happy.
Budget, budget, budget
When you run a business, money matters. Unfortunately, when you first start out there will most likely be a period where you don’t make a huge amount of it. For that reason, no one should go into a business endeavour without a clear budget in place. There needs to be cautious optimism from the outset as you plan ahead; but also some wiggle room in case there are a few bumps in the road along the way.
A robust financial plan provides you with the peace of mind you need to stay afloat, giving you a clear idea of where you are right now, where you want to get to in a given period of time, and what you intend to invest into the business to achieve growth. As your business gains momentum, so should your spending, investing in more equipment, staff members, and marketing. Whether you adhere strictly to your initial business plan or not, the important thing is to have a strategy in place so you can benchmark progress and hold yourself accountable along the way.
Remote working is the future
As was the case with technology, the pandemic really hammered home the positive potential of remote working. Many businesses were forced to make working from home the norm and, as it turns out, this can go a long way towards helping to develop a better work–life balance for staff.
Now that they’ve made it work in the short term, a lot of businesses are reluctant to return to the workplace full time. Remote working offers a wide range of benefits, from greater flexibility and reduced commuting to being able to cast a wider net when hiring new members of staff. And for businesses who are just starting out, not having to pay for office space can be a fantastic way to reduce your initial spending.
Digital marketing matters
Speaking of reaching a wider audience, digital marketing is intrinsic to modern business success. Over the past decade, social media has transformed the way we do business, and the way we advertise. When you don’t have a clear digital marketing strategy in place, you end up missing out on steady growth and customer opportunities.
Social media is one of the best ways to bring attention to your business without the kinds of overheads that have historically been associated with advertising in print. For those looking to grow brand awareness and cast the net wider, Pay-Per-Click marketing – either in the form of paid social or paid search (Google Ads being the most popular) – allows you to get in front of the right prospects at the right time.
And, of course, email marketing remains one of the most effective techniques for turning a database into a lead generator.
Keeping customers is just as important as finding them
Every business owner knows the importance of engaging with new customers, but it’s also important to retain these customers and keep them onside. The pandemic taught us all the importance of customer loyalty as, at a time when many businesses were struggling to stay afloat, it was the most loyal customers who did the most for the companies they love.
Customer service is about more than just giving consumers the products or services they need. It’s about communicating effectively, often through emails and social media, and letting customers know that you value them. This can be achieved through reward schemes, discounts and more. Customers appreciate a transparent relationship with the businesses they use, so keeping channels of communication open can help you create customer bonds that will keep them with you for the long run.
The team at TEDCO Business Support has helped thousands of businesses find their feet, supported by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), and have many flexible support methods on-hand to help you achieve your goals.