Top tips for starting a small business
Figures released at the beginning of 2013 highlighted just how big an impact the recession had had on the UK's employment figures. While it wasn't particularly pleasant reading for the thousands of Brits who had fallen victim to job cuts, something positive came out of it too. According to the Office for National Statistics' (ONS) data, self-employment rose ten per cent in the four years to 2012 - with 367,000 people starting their own businesses during this period.
The trend didn't stop two years ago, either; enthusiastic entrepreneurs across the country are choosing now to turn their business dreams into realities. When so much is at stake, though, getting it right first time is crucial. The following tips should help to ensure that is the case.
When the going gets tough, start a business
It may seem a little odd that so many people decided to make huge investments during the downturn, but it's actually a pretty wise move. Starting a business will always be tough but if you're able to get it up and running when the economy isn't so great, you should be flying when things start to pick up.
You may even find it easier to generate interest in your products - with the recession forcing people to reduce their spending, most will be on the lookout for savings. As a small business with few expenses, you should be in a position to undercut your competition and meet these new needs.
More than this, the task of finding the right employees is likely to be made significantly easier as unemployment rates increase.
Choose something you know, and then get to know it better
Making the decision to go self-employed is a huge deal as it is, but if you haven't already got a product or service in mind, you're about to face an even bigger one. Your planned assault on the business world should involve something you're passionate about, so think about what it is that makes you tick. Whatever you go with, the journey will be tough, but it'll be a lot more of a struggle if you have no interest in the products you're selling.
The passion must be paired with the right skills and knowledge if your venture is to be successful, but don't think you have to know it all right from the beginning; this is, after all, a learning curve. Ideally you'll have experience in things like customer service and IT, as these are essential in most industries nowadays. If there are any qualifications that might be helpful or even essential in your journey, it may be possible to complete them as you go, but bear in mind that time might be tight.
Research your industry
Business owners, regardless of what they sell, must know what's going on in their industries at all times. Use the preparation stage to learn as much as possible about the market you're about to enter - determine who the biggest players are and what it is that makes them successful, and then try to work out what it is they're not offering customers. It could be that they charge too much for their services, in which case it'll be a great idea to find ways of ensuring customers get more bang for their buck.
When the all-important research has been carried out, you should be better prepared to cope with the stresses of running your business in the early days - the more you know in advance, the fewer surprises there will be. If, for example, you're selling toys, there will be certain times of the year when business really starts to pick up and others when it drops. This is an obvious example but it's the kind of knowledge that'll ensure you're able to keep up with the competition.
Enlist the right help
You will need help if your business is to be successful, so don't let your ego or pride get in the way of finding it when necessary. As you start to grow, the time will arrive to get a few more people on board - just look at it as a sign of progression. More than this, you'll benefit from the guidance of someone who has been there and done it before, especially if this is your first time.
Choose a mentor with a record of success, but don't discount those who have made a few mistakes as well - they'll be better positioned to help you avoid the same pitfalls that caught them out first time round. On top of this, you need someone you can trust or with whom you can get along. It may even be the case that you have a close friend or family member to advise you. You could also get them financially involved in the firm so you can be sure they're committed to the cause.
Starting a business will always be daunting, but the process should be exciting too - otherwise what's the point? With the right preparation and considerations, it's possible to maximise your chances of long-term success.