In 2013, according to Start Up Britain, more than 500,000 new businesses were set up, with the previous year's figure standing at 484,000. Are you keen to get your own business going? To provide for yourself? It’s not an easy road, but it can be very rewarding. We were lucky enough to get some awesome top tips from Aisling Brennan, Marketing Manager, eFax and Rory Whelan, Voice Marketing Manager, eReceptionist, with their top ten tips for those starting out.
1) Have a business plan – As the saying goes, if you fail to plan then you plan to fail. Have a succinct and clear business plan which should include points such as sales forecasts, identification of competitors and an outline of how your money will be spent. Having a plan will not only enable you to monitor your business’s success but it will also prove useful when asking outsiders for funding. Conversely, don’t be beholden to the plan, we all know that the pace of change in any business is rapid so make sure you are able to adapt – the joy of entrepreneurship is often the ability to make decisions on the fly.
2) Set up from home – In the early days of your business, cash flow is king, so forget about wasting precious resources on renting an office. Save as much money as you can by setting up your base from home. Your accountant can ensure that part of your electricity bills and even part of your mortgage expenses are offset against your tax bill. To help this, and to maintain a personal life, it’s now simple and cost effective to set up a second phone line for your business calls. When you bundle your number with a virtual office phone system you’ll have all the benefits of a real time receptionist, answering and directing your calls so that you never miss a business opportunity.
3) Keep track of your finances – Hopefully the money will be flowing in in no time. However, don’t get too carried away, always keep good track of your financial status. Do you have savings that can be invested and will these be enough? If you don’t, approach potential investors and lenders early-on. Don’t rule out considering government-backed funding too. Investigate the many business incubator services that are on hand to advise you, and in some cases offer financial backing.
4) Don’t go it alone – Taking on the weight of a business all by yourself might be too much, especially if you have a family. Try and find a business partner who has the same goals as you, but with different skills and knowledge to you, then you’ll both complement each other.
5) Create a Buzz – If you don’t shout about your new business, who will? Make the most out of free tools such as social media to spread the word. Similarly, something as simple as asking your customers to tell their friends and family about you can have a big impact. Also, make sure to network – this doesn’t have to be at a specialist ‘networking event’ but in your day to day activities – just keep telling people about your service and you may find yourself talking to someone who knows someone or something of use!
6) Image is everything – A good business name, business cards and a professional website all contribute to how your business is perceived by the public. But don’t underestimate the power of the telephone number too. By setting up a national number such as an 0800 number, your business projects the image of being a bigger enterprise, with national reach. Similarly, acquiring local phone numbers will give you the freedom to run your business from any location and expand into new territories without the added cost. Should you want to appeal to customers in Birmingham despite being based in Manchester, then it’s easy enough to have an 0121 number with the calls routed to your existing landline or mobile allowing you to be ‘local’ wherever ‘local’ is.
7) Pick up the cost – 0800 numbers instantly give a company a customer friendly appearance, as they are free to call from landlines and will soon be free from mobiles too. Our research shows that UK businesses have seen a call volume increase of 167% when they switched to a Freephone number. So show your customers that you are not afraid of hearing from them; it’s great for call volumes and it will give you the instant credibility you need when trying to get your business up and running.
8) Go digital – Keep your start-up costs to a minimum and look to invest in cloud-based services. In the early stages, it’s likely you’ll have to sign lots of contracts and orders. Investing in the right fax software will make running your business more smooth, time and cost efficient. Digital faxing, for example, eliminates any need for any fax hardware and also allows you to sign orders or contracts through a digitised signature anywhere from your mobile, dramatically reducing the time it takes to convert new business into revenue.
9) Don’t focus on only one area – Customer care, business development and administration are the three key areas you should concentrate on. They are all equally important and all need equal attention. If you neglect one, then it will have an impact on the business as a whole. No one likes doing paper work, but it needs to be done!
10) Don’t give up - Learn from your mistakes and adapt accordingly. Be prepared to continue refining your business methods as you encounter new hurdles. No one successful ever launched with the finished product, so keep tweaking and adding. You’ll learn so much from your first few sales and customers to help you refine the way you do business and make things easier for you going forward. Overall keep motivated and don’t lose sight of why you started the business in the first place. Good luck!