Expert Panel: Recommended resources before starting a business

Starting up a business is challenging! You understand the struggle if this applies to you. Any experience counts and can make or break a successful start-up and one that fails due to lack of expertise. Thus, no matter how great the small business idea is with no expertise, it will be challenging but not impossible to start running a business. That expertise can come from multiple sources such as a business advisor, books, webinars, podcasts, the Web in general, etc. There is a lot of excellent learning content on starting a business, business plan template, and writing a business plan, including here on Expert Circle. We have reached our network of experts and here is what they suggest. 

“A big business starts small.” -Richard Branson

“A big business starts small.” -Richard Branson

Susan Ward

Co-head of Cypress Technologies, an IT consulting business

The good news is that anyone can start a business. The bad news is that starting a business that succeeds and continues to flourish isn’t so easy. Here are 5 resources I have identified that an entrepreneur needs before starting a business.

First – Be Fully Committed

You must put your heart and soul into what you’re doing, believe in your product or service, and be willing to put in long hours to complete all of the duties necessary to build and sustain a firm. When you start a business, you must be willing to make sacrifices such as forgoing vacations or even a paycheck for what may appear to be an indefinite time.

Second – Be a “Type D”

“Type D” person—someone who has a desire for success coupled with drive, discipline, and determination. You need discipline and determination as these traits are what give successful business people the fuel to follow through on their business ideas and endure the ups and downs of the economic climate.

Third – Get Smarter

Many people have tried to start a business without acquiring the business knowledge they need to make their business a success and, as a result, their businesses have failed.

To start a business, you have to be knowledgeable about many different aspects of business and have a variety of skills, or hire people who have the skills you lack.

If you aren’t knowledgeable enough about accounting to keep your own books, for instance, you’ll need to hire an expert

Fourth – Find Adequate Startup Money

Finding adequate business start-up money is especially critical because there’s no guarantee that your business is going to make money right away, and often initial income is too low to live on. In fact, the lack of adequate funds is a top reason most small businesses fail.

Fifth – The Business Support You Need

You may be in business by yourself, but no business succeeds without a good support system. As an entrepreneur, you need interpersonal skills, team-building skills, and leadership skills, as you’ll need to work with others including vendors, employees or freelancers, customers, and other support resources to have business success.

When you’re thinking of business support, look first to the home front. Your family should be your number one cheerleader when it comes to your success. A supportive spouse can be there to listen to your ideas or problems and provide the encouragement or advice that keeps you going.

Ivan Asem

Strategic Marketing Specialist at EPS Software Engineering AG

Starting a new business can be daunting, especially if your resources are limited. Luckily if you have the right mindset, patience and energy you can grow your new business from the ground up. Since my area of expertise is marketing, much of this article will focus on marketing tools. Launching a business online is the most cost-effective way to get started but there are a few things to consider first.

Some general advice is always to see if you can get something done for free before paying for it. Once you find what you need, test, test and test again. Invest in a working solution and scale after consistent success.

The first thing you need to establish is how to stay organized. Being organized shouldn’t be an expensive experience, for that reason, I suggest using Google Docs to manage all of your documents online. This cloud-based service is free and allows you to collaborate with your team if they have Gmail addresses. The downside is that it’s not the most secure service so if you’re willing to pay a little more, you can use a service like Monday.com or Confluence by Atlassian to manage your team’s documentation.

The next thing to consider is your planning tools. Timelines and deadlines can be managed with Trello. It’s easy to use and free to set up. Trello utilizes boards to manage the flow of projects and it’s easy to customize your project flow according to your business needs. You can also assign specific tasks to people, attach files and align goals. Furthermore, you have access to loads of project templates to give you a head start.

Marketing is arguably one of the most important facets of a new business. Always start with social media since this is an easy place to grow an audience and get meaningful insights. Set up profiles on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, YouTube, LinkedIn and Reddit. This depends on the services you are offering but having profiles on each of these platforms increases your visibility.

You will also need a tool to manage all of your social media. Later.com offers a very good solution for managing your social profiles. With the free plan, you can get automated posting and scheduling across all social media platforms. However, for the most value, you’ll want to take a paid plan since it gives you access to analytics across your social media.

In the sphere of marketing, you’ll want a system to manage communications with your customers. GetResponse offers a great customer relationship management solution (CRM). It integrates easily with social media platforms, websites and eCommerce platforms. Additionally, you can send emails that are triggered by specific events like a sign-up or a follow up to a purchase. Like most of the tools on this list, GetResponse comes with analytics to improve marketing activities.

Advertising is also important. The most cost-effective way to get started is through Facebook ads and Google ads. Facebook ads allow you to run interest-based advertisements on a small budget and Google ads are directed at more intent-driven keyword advertising. Using them together can be powerful once you collect enough data to build remarketing audiences. It’s also worth noting that LinkedIn offers powerful advertising for business-to-business advertising.

In this day and age, a business does not exist without a website. Depending on your budget and skill level, there are a variety of tools you can use to get a website. The best approach is to get a web designer to make your website. Have a look at their portfolio and ask about how easy it would be for you to make changes to the website they create.

If you decide to build it yourself, there are plenty of places to start. If you are new to website building, I suggest starting with Wix or Squarespace. They offer plenty of website templates that are easy to set up and manage. If you are slightly more advanced, you can use WordPress. WordPress is highly customizable giving you more control. The downside is that WordPress websites can incur very high expenses from plugins, themes, security and more.

If you are selling a product or service, Shopify is a great solution because it offers a balance of customization and pricing. It’s built for eCommerce and integrates beautifully with some of the best marketing services.

Customer support can make or break your business. Whatsapp business makes it easy to chat with customers in real-time. This is a great solution for a smaller customer base. In terms of a useful tool for meeting clients for a consultation, use Microsoft Teams. Microsoft Teams is stable and easy to use with a very good presentation mode. It also logs the lengths of each call so that you can easily manage hours for invoicing.

Legal is an overlooked part of most businesses. Failing to make sure that you are conducting business legally can result in expensive lawsuits and the loss of your business. You don’t need to pay an arm and a leg for a lawyer, you can start with making sure that your business is handling customer information and data responsibly. Fiverr is the best place to find a lawyer who can look at your business practices, policies and presence to make sure that you are compliant with the laws of the countries you operate in.

Lastly, managing finances is extremely important. Sage, is a great tool for invoicing and accounting in general. This is especially true for startups.

These are the tools that are great for new business owners, especially for business owners who want an established online presence. If you have the capacity, you can easily scale your business with the tools mentioned above. Additionally, an agency can assist you with getting your business off the ground. You can also use services like Fiverr to find the professionals you need for a remote team.

Alexandra Riemann

Founder & Director at TravelSisters.co

Mentors. Mentors are by far the best and most important resource for any new business.

Even if you have a groundbreaking new idea, there will always be aspects that others have already done. Successfully or not, it is tremendously helpful to learn from them.

You will already be making enough mistakes, why not avoid some by having a good mentor by your side?

Also, there is nothing wrong with having several mentors. Different people, different points of view, different specialities.

Natalya Spicker

President at SheWorks! 

A clear idea and message of the mission and vision of your business is key. Developing a bullet-proof go to market strategy is essential. Can a 5-year-old understand what your company does? If not, go back to the drawing board until it is that simply understand. Consider what Apple has done. Do that.

Beyond this, having a community of relevant prospect clients, and evangelists of your idea/product/service is probably the most powerful resource I can think of. This serves as a focus group, a soft launch, and more importantly a group of people who will give you honest feedback on your product and go-to-market strategy.

Bas Kousemaker

Leader & Manager Customer Success at OutSystems

Customer Net ARR, growth, retention, and advocacy are elements often overlooked when starting a subscription-based business but are instrumental and vital elements for survival and business valuation.

Having a solid and scalable Customer Success strategy ensures hyper-engaged customers and profitability.

Artemiy Ustimenko

Managing Partner at Venuelab

We were developing a business based on the emerging technology we were using as customers. Turning a passion into a very specialized consultancy required bridging the technical expertise with the understanding of potential customers’ needs. The first thing that helped us a lot were symbiotic partnerships with technology vendors who turned out pragmatic and greatly supportive. The second one was events and conferences for startups that gave insights on how other entrepreneurs think and learn from their mistakes with an opportunity to bounce our value proposition against them.

Staying on top of the industry trends and a series of pivots to keep the offering relevant was another story, and we never stop finding ways to improve.

Dave Sengupta

Marketing Specialist at BORO SAWMILL

It’s always helpful to start a business with some years of “real-world experience” in the same, closest possible or related industry and market. Experience will help to plan and set up a “practical” layout of the business model. The word practical plays an important role here as it helps the entrepreneur to deploy the scarce startup human and financial resources in the best possible way. The practical approach will also help answer some of the difficult questions like – Whom to sell? Where to buy it? Whom to hire to play the role of influencing? How much credit shall we offer to X or Y companies and possibly many more such questions?

Creating a “guardrail” can be another useful resource. Well, the management strategists from B Schools will define as a “competitive advantage” I would prefer to call as a guardrail that will protect the entrepreneurs from possible derailments. My way of creating a guardrail will be to focus on the “niche” factor. To run a business successfully and for a longer period of time, a company needs to offer some sort of a niche product or service. The word niche doesn’t mean that the product or service will be the first of its kind in all possible ways or en route to the patent application but offering some form of exclusivity which the customers would value as a convenience.

Before starting a new business, the owner(s) and possible employee-partners go through some tough brainstorming sessions and obviously words like Break-Even Analysis, Sustainable Profits and Revenue per User etc. are discussed. These are important words and relates to pricing. I would consider skills to devise the best possible “pricing methodology” as another good resource tool. One has to be careful here, offering niche and exclusivity doesn’t guarantee higher prices. A smart entrepreneur needs to fall back on her/his practical experience and then devise a “customer willingness to pay” pricing strategy. This kind of pricing strategy will not only help to win prospective customers but also keep the possible competitors or new entrants guessing

I would also consider “hanging in there” as another useful resource to remain focused and not get distracted by hurdles that are natural to the business environment.

Romain Dekeyser

General Manager at Lime

Building a strong business starts with, according to my experience, three things:

1) Strong & reliable partners

2) A mentor or a network to help define, produce & sell the first MVPs

3) A communication strategy (website, social media, word of mouth, etc)

Lorenz Muck

Managing Director Operations

One of the most important things, in fact probably the most frequent reason for startups to never even come into existence, is to find the right cofounders. Without the right expertise, many startups don’t get off the ground, far from succeed.

For pitch decks, business plans, pilot projects, product-market fit and pivoting, templates and how-tos are essential. However, most startups fail due to not receiving or not knowing how to process feedback from the market, investors and experts right.

Many arguably proclaim this is an art. Chances are low. But those chances can be at the very least increased by the most important resource for startups:

Matchmakers who help you find the right experts who fit the innovation.

Battuya Gankhuyag

Corporate Communications and Investor Relations at Petra Diamonds

The most crucial recourses that one need to secure a start-up business was to create a great business plan to focus on and of course secure appropriate funding for your plan.

I was lucky enough to have a great network of individuals who have helped me along the way and my mentor/career coach who has expanded my vision broader. So meaning you have to surround yourself with appropriate people.

Also, any business comes with risks, challenges and unplanned delays therefore you have to be mentally prepared for those.

 

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