You’ve got a business idea but what are the next steps? Gamji Action Plan has compiled a launchpad guide to help you put the foundations in place for business success.
So you’ve stumbled across a business idea that you’re sure will make you millions, but you have no idea how to turn that dream into a tangible reality.
Starting a business is like climbing a mountain; it may look difficult from the bottom, but focus on taking it one step at a time and you will soon reach your goal.
What business should I start?
If you’re keen to be your own boss but are asking ‘what business should I start?’ there’s a multitude of options available, including those that support the lifestyle you want to lead or make extra cash to supplement your household income.
- Part-time businesses: If you want to run a business while keeping up with other commitments, why not start a part-time business?
- Franchising: Consider starting a franchise to run your own business with. the training and support of a big-name brand behind you.
- Buying a business: Buying an existing business is another popular option that can carry less risk than starting afresh.
- Start-ups you can run from home: Modern technology means an office environment is no longer necessary – many businesses can be run.
- Full time businesses – This will be your baby and your life.
What should I do before I start a business?
- Choose a business structure: Are you going to be a sole trader, in a partnership, or even start as a PLC? You will need to decide what business structure you adopt early on.
- Market research: Thoroughly research your market to assess the viability of your business idea.
- Write a killer business plan: Writing a business plan is essential. Read up on the article, A strong Business plan guidelines – make sure you have a clear roadmap before starting out. This is especially important as you may show this business plan to potential investors.
- Think about your branding: Believe it or not, a business’ name, logo and business cards can be the difference between failure and success. click here
- Set up a website: Learn how to register a domain name and build a well-designed website for your business. click here
- Get your head around your start-up’s finances: Learn how to deal with bookkeeping and cashflow issues for the first time – you may well need to take on an accountant.
How do I raise finance for my business?
- Investigate potential grants: Small business grants are extremely useful, but can be difficult to come by.
- Apply for a bank loan: Although bank lending to small business is falling, most businesses end up approaching the bank at some point. Read our step-by-step guide to maximise your chances of approval.
- Get funding from the government: The government operates various initiatives to help start-ups get off the ground. As a starting point, see whether the government’s new business bank can help you, as well as initiatives such as the Start-Up Loans scheme.
- Ask for help from your friends and family: It’s not hard to see why many entrepreneurs start with personal finance or the assistance of friends and family, but try not to put your house, or anyone else’s, on the line.
- Consider invoice financing: If you’re finding bank loans difficult to come by, look into invoice finance as an alternative funding option.
- Seek investment: Angel investors can not only provide funding but valuable mentoring, support and advice to early-stage businesses; be wary of giving away too much equity early on, however.
- Raise finance from the crowd: If you have an idea that you think will be popular with the masses, peer-to-peer crowdfunding is enjoying an explosion in popularity.
Testing your idea: Field research is a key part of analysing your market and will help you build a successful business plan and brand. Here’s how to carry it out effectively…
Market research should be an important part of a start-up’s preparation and business planning; it helps to shape your marketing, resources and business plan and can influence how and who you plan to target, what pricing point you choose and even alter your business idea to become more profitable.
Fundamentally an effective research plan involves two elements: desk and field research.
Nowadays the internet and social networks have had a huge impact on the development of market research practices, making desk research even more accurate and expansive. There is an increasing supply of secondary data available in published form, accessible either online or via business sections of public libraries, to enable business starters and growers both to quantify the size of market sectors they are entering and to determine trends in those markets.
However the importance of going out into the field, speaking to customers directly, testing your product/service personally and building a brand through your interactions with users is still as important as it was prior to the evolution of data. This also entails getting out and finding out essential facts that have not been uncovered by desk research, either because the data hasn’t been collected, or because it is deficient in some important respect.
Very often you will find that while general market information is available there is not information for a particular town or region. Also, when the economic climate changes, say from boom to bust, buying patterns may shift quite suddenly, making desk research irrelevant. Here we look at key areas of field research in order to help you plan and implement effective market research.
Observing your business’ market
The power of observation as a method of gathering data lies in the inconsistency between what people will say in an interview, or on a questionnaire, and what they actually do. It’s not that people are necessarily lying, it’s just that their capacity for self-deception is often high. Customers may feel foolish admitting they have difficulty understanding how to use a product or service and so would not record that fact. That doesn’t mean that they don’t have a problem and that a company would gain valuable information from finding out about it.
So, observations can give valuable insights into how things look from an outsider such as a customer, supplier or prospective employee. But such insights will only be representative of the time the researcher was observing and may not be indicative of the general level of service. This type of research is often used to provide contextual information alongside some other research method.
Face-to-face interviews with your potential customers
Talking and listening to people is the most basic and the most used method of conducting qualitative research. Interviews differ from surveys, for example in that they adhere less to a fixed set of questions but continually probe and cross-check information, building cumulatively on the knowledge gained from earlier answers.
Nevertheless, interviewers at some point have to ask the questions that give them the specific data they need. Good interpersonal skills, sensitivity to the respondent, conducting the interviews at an appropriate time and place as well as having an appropriate sample are all vital to successful interviewing.
Focus groups are a form of multiple interviews with small groups of around eight to 10 people selected with certain key attributes in mind, specific knowledge, experience or socio-economic characteristics for example. Participants are invited to attend informal discussion sessions of no more than two hours’ duration on a particular topic.
“See enough people with a problem and you have a business opportunity.”
The market research survey
The most common field research method is the survey. This is a near-ubiquitous tool used by organisations to get a handle on almost everything from measuring market potential and assessing customer satisfaction to getting the views on almost any issue surrounding a product or service.
Testing the market
The ultimate form of market research is to find some real customers to buy and use your product or service before you spend too much time and money in setting up. The ideal way to do this is to sell into a limited area or small section of your market. In that way, if things don’t quite work out as you expect you won’t have upset too many people.
This may involve buying in a small quantity of product as you need to fulfill the order to fully test your ideas. Once you have found a small number of people who are happy with your product, price, delivery/execution, and have paid up, then you can proceed with a bit more confidence than if all your ideas are just on paper.
Pick potential customers whose demand is likely to be small and easy to meet. For example, if you are going to run a bookkeeping business select five to 10 small businesses from an area reasonably close to home and make your pitch. The same approach would work with gardening, baby sitting or any other service-related venture. It’s a little more difficult with products, but you could buy a small quantity of similar items in from a competitor or make up a trial batch yourself.