Every business, no matter how big or small, had to start somewhere – and it is these tentative first steps into forming a company that can be crucial. They can also be incredibly daunting for first time entrepreneurs. You know you’ve got a great product but, before you can even begin marketing it to potential customers, there are business plans to create, legal requirements to meets, company structures to finalise and a whole host of other business-related admin you probably hadn’t even thought about.
So it pays to know how to use your time wisely, what to prioritise and where to begin. We called on Reece Tomlinson, CEO and founder of RWT Growth, a financial advisory service for SMEs, for his guide to launching a business in one month.
Week one: Back to basics
You’ve probably been dreaming and planning your perfect product for months but when it comes to setting up the bones of your business, you should start by taking things back to basics. The very first step, says Tomlinson, is making 100% sure that this is the business you want to start. “It needs to be something that appeals to you as an entrepreneur and something in which you are skilled at and/or passionate about,” he explains, while recommending every first-time entrepreneur read The Lean Startup by Eric Ries before they do anything else.
Other key things to consider at this stage, says Tomlinson, are your future goals for your business, target audience and your USP as well as the hard numbers. “Understanding where you want to take your business is hugely important and should be something you consider when starting the business itself,” he explains. “Your end goals will dictate your operating strategy, while understanding what makes your business unique will dictate how you sell and market your business. Cash flow projections, meanwhile, will help you understand how strong the business may be, how much cash is required to start it and how much you will need to sell in order to break even.”
Week two: Take practical steps
Now you’ve got the theory behind your company sorted, it’s time to get down to the business of making it happen. Your priority this week, suggests Tomlinson, should be giving your start-up a name (don’t forget to register it), setting up a website and creating initial marketing content. Then it’s down to the nitty-gritty of creating your business plan. “Not only is this needed if you want to borrow or raise money to build the business,” explains Tomlinson. “It also acts as an important road map for how will you take the business from inception to meeting your goals.
Next up is the important business of determining your corporate structure – will you be a sole proprietorship, partnership or limited company? “Your decision should be based on the degree of risk, size and type of business you want to run. Once this is determined, the company should be formally registered,” says Tomlinson. This is an important decision and there are no right or wrong answers so, if you’re not sure, it’s worth investing some time and money in getting advice from a business or legal expert to make sure you make the right choice.
This is also a good week to begin setting up practical necessities such as email systems, tax registration, payroll, accounting and any other basics you’re going to need once you’re dealing with customers.
Week three: Get ready to launch
You’re nearly there. Spend some time this week finalising your website, social media presence and basic marketing materials as well as becoming well versed in what’s going to happen once you’re live. “It is very important to understand the timeline required to deliver one’s products or services and how they will get to the customer,” explains Tomlinson. “Although a company can certainly sell products before they are in stock, it is very important to understand the timing prior to reaching out to prospective parties.” If you’re confident in the timings and processes of your business then it will be that much easier to communicate your offering to clients which, in turn, will help secure sales.
It’s also important at this point, says Tomlinson, to determine your MVP. “The MVP is short for minimum viable product. Too many entrepreneurs spend far too much time trying to perfect a product when what they need to start with is the minimum viable product or service that customers may buy.” Don’t hinder yourself by trying to offer the best, most perfect product right out of the gate – start with a product that is good enough and then improve on it once you’ve established yourself.
Then you’re off! It’s time to get on the phone, start sending emails and meeting potential clients. “Do whatever is needed in order to start getting orders through the door,” says Tomlinson. “Unless you have a consumer focused product and/or a very revolutionary idea, avoid spending copious amounts of money on marketing until traction has been gained and feedback on the MVP is resulting in positive changes.” At this point the small size of your company is an advantage. Take on feedback and improve your product while still reaching out to new audiences.
Week four: Engage and analyse
The first few weeks after launching your business are when you’ll learn the most about what customers really need from you and your product – so don’t be stubborn, take on constructive criticism and use it to grow and improve. There are a few key things Tomlinson says you can do here to maximise your learnings:
- Get involved in your industry – every industry has specific publications, LinkedIn groups etc that are great for networking, learning about trends and marketing. Get active and make yourself known.
- Analyse, analyse, analyse – the more you can analyse your interactions with customers, sales figures, profitability etc, the more you will be able to make informed decisions that help steer the company towards success.
- Marketing – engage in more formal marketing strategies. Learn what works and does not work. This is a time to be creative as emulating your larger competition is unlikely to get you noticed (unless you are a low cost provider).
Finally, and most importantly, don’t quit. “The first month, 90 days and year as a new entrepreneur are hard,” says Tomlinson. “The highs are high and the lows are very low. Keep a cool head, work hard and don’t give up.”
For more motivation: 10 quotes on failure every entrepreneur should read…
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