Be inspired and learn from others’ mistakes
Start Up Advice
Start up advice about marketing is available through Call To Action Advertising. Every successful entrepreneur will have made several mistakes and they are often prepared to talk about them with the benefit of hindsight. We are willing to do the same.
Get some experience
Gain an intimate understanding of the sector you plan to launch a business into. In his early 20s Nicko Williamson, the founder of eco-friendly private car hire business Climate Cars, worked in the call centre of an established private car hire company. He learned how the business operated from the inside and discovered areas where he could make small, but critical, tweaks to differentiate what was on offer.
Know your customer
Researching the market that you are thinking of entering is essential and will tell you if you are on the right track. Talk to people within your customer demographic and get an idea of how they would react to your product or service. Very few ideas are entirely original, so you may not need a non-disclosure agreement – and by asking questions about the merits of existing products or services you don’t have to divulge what you plan to do differently anyway.
Know your competition
Market research also enables you to get to grips with your competition. What other products and services like yours are out there already? Not all businesses stem from a revolutionary idea and many successful businesses are borne out of an improvement to an old concept. However, you need to offer customers something noticeably better, cheaper, easier than what they are used to if you are going to draw them away from the familiar.
Write a business plan
Having a great business idea does not mean you have a great business. Write a business plan to encourage yourself to evaluate your idea in detail. Use it to make realistic targets for your business and consider all the costs of setting up and sustaining your company.
Find a mentor
Try the government-backed mentoring service www.mentorsme.co.uk, a free service set up to provide businesses with experienced support via a network of quality-assured mentoring organisations. Failing that, talk to people you know with experience of what you’re planning to do, attend relevant exhibitions and conferences, and speak to friends or family members who have started businesses.
7. Be lean
Buy or download Eric Ries’ seminal book The Lean Startup. Start from home. Grow the business step by step and keep overheads to a minimum. Don’t employ before you have to. Don’t take on premises before you need to. See if there’s a market for your product or service by testing on a smaller-scale. Create a rough and ready website first and build on it. Go to friends and family, or crowdfund, for seed finance. Keep some cash in the business.
A common mistake of new companies is to believe revenues equals success. Those companies often find themselves overlooking the need for net profit and working capital. By leaving themselves without cash in the business they can quickly become unstuck, with higher fixed costs such as salaries than they can afford and debts they can no longer afford to service.
Research and learn for no cost
Spend time in the British Library’s Business & IP Centre in London, which offers free access to market research reports from all the major analysts, industry guides and journals, company data, grants and intellectual property databases, workshops, resident advisers, and events. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone starting up or in the process of establishing a business and has centres around the UK in through the central libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.
Contact support organisations
Youth Business International provides access to financial support, mentoring and technical training through a collaborative network of partners, which in the UK includes: Start-Up Direct for talented 18-30 year-olds in Greater London; Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit organisation to help entrepreneurs access funding, resources and advice; and UnLtd, a provider of support for social entrepreneurs which runs an award scheme to back social enterprises at seed stage.
Look for an accelerator
Some major organisations have created private start-up accelerators, which often have a specific focus such as technology, finance, healthcare or eco-friendly start-ups.
12. Start Up Advice? Contact us.