No matter what size or type of business you plan to launch — from the smallest artsy boutique, to a professional services office, to an online empire — there is a great deal of commonality to the steps needed for a successful business launch.
George F. Brown Jr., CEO and co-founder of Blue Canyon Partners, a management consulting firm in Evanston, IL says, “Successful business leaders don’t go to work every day expecting a new adventure. They have a plan.”
California restaurant chain Tender Greens spent two years in the planning stage before serving their first meal.
“We would make revisions to our plan after every meeting with a potential investor,” says Erik Oberholtzer, chef and co-owner of Tender Greens, “because sophisticated investors would ask questions we hadn’t thought of, causing us to go back and refine the numbers.”
The difference between a business that succeeds and one that fails often comes down to planning.
2. Don’t be limited by the plan
The most successful entrepreneurs have practical experience in their industry. Whatever kind of business you want to open, start by working in a similar one that’s already well-established. This has the dual benefit of giving you an inside look at one of your future competitors and how they operate.
You could get similar results by hiring outside experts, who already have that experience, to help you set up and run your new company.
3. Use the plan only as a guide
Everyone knows life rarely goes according to plan. This goes double when launching a new business. So be prepared to refine and change your plan along the way.
New information or new circumstances doesn’t mean you were wrong or are not cut out for running a business. Those things happen to everyone. Real leaders are resilient and willing to adapt to a changing business environment.
4. Know who your customers will be
The answer to the question “who is your target market?” is never everyone. Even the largest and most dominant companies in their fields have people who are not their customers.
Not having a very specific picture of who your ideal customer is — and isn’t — will lead to unnecessarily high marketing expenses. This is something to figure out even before the company itself has been formed, when you’re still in the planning stages.
5. Test and refine your marketing
Once you know who you’ll be selling to, figure out low-cost ways to start selling to them. Again, this can and should be done before the company has even been launched. You are not “in business” yet. You’re just testing and trying to prove the viability of the business idea.
Another nice dual benefit is that, once you do launch the company, you will have already worked out how to efficiently sell your product or service.
In fact a third, hidden, benefit is that such testing will help you figure out where to find customers. That way, once you do open your doors, you’ll be able to hit the ground running.
6. Don’t aim for perfection
There is an African proverb that says, “Calm seas do not make skillful sailors.” If your natural tendency is to be a perfectionist, you might do well to adopt this as your personal mantra.
Being a perfectionist will just drive you bonkers. It’s stressful. There will be far too many things outside of your control. Instead, learn to make quick adjustments as you go.
7. Become a jack-of-all-trades
It’s almost certain that you chose your particular line of business because it’s an area in which you have a great deal of knowledge and passion.
While being an expert in your field is commendable, running even the smallest of businesses requires a vast array of talents. From bookkeeping to marketing to product development, you will be wearing a lot of hats. Even if you hire others to do some of these tasks for you, it will be necessary for you to have at least a passing knowledge and understanding of all these various disciplines.
8. Structure your business properly
Unless you’re seven years old, you can’t simply set a card table on the front lawn with a pitcher of lemonade and declare yourself to be open for business.
A real business has tax and liability issues to consider. There are several main ways in which a business may be structured. Which makes the most sense depends a great deal on your location and the nature of the business you plan to launch.
This is one instance where it definitely pays to enlist professional help. The few hundred dollars it may cost could protect you from being personally liable for many thousands of dollars later on.
Words of encouragement
With all these thoughts in mind, allow me to congratulate you! You’re about to enter a very exciting time in your life.
Launching a new business is both daunting and invigorating. (I know because I’ve done it. More than once.)
For more than just advice, but real help, with marketing your new business, check out all the resources available at MichaelTasner.com