Six business lessons to take your brand from startup to growth
Whether you’re just starting out or taking the next steps to expansion, we look at six key lessons for business success from entrepreneurs featured in Xero and Enterprise Nation’s Startup Series.
Throughout the Startup Series, we’ve been learning from the experiences and insights of four successful entrepreneurs from different industry sectors. Each of our entrepreneurs had a business idea which they wanted to turn into reality. From starting out as freelancers or establishing brands from their kitchen table, they’ve been sharing advice on some of the most important aspects of starting out on your own. They’ve also shared insights on how to take your business to the next stage: acquiring bigger business premises; hiring staff and getting stocked by major retailers.
You can find out about our entrepreneurs successes, the mistakes they wish they’d avoided at the outset, plus the actions you can take to make your brand stand out in our series of 12 videos. Learn more by clicking on the Startup Series episode guide.
Here are 6 key pieces advice for the next generation of business owners.
1. Market research is an everyday task
Seeking out customer views and opinions and keeping up-to-date with competitor activities has become second nature to Jacqui Ma, founder of urban bag retailer Goodordering.
“It’s become an intuitive process. I know exactly where my bags fit in the whole scheme of things in terms of price point and functionality,” says Jacqui.
Knowing what your customers like and what your competitors are up to allows you to make better informed, confident business decisions. Create your own non-stop feedback loop by:
Listening to your customers when making face-to-face sales
Keeping a close eye on your sales figures
Joining in the conversation on social media
Identifying who your competitors are and keeping tabs on their activities
2. Don’t sweat the small stuff when you’re writing your business plan
Your business plan is your blueprint – it sets out what you want to achieve and the actions you’re going to take to get there. But David Abrahamovitch, CEO and Founder of coffee-bar chain Grind says all too often startup owners get hung up on minor details. He recommends creating a short plan to help you get your business up and running – then, ultimately, just “Get on with it.”
Here are David’s do’s and don’ts for drawing up an initial business plan:
Don’t get stuck under a deluge of detail, your business plan should contain enough information for you to simply make a start
Ensure there’s a market for what you do – carry out initial tests through pop up stores or selling online
Cost your time as well as your money – if you discover that your business is unlikely to deliver a good return, move on as quickly as possible
Do include targets and milestones which will help you monitor your progress
3. Keeping on top of your finances leaves you more time to grow your business
Having the right processes and systems in place for accurate financial recording will leave you more time to concentrate on growing your business. Omar Choudhry, owner of digital media agency FLAVR, says: “Your company account is like a bucket. You want to spend as much time filling the bucket as possible.”
Here are Omar’s top tips for keeping on top of company finances:
Hire a qualified accountant – they will have detailed knowledge of the latest tax regulations as well as financial matters. Their advice will help you make better decisions
An online accounting platform such as Xero can be accessed through desktop, mobile or tablet. It will help you stay up-to-date with your cash flow, even on the move
Implement a filing system to ensure you capture all your receipts – this could be as simple as carrying a small folder within your bag
4. Once you’ve identified and filled a gap in the market, make sure your product or service performs at its best
Pip Murray, got the idea for her brand Pip & Nut after becoming frustrated with the lack of moreish nut butter flavours which were also healthier choices. Leading brands were packed with refined sugar and palm oil, but brands marketed as healthier choices were dull and unexciting.
Pip says that once you’ve filled a gap in the market, it’s your job to ensure your product or service carries on performing at its best – for both retailers and customers. Pip’s products are now stocked in more than 4,000 outlets throughout the UK.
“There’s a certain amount of legwork that you have to do to make sure your brand delivers the same revenue or same rates of sale as competitor brands,” explains Pip.
Here are some of the ways that Pip uses to keep Pip & Nut performing at its best:
Promote your brand using PR, social media and events
Engage your customers by sharing content online – this could be recipes or instructional videos
Expose your brand to a wider audience by joining up with other brands as official partners for events or shared online content
5. Put yourself in your customers’ shoes when it comes to building your website
For many businesses, the first point of contact customers will have with you will be through your website. Omar Choudhry says it’s important to put your customer first when creating your site.
“People want speed, not an overload of information,” explains Omar.
Here, he gives his advice on how to make your website user-friendly using the example of a business which sells hats:
If people are coming to your website, they are coming to see the hats you sell, why they should buy them and how easy it is to purchase your hats
They don’t want to see page about ‘our embroidery’ or a specific kind of thread
Direct customers to where they need to go – if your website is myhats.com, the url on your Instagram feed should be myhats.com/ with the name of the specific product you are featuring, or the ‘Buy Now’ page.
Send them directly to the hat to save them two steps
If you are a service-based industry, direct browsers to your Service or Contact page
6. Having the right staff on board will help your business to grow
Investing time into your recruitment process can help your business to expand, as your new starters may have skills and experiences which you do not currently possess.
“When you get the right people doing the right things, your whole business takes on a momentum of its own,” says David Abrahamovitch. “When you get people who specialise in a particular area, they can make a massive difference.”
Here are David’s suggestions for attracting brilliant staff:
Creating a great working environment makes good business sense – it will attract good employees
Promote internally to keep your best people. A great working atmosphere will also mean people will want to stay with you for longer
Employees will help you to grow your business – think about how you can help them grow their careers. Will there be promotion opportunities or transferable skills they can take elsewhere?
Have a UK startup that earns up to £50,000? Join Xero for Startups* and get a years’ free membership to Enterprise Nation’s small business community