Despite the fact that the internet has made it easier than ever for small businesses to compete with the big boys and win, the first year of company can be challenging. Any successful entrepreneur, including myself, is likely to have failed at least once. I’ve had a couple of successes, but I also have a long list of failures.
“I have not failed 10,000 times,” declared American inventor and businessman Thomas Edison. I’ve proven that those 10,000 ways aren’t going to work.”
In the early 2000s, I saw an opportunity to develop a company that would allow anyone to snap images and sell them online for a profit. Snapdaq.com was founded, allowing anyone to save, rate, sell, and buy images. However, it failed.
Our client growth stalled after we converted early adopters. The reasons behind this are rather evident in retrospect. It was cumbersome and tough to operate. We didn’t have enough money for marketing to build a community. After a year or so, some really attractive competitors appeared. With the start of a new year, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned through mistakes like these, as well as how I would do things differently in my first year of business.
1 Make a list of your company’s strengths and problems.
Understanding what your company does, what it excels at, and where the difficulties are are all part of strategy. If you’re aware of these concerns from the outset, you’ll be better prepared for a lot more challenges.
2 Know what your company does in a single sentence.
“What does your company do?” is the most frequently asked question. If you’re scratching your head after 30 seconds, I’m guessing potential clients are scratching theirs as well. You should be able to better sell the advantages of what you do than anyone else. And there will be several occasions when summarising what you do in a single statement might make or break future business chances.
3 Don’t let day-to-day operations blind you.
Most businesses, in my experience, have no strategy at all. Instead, they are preoccupied with the mundane, which can slow you down. The risk is that you lose sight of where you want your company to go and what you need to do to get there. If you’re caught in the middle of a storm, you’ll need to take a break from the firefighting to gain some perspective on how to achieve your company objectives. If necessary, enlist the assistance of others.
4 Consider where you can add the most value.
Similarly, while starting and growing a small business, you must consider your time carefully. Spend money on activities with the greatest measurable return. Your time is the most valuable asset in your company. It is your responsibility to determine what is important to you and to resist doing what is necessary for others. As difficult as it is, I find it quite beneficial to entirely ignore the desire to work through my email account.
5 Don’t put new business ahead of existing consumers.
According to studies conducted in the United States, less than 1% of businesses provide exceptional customer service. This, I believe, is due to the fact that most organisations do not prioritise customer service. Looking after freshly won clients should be the cornerstone of sustained growth in the first year of operation — they are your largest advocates for new customers and the reason you were able to get your business off the ground.
6 Disseminate feedback within the company
Send surveys to your consumers to learn what they enjoy and don’t like, especially if they’ve decided to quit. Make sure that everyone in your company reads both the positive and negative customer feedback, and that you demonstrate the link between what individuals do and what it implies for the consumer. Allowing staff to interact with consumers will help them better grasp their situation and how to aid them.
7 Find freelancers through your network.
Freelancers can add a lot of value to your company. My advice is to tap into your network and hire people you enjoy working with as well as those who are knowledgeable. This will assist you in prioritising and concentrating on your company’s aims and ambitions.
8 Profit from culture
There is a clear correlation between a company’s culture and its profitability — a workplace with the proper balance of fun, dedication, ethics, and creativity may add significant value, eliminate gossip, and reduce employee turnover. Your company’s culture is your responsibility. Make the ideal one.
Nick Leech is the digital director of 123-reg, a small business domain registrar, and the founder of a number of enterprises, including an internet advertising firm, a green business directory, and a mobile app agency.