Starting a business is always a huge undertaking. Money is at stake, you are required to explain yourself to the investors on a bad month, you lack the proper manpower or budget to get things done. It can be an intimidating topic to broach. There are a million ways to screw up your business, or get it done right, but there is never a hard and fast rule to kickstarting a successful business let alone sustaining one. Each business is unique and the circumstances to them are also special. That said, be it a physical business or an ecommerce hustle, there are some dos and don’ts that many business owners have sworn by. If you’re new to entrepreneurship and are looking to kickstart your own business, or you already started one and are looking to avoid jeopardizing your business, here are 5 things you should keep an eye out for.
There’s a saying about accomplishments - “All great feats begin with a single spark of an idea.” Similarly, many businesses are hatched from the birth of an idea. Whether they end up becoming successful, mediocre or an utter failure is an entirely different matter though. People are also always quick to say, follow your dreams! Pursue your passion! It’ll lead to success, yet it always takes a little more than passion to uncover a pot of gold, or survive. Whether it’s an infant business or a seasoned one, you have to conduct market research to determine if buyers are willing to pay whatever it is you’re offering.
Knowledge and transparency are power. Never assume that there are no competitors around to snatch opportunities away from you. If you’re starting up a new business, you need to have a clear vantage point about your competitors, the products they’re selling/offering, their outreach, and their USPs. Tabulate all that data and compare them to yours, find out where you’re standing and if you’re up against major powerhouses or small-time businesses that are on equal footing with you. Even as the business grows and you achieve a modicum of success, you should never stop conducting market research to find out if your product or services are still in-demand or highly sought after. Complacency is the quickest way to damage a business’ longevity, and it is something you should take great care to avoid.
Digitization is a necessary evil, even if you’re a firm believer of the traditional brick-and-mortar shipping experiences. If there’s one thing that Covid-19 has taught to many businesses worldwide, it’s to have a backup revenue channel so your physical stores aren’t left to fend for themselves if another pandemic happens. Even businesses that are traditionally unfit for the ecommerce/online scene i.e. F&B have successfully slithered their way into the online game. So your business should be no less of an exception. Of course digitizing your business is more than a mere matter of going online. It takes lots of effort to get it setup. You need to diversify your payment channels, pay a developer to optimize your website for mobile users, liaise with ecommerce channels to be a registered vendor. There’s a lot of work that goes into it, but the sooner you can set up a form of online business, the sooner you safeguard yourself against any unforeseen events. Plus, it brings you revenue.
Ah… big data. Love em or hate em, they’re vital to your business. Big data is the act of making sense of unstructured and structured data to empower your business. In simpler terms, these analytics explore issues such as customer conversion, the number of users present in your website, the average time they spend viewing it, how soon they bounce. All these are important because they tell you about your customers’ behavior, a person who spends 3 minutes looking at a product is probably more interested in it than a person who spends 30 seconds skimming through the entire thing. A large online crowd staring at an online promo of yours may mean you have their attention. Customer conversion metrics will tell you what it takes to make a potential individual go from browsing to buying. Analytics are not for the faint of heart, but if you can befriend it and love it, you will be rewarded with many ways to skyrocket your revenue.
Financial planning is everything. Especially when you’re just getting started, it’s crucial that you remain prudent and objective to your goals. Never be swayed by a spur of the moment to deviate your plans, because sometimes all it takes is a tiny decision to derail everything. Have a budget plan, or consult a financial specialist cum consultant to help you draft out your financial flowchart. Make use of the financial person in your business to actively plot and chart your financial course. Passion is incredibly important, but passion cannot continue to exist without prudence or objectivity. A part about running a business is ensuring you’re financially prepared for any crises that may hit the fan, if you can safely do that, then you’re doing a great job.
The last point on our list is customer service. Customer service is a well-known matter by now. You don’t need a customer service team to actually talk about customer service. Even the way you respond or treat a customer on its own is a form of customer service. Allowing your buyers to track their shipment, having knowledge about the products they’re inquiring, these are all a form of customer servicing. Peer-to-peer referrals are incredibly powerful, as they bring you more customers and so on. Although analytics and metrics are important, never forget about the people experience. At the end of the day, we’re all social creatures at heart.
Running a business is never a clear cut formula. There are things that work differently for different businesses. A fully online business may instead concern themselves with remote working as opposed to fully focusing on digitizing, because digitizing is already a building block for them. An eatery may want to prioritize quality control as their main source of income comes from the food, which is dependent on the quality of their fresh produce. What matters is you have a clear mindset when you set out to start a business, and when you’re managing one. Most of the time, many businesses fail because they sidetracked too fast or are too concerned about revenue and not the direction. Focus on having clarity and the rest will follow.