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Seven tips for starting a small business

28 Feb 2012

Regardless of the industry you want to be in, at some point you have to take a breath and get started on your business.

In order to do that, take stock of what you want to achieve, make sure you have everything you need in your toolbox (real and metaphorical), take a deep breath, and jump on in.

1. Research, research, research

Even if your gut tells you you’re onto a winner or your mother is convinced you are the next Steve Jobs, be sure to conduct some basic market research. You need to know if, where, and to whom your product is likely to sell. Market research doesn’t have to be a headache; you should be able to find at least some of the answers you are looking for within your networks (online and traditional), as well via internet search. Use the various government and business support websites to gather information you need, as they often have important statistical data that can be helpful with decision making.

2. Decide on your elevator pitch

Sit down with someone who knows you and your new business idea and come up with a short ‘pitch’ that will confidently and concisely explain who you are and what you do. You should be able to explain it between floors in an elevator, hence the name. Remember to keep the jargon to a minimum, to be as interesting as possible, and to keep a little in reserve. You want people to ask questions – especially if they are likely to be in your target market.

3. Get online

Regardless of your business, make sure you are visible online. You don’t need to spend your entire day tweeting or on Facebook but you need email, you need a website and it’s likely you need some social media presence. At the very least be sure you are on LinkedIn. Don’t be scared to keep things simple at first or to get help from experts in those fields. The important thing is to be seen.

4. Hand out business cards

As a business owner you’re never off-duty, so whether you take the traditional route with physical business cards or use a smart phone app like Bump – hand out your business details.  Consider adding your LinkedIn details to your business cards – this will help expand your network much more quickly.

5. Stay up to date

Make sure you stay informed about your industry. Don’t assume that because you are having a good response to your service or product, you don’t need to keep on top of trends and innovation.  If you let yourself get behind, a competitor will gladly snap up your clients.   Strive to lead in your industry rather than simply play catch up.

6. Network, network, network

Whether you join the local BNI, LinkedIn or Twitter – or all three for that matter – doesn’t matter. What matters is that you join. Some networking will be to support your industry. Some will be to support your clientele. Either way networking is one of the greatest marketing tools you have, helping you to enhance your image, build your reputation and meet potential customers, so be sure you are in the right place at the right time with the right people.

7. Be Seen

Get behind a community event. Offer to be a guest speaker at a networking event. Offer guidance to students or other people starting out. Work with the local media. All of it will help build your profile and integrity with both suppliers and clients.

If you've got an idea that you think would make a great business, give it a go – you'll never know if you don’t try.