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Starting a business: The ultimate step by step guide

First of all, I’d like to congratulate you on the decision you have taken to start a business. The fact that you are here and reading this “ultimate guide to starting your own business” is a step in itself. This guide will take you through the process of creating your own business. It might seem like a daunting task, but starting a business is much easier than you think.

What you need to know before starting your own business

  1. Just like everything else that’s worth having and celebrating, you will need to put in the work. This means taking action and doing something daily that will help you grow your business.
  2. Starting a Business takes time. We have seen the stories in the press and at times it might seem like they are overnight successes, but a lot of time and effort went into building those organisations. So understand this and then make a conscious decision to play the long game. Give yourself time.
  3. Passion is essential for you to start and run a successful business. Remember this is something you will dedicate a great amount of time to in the next 5 to 10 years. You do not want to spend those years in misery…. So do something you love.
  4. Many entrepreneurs make the mistake of following fads…. yes, tech might be the in thing, but tech is not a standalone industry. Tech compliments education, farming, mining, healthcare and fashion. So instead of going the obvious route, search for overlooked opportunities. We already have Facebook, Google, Uber and all those other major brands… what new “thing” or way can you bring to the table? Try something new and different.

Outline your vision

Before you can even start working on the business, start by clearly stating your vision. Where do you see this company that you are starting in the next 10 years? Is it the best business in town or is it a national or global enterprise? How big do you want it to grow? A good vision is one that clearly states the following key elements:

1. Geography

this is the location that you intend to cover

2. Customers

a broad overview of your target audience. Is it men, women, children, households or other companies and organisations?

3. Product or service

You will then need to combine these 3 elements into a short and concise statement outlining your intentions for the next number of years to which the vision is assigned. Write your organisational vision in a manner that expresses your ambition and motivates you to work every day.

Reinforcing your business idea

With that being said, every business starts off with an idea. If you already have an idea then that’s awesome. If you do not, then don’t worry, we’ve got you covered. We prepared an article to help you generate and choose a business idea.
Once you have an idea, you will need to turn that into a business model by answering the following questions.

  1. What product or service will my business sell?
  2. Who will my customers be?
  3. How will I sell my product to these customers?
  4. What needs am I fulfilling for these customers?
  5. What impact will my business have on the community or environment?
    The answers will give you a basic understanding of how your business will function and this will guide the rest of your business planning process.

Testing your idea (SWOT Analysis)

Most ideas sound good but reality often proves different, so do not make the mistake of investing in any business without thorough research. You will need to find out the following things about your market.

  1. Are potential customers interested in your product or service?
  2. Are these potential customers willing to pay for your product or service, and if so, how such?
  3. How big is the market? Do you have enough potential customers to build a business as big as you envision?
  4. Who are your competitors? How much do they charge? What are their strengths and weaknesses? How is your product or service superior to theirs?
  5. What resources do you require? Are they readily available and at competitive prices? Can these resources sustain your demand?

Market Research

To get this information you will have to consult a number of sources and come up with reliable data to use as your basis for decision making. You will have to:

  1. Talk to potential customers and suppliers- go out and ask as many questions as they are willing to entertain. Carry samples of your product’s and ask potential customers what they think, if they would buy and how much they would pay. If they are not interested in the product, find out why. Is it the price, design or better offering from your competitors? Ask your suppliers which products they sell the most and why. Ask for recommendations and hints on what you can do to meet customer needs. Many suppliers, through interaction with a wide range of your competitors have an understanding of what works or not.
  2. Observe what your competitors are doing to woo customers as well as your customer behaviour. How are your competitors selling? How are their goods packaged? What are they saying to potential customers?
  3. Read as much as you can about tour industry and line of business. Read articles on the internet, trade journals, books and anything that relates to your business. There is so much information about what you are doing and how you can improve your product.
    Once you have an understanding of your market, use this information to reconcile your findings with your business idea. Does your product satisfy your customer’s needs? Are the customers willing to pay the prices that you will charge? In some cases you will need to revisit the business idea if it does not satisfy customer needs or has no customer base to sustain your operations.

Planning you Business Activities

Once you have outlined your vision, reinforced your business idea and done your research, the next thing is to come up with a business plan to bring this vision to fruition. Starting with where you see your business after it achieves its vision, think backwards and break this down into steps that you have to achieve. For example, if your vision is to build a national company, you will need to first set up a branch in one town or city, then branch out to another key city and so on. So as you prepare to write your plan, think about the first step that you need to take and write a plan that will help you achieve that. Many entrepreneurs try and compress 10 or 20 years worth of activities into a single plan. The result is that they get overwhelmed and the vision seems unachievable. The key is to start small, do what you can at that stage and grow with each stage. So plan for the next 6 to 18 months for now, and then revisit your plan and readjust it for the next foreseeable period.
We have prepared a comprehensive guide to writing a business plan and you can find it here.

Give your business an identity

The key to starting and growing a successful business is to acquire customers and to retain them. It is therefore important to come up with a mechanism that will tell them who you are and remind them the next time they interact with you. You will have to:

  1. Choose a brand name for your business and products. Start by doing your research and finding a name that is exclusively yours and can be trademarked.
  2. Outline the voice of your brand by coming up with a brand message. What drives your company? What is its promise to customers?
  3. Come up with a catchy and memorable tagline.
  4. Define what you want your brand to look like. What image should it portray? Do you want it to be playful, corporate or loud? Choose fonts, themes and colour schemes that bring out that image.
  5. Create a logo for your business.

Formalizing your business

Starting a successful business also means you have to comply with the law. Formalizing your business and making it legal will position you for more opportunities and also protect you in the case that something goes wrong. You will have to:

  1. Decide and choose the legal structure of your business. Will you be a sole trader, a partnership or a limited liability company?
  2. Acquire and register the name of your business.
  3. File for trademark protection if your business name will also be used as your product’s brand name.
  4. Obtain any operational licenses and permits that are required to start trading
  5. Register with the tax authority and get a tax number
  6. Get legal help if required
  7. Obtain and register a domain name that matches your business’ name.

Setting up shop

Once the business has been registered you can then work on setting up shop. Depending on the nature of your business and statutory obligations you will need to first identify and then secure a suitable location and then customize this for your operations. Setting up shop will involve:

  1. Finding a suitable business location
  2. Purchase the relevant insurance for your business
  3. Define your staffing needs. Do you need full time employees, will you outsource some services or employ workers on contract?
  4. Come up with a recruitment plan to help you get the right staff. This will include drafting job advertisement, posting these advertisements as well as interviewing and hiring suitable candidates.
  5. Set up your tech systems and devices. These will include:
    A. Phone system
    B. Email
    C. Accounting system
    D. Customer relationship management system
    E. Point of sale system
    F. Billing and payments system
  6. Outline your operational policies, including workplace behaviour and policies, credit policy as well as communication protocol.

Building your online presence and create awareness

Regardless what business you are starting, you will need to create a strong and consistent online presence. You will also need to leverage on the power of the internet to reach more customers as well as to build better relationships with existing ones. The following activities will help you start:

  1. Register a domain name for your business.
  2. Get hosting for your website
  3. Build your website- read our simple guide to creating your own free website.
  4. Get your website optimized for search engines so that it can easily be found.
  5. Create social media profiles on the platforms that you will use to target customers.
  6. Create a social media marketing plan to create awareness and hype of your new business.
  7. Consistently monitor these platforms and respond to user feedback.

Launching your business

Once you feel you are ready to launch your business, you will need to notify and inform customers that you are open for business. This will involve the following activities:

  1. Creating a marketing plan for your launch
  2. Creating your marketing materials such as:
    a.) Shops signs
    b.) Brochures and flyers
    c.) Stationery- including invoices, receipts and stamps
    d.) Business cards, company profiles and PowerPoint presentations
  3. Depending on the organisational culture you want to build, you can also create t-shirts and company uniforms.
  4. Go out and talk to as many people as you can and spread the word about your upcoming launch.
  5. Create a press release to let the world know about your launch and create hype
  6. Plan and Organise your opening day

Bonus tool for starting your own business

When starting a business, also remembrr to make use of the Business Builder- Small Business Management Suite to help you manage your business on your mobile device. The Business Builder App is an Android app designed to help small business owners to manage their companies and give them a holistic view of their business. It comes with 2 business plan templates, record keeping tools, productivity tools as well as a comprehensive start-up checklist that you can use to guide your activities.

Conclusion

Starting a business is not as hard as they say it is. The secret is to do things the right way and set a foundation that will ensure the sustained growth of your business. It takes a holistic approach to successfully start and manage a business, and this calls for you as an entrepreneur to make use of all the tools at your disposal to do this. Building a business takes time, and you will have to be patient while aiming small but thinking big. With continuous effort, adjustment and adaptability, your business idea will soon be a success. Here’s to wishing you all the best; happiness, health and wealth.

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