3 Smart Steps to take to Grow Your Startup

… Want to grow your startup and you don’t know what elements to focus on? The road to success is different for everyone, however, this article highlights some factors you should consider to grow your business… 

By Azugbene Solomon

Are you taking the right steps to put your ideas into action? How well are you prepared before going into entrepreneurship?

Did you know that only 50 percent of startups survive more than five years? Unfortunately, many startups fail to achieve product-market fit. Without a smart growth strategy in place, startups have no clear roadmap towards long-term success.

Entrepreneurship offers a lot, especially, if you know how to easily get your new business off the ground. However, do you know what it takes to create a business that you believe will serve a need for the public successfully?

The fact is that starting a successful business is not as easy as eating cake. This is a journey you mustn’t start if you don’t have an idea of where you are going.

While you’re anxious to get started, you will realise you’re just another name in a sea of competition. This is why you have to build your brand and develop relationships within and outside the business. This is one of the best ways to gain access to customers and grow your business.

How to grow your startup to the maximum

Do you know how to grow your startup to the maximum? Do you actually know how to keep your company moving forward with smart business expansion principles?

So, how do you start? What elements should you focus on? The road to success is different for everyone, however, position your startup for sustained success and build a growth strategy that actually works by following these simple steps:

1. Network and connect

Some of the most successful businesses have professional ties with other companies in the industry. By developing a network of professionals, you can turn to you have more resources at your fingertips to grow your business.

Networking allows you to share knowledge and ask questions of like-minded professionals. Also, it creates an environment for opportunities and opens you up to other markets and connections.

  • Attend Networking Events and Trade Shows
    There are often networking events for startups and entrepreneurs that you can attend. You can find out about these events by following organizations on social media, joining professional groups and organizations, and checking regularly at local hotels where such events are often held.
  • Host your own event
    There’s no better way to introduce yourself to the professional world than to host your own networking event. With the use of digital tools like a conference app and social media, inviting and updating guests won’t be much of an issue. During the event, you have the opportunity to showcase what your business has to offer and build lasting connections.

2. Build Awareness

Being known among other businesses is a must, however, you can’t grow your business if potential customers don’t know you exist.

Brand awareness is an imperative and continual part of growing your business. As a business owner, you can effectively leverage social media for brand awareness and sales.

While some of this is done by providing quality service, a lot of building brand awareness will come from your ability to market your business. Two common areas of marketing are traditional and digital:

  • Traditional Marketing
    This is your typical marketing tactics that have been used for years. This includes marketing methods like using business cards, flyers, promotional products, signage, cold calls, commercials, radio broadcasts, and other solutions to spread awareness about your brand.
  • Digital Marketing
    Whether you have a physical business location or you run your show from home having a strong online presence is imperative to building brand awareness. A reliable website, social media accounts, blogs, and compelling content all play a crucial role in your brand’s ability to reach your target audience.

3. Develop Relationships

Relationships building is very important when it comes to entrepreneurship. As a business owner, for your business to grow, you must focus on the core purpose for your success – your customers.

When startups take the time to develop authentic business relationships with their customers, they are put in a position where they can better serve them.

This thus results in long-term relationships and repeat business. But how do you develop a positive relationship with your customers?

  • Learn more about the customer
    The trick to selling your products or services is appealing to the needs, wants, and/or interests of your customers. It is imperative that you not only know who your company can best serve but how you can best do this. Customer satisfaction surveys, interaction through social media, and research can help you to learn about your customer.
  • Provide quality services
    You can’t very well expect to develop strong relationships with your customers if you’re not providing quality service. Customer service should be a huge part of your business strategy to grow. Focus on ways to provide friendly, simplified, and convenient services to your customers. Go above and beyond what is expected to ensure that every encounter they have with your business is a good one.

Conclusion

As tartup, like a little baby, has to be nurtured with utmost care and intuitive outlook.

However, while putting in the effort to your brand and products, it’s also important to take smart steps that’ll make the long-run totally worth it at the end of the tunnel.

Hence, smart up and apply the above effective tips to your startup to watch your brand soar beyond bounds.

Reference
1. 3 Smart Steps to take to Grow Your Startup and Take it to the Max by Onaplatterofgold.com

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Young Entrepreneurs, This Is How You Start A Profitable Business


By Nicolas Cole


If you’re young, and you are entrepreneurial, your single greatest asset is your age.

What they fail to tell you in school is that being “older” doesn’t necessarily make you “better.” What it makes you is different.

When you’re older, you see things through a lens created through years and years of varying experiences. In your industry (and/or tangential industries), you’ve learned what works, what doesn’t work, what people want and what they don’t want. You know the rules of the game. You know how people operate. And above all, you know enough to where you don’t feel not defeated when someone says that scary word, “No.”

All those things are great — and immensely valuable. But they are not what makes someone “better.”

Young people see life through an equally valuable, and different, lens.

When you’re young, you tend to be more instinctual than logical.

I have absolutely found this to be true for myself, as a young entrepreneur. While older individuals have an immense amount of knowledge at their fingertips, they tend to be quite logical when making decisions. Like I said, they have experiences they can point to that taught them what worked and what didn’t, and make future decisions largely based upon those prior learnings.

Young entrepreneurs don’t have that luxury. They don’t have those experiences yet. And so, for better or worse, they are forced to make decisions based on instinct — what feels right, and what appears to be most obvious to them at the time.

The best businesses for young entrepreneurs to start are ones that build off any current working knowledge.

My parents used to tell me all the time, “Cole, do what you love, and be the best at what you do. That way, you’ll be both successful and happy.”

At 27 years old, I still consider myself to be a relatively young entrepreneur. My business, Digital Press, is a writing agency. We help CEOs and founders write more thoughtful articles, based on the insight they share with us. Before Digital Press, I was a freelance writer. And before that, I was studied creative writing in school.

From an outside perspective, the writing world is extremely saturated. Do you have any idea how many “blog posts” are written on the Internet each day? Millions. Nobody would ever look at the content writing space and think, “Wow, that’s a really untapped market — I should start a business there.”

Unfortunately, most young entrepreneurs think this way. Instead of auditing their own skill sets, they look for what’s easy and available. They poke around and base their decisions on what appears to be open territory — only to begin on the journey and learn the hard lesson that no industry is free from competition.

I didn’t think about it this way.

I heeded my parents’ advice: “I love writing, so I will become one of the best writers on the Internet.”

By the time I launched Digital Press, I knew the digital writing space better than anyone.

I had walked the walk myself, had studied all my competitors, had learned all the different ways people make money in this space, how, where, and why.

But most of all, I knew that if I pursued something I had a genuine interest in, I would be far more successful than if I tried to force myself to get excited about something I truly didn’t care about.

What’s interesting though (and this is where all young entrepreneurs should pay attention), my age has ended up working to my advantage.

I am young enough to be a “child of the Internet.” I speak the language fluently, and my early experiences as a competitive teenage gamer taught me how to see the Internet differently than most older, more “experienced” people in this space.

And yet, I am old enough and mature enough to understand the fundamentals of business. I’ve worked for an advertising agency. I’ve worked personally with 100+ CEOs. I have learned how to speak their language, without forgetting how to speak my own.

This, right here, is every young entrepreneur’s greatest advantage.

You have to remember what it is you’re bringing to the table, and why it’s valuable. And a large part of that is your instinct, and how “tuned in” you are to what’s happening in the digital world.

Now, where a lot of young entrepreneurs fail is they think that’s enough (instinct and gut) and it’s not. Just like how older business leaders need young people to help them keep pushing boundaries, young entrepreneurs need to learn from their older counterparts the ins and outs of the business world — and how that game works.

If you want to start a profitable business, then don’t pursue what other successful people have done just because you think it’ll be successful.

It’s going to be hard regardless.

There is going to be competition no matter which direction you choose.

So choose something you’re already genuinely interested in — and then work hard to learn everything else you need in order to bring that idea to life.


This article was first published at www.medium.com


19 essential start-up tips for young entrepreneurs

By Abigail Van-West and Ian Wallis

One in five 18-34 year-olds have a business idea. And with young people nearly three times more likely to be unemployed than the rest of the population – the highest level in 20 years – and the volume of new companies rising each year, starting a business has rarely been more pertinent.

While the stats show youth employment – those aged 16-24 actually fell by 181,000 for the year to January 2015, the number unemployed remains close to 750,000. That’s why the number of self-employed young people has risen dramatically since the start of the economic crisis.

Starting a business won’t prove the silver bullet for all, but the support available has certainly never been so good. So, without further ado, here’s our 19-point checklist to guide ambitious and courageous young people through the start-up process.

1. Be inspired and learn from others’ mistakes.

Read the start-up stories of others on websites, in books, or at events for people starting a business. Every successful entrepreneur makes tons of mistakes and they’re often prepared to talk about them with the benefit of hindsight.

2. Get some experience.

Gain an intimate understanding of the sector you plan to launch a business into. In his early 20s Nicko Williamson, the founder of eco-friendly private car hire business Climate Cars, worked in the call centre of an established private car hire company. He learned how the business operated from the inside and discovered areas where he could make small, but critical, tweaks to differentiate what was on offer.

3. Know your customer.

Researching the market that you are thinking of entering is essential and will tell you if you are on the right track. Talk to people within your customer demographic and get an idea of how they would react to your product or service. Very few ideas are entirely original, so you may not need a non-disclosure agreement – and by asking questions about the merits of existing products or services you don’t have to divulge what you plan to do differently anyway.

4. Know your competition.

Market research also enables you to get to grips with your competition. What other products and services like yours are out there already? Not all businesses stem from a revolutionary idea and many successful businesses are borne out of an improvement to an old concept. However, you need to offer customers something noticeably better, cheaper, easier than what they are used to if you are going to draw them away from the familiar.

5. Write a business plan.

Having a great business idea does not mean you have a great business. Write a business plan to encourage yourself to evaluate your idea in detail. Use it to make realistic targets for your business and consider all the costs of setting up and sustaining your company. On this site, you can take a look at our free business plan template.

6. Find a Mentor.

Try the government-backed mentoring service http://www.mentorsme.co.uk, a free service set up to provide businesses with experienced support via a network of quality-assured mentoring organisations. Failing that, talk to people you know with experience of what you’re planning to do, attend relevant exhibitions and conferences, and speak to friends or family members who have started businesses.

7. Be lean.

Buy or download Eric Ries’ seminal book The Lean Startup. Start from home. Grow the business step by step and keep overheads to a minimum. Don’t employ before you have to. Don’t take on premises before you need to. See if there’s a market for your product or service by testing on a smaller-scale. Create a rough and ready website first (take a look at our guide to free website builders to start) and build on it. Go to friends and family, or crowdfund, for seed finance. Keep some cash in the business.

8. Don’t over-extend.

A common mistake of new companies is to believe revenues equals success. Those companies often find themselves overlooking the need for net profit and working capital. By leaving themselves without cash in the business they can quickly become unstuck, with higher fixed costs such as salaries than they can afford and debts they can no longer afford to service.

9. Research and learn for no cost.

Spend time in the British Library’s Business & IP Centre in London, which offers free access to market research reports from all the major analysts, industry guides and journals, company data, grants and intellectual property databases, workshops, resident advisers, and events. It’s an invaluable resource for anyone starting up or in the process of establishing a business and has centres around the UK in through the central libraries in Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle and Sheffield.

10. Contact support organisations.

Youth Business International provides access to financial support, mentoring and technical training through a collaborative network of partners, which in the UK includes: Start-Up Direct for talented 18-30 year-olds in Greater London; Virgin StartUp, the not-for-profit organisation to help entrepreneurs access funding, resources and advice; and UnLtd, a provider of support for social entrepreneurs which runs an award scheme to back social enterprises at seed stage.

11. Look for an accelerator.

Some major organisations have created private start-up accelerators, which often have a specific focus such as technology, finance, healthcare or eco-friendly start-ups. Many universities also offer space and support for student or local entrepreneurs keen to take advantage of the expertise available. When the time is right accelerators often have access to a network of angel and venture capital investors keen to spot the next big thing.

12. Join an Entrepreneurs’ Society at university.

Student enterprise charity NACUE (National Association of College & University Entrepreneurs) was created by members of these societies from a number of prominent universities. It received a further £1.3m in government funding in 2012 to support its initiatives and now works with 260 institutional members and enterprise societies, government and corporate partners. The organisation offers training, provides peer-support, and hosts competitions for start-up entrepreneurs.

13. Apply for the Peter Jones Enterprise Academy.

The youth enterprise organisation was set up by Dragons’ Den’s Peter Jones CBE. The academy offers a BTEC in enterprise and entrepreneurship and offers masterclasses and workshops. The academy works with around 30 UK colleges and specifically caters for teenagers and students.

14. Apply to a graduate scheme.

Entrepreneur First hosts an intensive six-month graduate programme to encourage university leavers to start a business. Apply to their scheme and receive support all the way from the development of a business idea to product launch. The scheme claims to have created 20 start-ups now worth over $100m, including Emily Brookes who started cycling laserlight product Blaze, and has funded by prominent investors such as Y Combinator, Index Ventures, and Octopus Ventures.

15. Apply for a Start Up Loan.

The government-backed Start Up Loans scheme was started to champion young entrepreneurs aged 18-24, but has broadened its remit to anyone over 18 and has a budget of £310m, with start-up loans of up to £25,000 being approved and the average loan size standing at £6,000. David Cameron’s government enterprise advisor Lord Young believed it should be the right of a start-up to secure a loan from the government and by early 2015 around £130m has been lent to 25,000 new businesses with more than half of that figure going to those aged 18-30.

16. Look for grants.

If you’re a social enterprise, organisations such as UnLtD provide awards to businesses with social aims and a solid model. The Prince’s Trustprovides practical and financial support to 13-30 year-olds who struggled at school, have been in care, have been in trouble with the law, or have been unemployed for long periods.

17. Get a name.

Find a business name that’s available and a suitable name by making a list of contenders. Then, draw four columns with headings for ‘Companies House’, ‘Domain name’, ‘Trading as’, and ‘Copyrighted’. Work through your list to find one available in every column. There are common name types, so think laterally about what you can call your business: 1. Something that says what you do (e.g. Shout Media); 2. Your name (e.g. Smith & Jones PR); 3. Something conceptual (e.g. Fizarro.com); 4. A play on words (e.g. A Cut Above). Try different combinations and see which one fits and makes a statement about your business. It is important to choose a name that will be easily remembered by your customers. Once you have the name, it’s time to build your website.

18. Design a business logo.

A well-designed, relevant logo can have an instant impact on your customers and leave a lasting impression. It is important to choose a logo that suits the tone and role of your business and to have a clear idea of the message you want to convey before approaching a designer.

19. Promote your company.

Hiring an expensive PR company can come later, but for now it is important to self-promote in every way possible. Social media is an essential tool for this, so get to grips with how to use sites such as Facebook and Twitter to maximum effect. Entering competitions can also help to get your company noticed and branding yourself as an award-winning company is a great way to appeal to customers.

This article was first published on Startups.

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