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The four steps all entrepreneurs should prioritise when starting a business

The four steps all entrepreneurs should prioritise when starting a business

EuropeIndustry ExpertStrategyThought Leadership

For aspiring entrepreneurs, starting and growing a business can be daunting. Viktoria Ruubel, Director of Product, Europe, at Intuit, tells Intelligent SME.tech how success can be achieved in four easy steps.

Viktoria Ruubel, Director of Product, Europe, Intuit

While many feared that lockdown would sever creativity and disrupt entrepreneurial confidence, the reverse trend appears to be true.

Official data shows there was a record number of start-ups in 2020 and QuickBooks research reveals that 26% of UK adults dreamt of starting their own business during this period.

The pandemic only exemplified the world’s fast-paced and changing business environment –meaning that staying organised and keeping up to date when starting a business is ever more essential. Not only will you have to battle with ever-increasing and changing regulations, but also with flexible working, altered human interaction, increased digitisation and the unpredictable and recovering financial landscape.

Having run my own business for nearly three years, I know starting a business can be challenging at the best of times. If you’re thinking of starting a business, or have recently become an entrepreneur, keep in mind these four top tips.

1. Research additional funding options

Raising enough capital to get up and running is a common barrier faced by many entrepreneurs and new business owners – and after the pandemic’s resoundingly negative effect on many individuals’ personal finance, it is now more common than ever.

While it is possible to start off with little-to-no funding, if you’re aiming to disrupt the market, scale fast and exceed your potential, investing time in researching additional funding options will likely impact growth positively. This is a time-consuming and often daunting task so it’s important to make sure you are aware of varied options from the outset. One size doesn’t fit all, so you’ll need to consider your market type and goals fully before selecting the option that’s best suited to your business needs.

Investment options could include government-backed loans; angel or private investors; crowdfunding; or microloans. Additional ways to protect your cash flow include purchase order financing, which allows growing businesses to purchase stock or materials at times they wouldn’t otherwise afford to or vendor financing, allowing companies to pay their vendors late and protect cash for longer.  

Additionally, if you’re planning on employing staff, you could protect cash flow by offering shares of the company in exchange for lower salary offerings, lowering your outgoing expenses.

To attract potential investors, you’ll need to prove you can be trusted and can stick to deliverables, which is where a business plan comes in handy.  

2. Use your customers’ needs to inform a clear business strategy 

The basis of your business strategy should be formed on providing solutions to customer problems. By talking to your target audience, you can become better informed to create a strategy based on tangible outcomes with a clear purpose.

A purposeful plan should also be reached through long-term and strategic thinking – so now’s the time to set some tangible goals.

A plan that provides value will include competitor market analysis; a vision of your business size; attainable goals and milestones; financial forecasts for the next three years (including a more detailed one-year study); a go-to-market strategy including how you aim to acquire new customers and solve their problems and an investment strategy.

Business plans are not only useful when attracting investors, but they also provide a stable reference point to ensure progress is not side-lined and your wider vision is not lost. Starting a business is never easy, so make sure to stay positive by keep sight of these strategic goals when the going gets tough.

3. Protect your workload and burnout risk by simplifying operations with digitisation

Mental health and wellbeing have become ever more recognised in the workplace and as a potential new employer, you’ll need to make your employee experience attractive by taking a people-first approach.

Task productivity is now valued over time recording and to ensure you are attracting the best talent and preserving your own, you’ll need to make sure you’re fostering an environment where flexible working is accepted.

Using technology effectively can mitigate burnout risk, facilitate flexible working, increase productivity and foster creative thinking by decreasing consistent and mundane daily tasks. It’s important to take breaks from screens and automating some simple processes lets staff do just that, especially when you’re a small business with fewer people to do multiple tasks.

Keeping track of financials, for example, can quickly become an overbearing task, especially for small businesses who often lack the capacity for financial expertise. Using software – including financial tools such as QuickBooks to help you track income and expenses throughout the year – can improve operational efficiency, lending more time to strategically map out business growth and progression. In fact, over the past year the trend for mobile software has grown – QuickBooks software itself is also mobile-friendly – which allows employees to input data on the go, making tasks increasingly accessible and accomplishable under pressure.

It’s inevitable that workload and strain will vary despite using technology, but being intelligent with the software you choose could relieve you from burdening tasks and burnout.

4. Don’t be afraid to reach out and seek advice

Talking to others and building a team around you is one of the most important steps you can take when embarking on your entrepreneurial journey. Some entrepreneurs feel as though they are cheating themselves by asking for opinions and passing some ownership onto others, yet to build a fully functioning business, it takes a team.

Even if your team members are auxiliary to your everyday operations, you will not likely regret investing time in gaining alternative perspectives.

By reaching out and connecting with others, your mindset is automatically enriched, helping you build a diverse portfolio and navigate the market you are entering. When I started out, I reached out to industry experts, friends and existing and potential customers whose advice was vital to my soon realised progression.

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