Building a new business is a difficult process, and building a business that stands out in a traditional marketplace is going to be even harder. There are many things to consider when creating a start-up, from the number of legal documents to study, to building and launching your website. Even with everything in place, your business is more likely to take off if you can find a unique advantage to make it more noticeable in comparison to your competitors, such as solving a new problem, a niche problem, or an old problem in an entirely new way.
I have put together some top tips to consider how you can get the upper hand when it comes to making your business stand out from the rest.
Have an unwavering mission, but be flexible about how to get there
It’s fundamental to have business objectives outlined and know which direction you want the business to go. However, always allow for flexibility and innovation when doing this. Markets fluctuate, consumer perceptions evolve and businesses change, meaning you might have to stray from your original plan. At our company, the long-term vision has not changed but the path and milestones along the way have changed drastically. It does not mean your business plan has failed; understanding what is and is not working for your business means you can make the necessary changes to remain on track.
Try and build your business around something customers love, that exceeds or even changes their expectations
Give them something they need but in an unexpected way. It is important to get the right balance between understanding the traditional industry, recognising the rules that can’t be broken and breaking the ones that can. For Sherpa that means adhering to required regulation but reinventing aspects of the value chain, distribution and not charging commissions. Leverage existing industry partners and expertise but also make sure you inject outside ideas and creativity from team members, partners and advisers who do not come from ‘the inside’.
Build a support network of peers and mentors
These co-founders, advisers, early investors and strategic partners will be essential when you inevitably hit roadblocks, suffer setbacks or receive tough feedback. If you have a strong network there will always be someone with more knowledge or experience that can guide you.
Create a brand and a community of advocates, and the business will follow
In today’s world of online communities and social media, it’s never been easier to build awareness around your business, mission and vision, to create your brand ethos and to reach a niche audience you would not have been able to in the past. Once this is all established, your brand advocates will provide a marketing opportunity that no advertising agency can provide, but only if you continue to build trust and loyalty in the brand, making sure it continues to be appealing and provide value to the community you have created.
Learning from your mistakes is equally important
At Sherpa we left our options open for too long before getting started. We should have had more courage and built something more quickly. Another lesson learned comes from getting seduced (twice!) by attractive big funding opportunities which sucked up time and energy, better spent creating something customers will love.
Building a business is overwhelming and involves a great deal of perseverance, and a lot of hard work – so make sure it’s all worthwhile by standing out in a traditional marketplace. Build the brand, as well as the business, around something that your customers will love. Never forget to be flexible, remembering things do not always go to plan and when they don’t, seek that peer and mentor network who will help you when you need them most.
Chris Kaye is CEO of Sherpa.