In this piece, Rich Preece presents five critical pointers to getting your business right in its early stages.
Starting a small business can be a rollercoaster ride. Not only is there a lot on the line – money, livelihood, expectation – but it also requires daily blood, sweat and tears just to keep the business going. But this shouldn’t stop owners from being optimistic about growing and ultimately breaking through to create a smooth-running, successful business.
We recently ran a competition in the West Midlands to celebrate small business success. The winners, owners of Boo Boo Coffee, went through all the struggles mentioned above, but now have a great story about how their initial idea, hard work and innovative business plan has helped them to create a thriving artisan coffee shop in Birmingham.
How can budding entrepreneurs and small businesses follow their example? Here are five tips to help replicate their success:
1) Test the market and identify a gap that your business could fill
You might think that you have a game-changing idea for a new business, but an idea alone isn’t enough to succeed. Hundreds of hopefuls fail on Dragon’s Den because of one reason – a lack of necessity. The same is true of the real world. Without a market need for your proposition, it simply won’t sell.
While Boo Boo Coffee launched into a well-established and hugely competitive sector, its owners listened to their customers who were fed up of chain establishments and craved the high quality level of service and attention to detail that you typically get in an independent outlet. As a result, their end product is focused on flavour and making sure customers can actually taste the notes of the coffee.
2) Ensure you have the drive and tenacity required to run the business
Starting a small business is never easy, particularly if you have zero experience in the industry, as was the case for Boo Boo Coffee’s owners. As a result, you’ll need tenacity and self-confidence by the bucket-load, as well as a tolerance for an uncertain future and risk of failure.
What often distinguishes the successful SME owner is their genuine refusal to give up, a level of flexibility to try new ideas and a desire to continuously review and improve their model. For example, having successfully established a day-time trade, Boo Boo Coffee has responded to customer demands and is in the process of securing an alcohol license to start up a night-time trade.
3) Establish a clear vision and USP as early as possible
Operating in a crowded marketplace, you’ll need to identify what makes you different to your competitors. If there is nothing unique about your business model, your opponent with the more established following and reputation will always come out on top.
Boo Boo Coffee differentiates itself through every customer touch point – from the look of the shop with artwork, furniture and lighting, to the staff and their expertise in the sector and genuine interest in coffee. This, combined with the offering on sale – locally sourced goods, served by friendly staff that have an interest in the surrounding community and independent scene – ensures the company is different enough from the big chains professing to turn out the same offering across the UK.
4) Surround yourself with like-minded individuals who share your passion for the business
Once you’ve established your business, you may need to take on staff to share the workload. Boo Boo Coffee’s owners have a team around them that they trust in terms of judgement and advice – that includes suppliers, staff and friends who give them an honest audit of their ideas and overall direction.
5) Build a social presence to generate a dedicated following
Over the past few years, social media has become a core part of how small businesses market themselves from day one. Use a combination of ads, engagement, incentives and customer service to build up your social following.
For Boo Boo Coffee, social media has allowed the business to have a personality outside of the brick and mortar shop. It’s enabled the owners to appear playful, friendly and informative and have a genuine two-way dialogue with their customers. This is crucial for a small business so that they can adapt and respond to trends and understand what works and what doesn’t. Constructive criticism is crucial to ensure you are always delivering what your customers want.
So if you think you have what it takes to start a business, now is the time to do your due diligence. Immerse yourself in the market, listen to your customers and surround yourself with people who will drive your passion for your business.
Above all, try to keep whatever gets you out of bed in the morning front of mind – this will help you carry on when times are tough and strive for greater success when things are running smoothly.
Rich Preece is VP and UK country manager at Intuit.