Last month we explained how Northamptonshire Growth Hub can help businesses get started by providing free information, advice and guidance. At the very beginning of the start-up process we provide a simple 5-step checklist:
- What’s your idea?
- How will you be organised?
- Developing a business plan.
- Things to take care off
- Find Customers
So what should happen next? We can now assume that you have decided on what you are going to do – i.e. your “idea” – and how will you be organised, e.g. sole trader or limited company or partnership. You will have then prepared your basic business plan and taken care of the administrative details, company registration etc.
Now you must focus on the most important element in any business. Finding customers!! It may seem obvious but many start-up businesses get so engrossed in the process of setting up and becoming a “real business” that sometimes the obvious need to find that first customer slips down in priority.
Let’s assume that you have found that first customer. Some things to think about:
Whilst it’s important in any business to make money, that first customer is so much more than just your first source of income. They are a marketing opportunity too. They can be the basis of a case study illustrating what you do and a very useful way to attract other clients. Successes with early clients can be particularly helpful by generating word-of-mouth referrals which are probably the most effective means of marketing for small businesses. That first customer will also help you to refine your offer, clarify your costs and improve your business plan.
A word of caution: Many businesses start off in a particular direction, offering a specific product or service, then along comes a customer asking for something slightly different. This may or may not be the right thing to do so you should always ask yourself:
- Is this a real opportunity?
- Can you actually do it?
- Is it right for you?
- Is there an opportunity cost?
Once you have reviewed the pros and cons and you are convinced that it is the right direction to take then grab the opportunity but make sure you revise your business plan accordingly to align with your new direction. You can always contact the Growth Hub and get feedback on your new business plan from an experienced business adviser who can also provide further information and guidance as you update that plan.
The Northamptonshire Growth Hub was established in November 2013 to fulfil a need for business support for Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) in the County and in that time has helped over 4,000 businesses. It is based in the centre of Northampton in the Innovation Centre – a ‘state-of-the art’ facility offering office space and meeting facilities. The Northamptonshire Growth Hub handles over 500 calls every quarter, 70% of which are established businesses but with a significant portion from pre-start and start-up enterprises.
To enquire about assistance for your business, contact us today.