The first year after you launch your business can also be referred to as the battlefield. This battlefield claims the lives of many young businesses. For some it’s the first few months, for others it’s a year and yet for others it’s five years before the light at the end of the “break even” tunnel emerges. Ensuring your company remains afloat can be tasking, you’ll mostly definitely lose some money and maybe some friends too but the idea is that after all the stress and drama, you’ll be rewarded for your effort.
So how exactly can you keep on top of things and make sure that your business emerges from the battlefield unscathed? We thought the best way to find out more on this topic would be to speak with other young business owners in our networks. After all, it’s better to hear it from other people in the same boat. BathKandy, Medsaf and Koko’s Kitchen are among the companies chosen for SLA’s Accelerator program, here they share advice on how they manage stay afloat.
For Blondie Okpuzor, founder of BathKandy, the best way to stay afloat is to keep re-inventing. This will give customers something to look forward to.
“Customers love to get value for their money and if they feel they are getting that with you, they will keep coming back. The only thing that should be consistent in a business is excellent customer service!” Blondie says.
Re-inventing here doesn’t mean a complete overhaul while your business is till taking baby steps. Once you get the excellent customer service thing down pat, focus on little ways you can define your brand. If you’ve noticed something isn’t working, go back to the table and look at your strategy. What can you do to improve things? Don’t be afraid to make changes early on in the game.
Have a flexible plan
Motherland Moguls know that when starting a business, you need a plan on how you are going to reach your targets and achieve your mission. Vivian Nwakah of Medsaf, let us know that a flexible plan is key to staying afloat in the first year of business.
“A good amount of research and planning should have been done to lay the groundwork for the business.” Vivian says.
Consider where you want your business to be in a year, three years and ten years. Think strategically about your business aspirations and write down how you plan to get there. You could spice things up by writing a letter from the future you to the you of today informing you of how she overcame challenges to become a bombass mogul.
Once you’ve drawn you plan, you know the next thing is to gather a team that will make sure you achieve your goals.
Invest, invest, invest
The importance of investment cannot be overstated. We’re not just talking about money here but also resources and time. Vivian also advises that,
“Founders should invest an equal amount of money to get the business going to prove their financial dedication to the success of the business. The founders should also throw as much of their resources and time to dedicate to business strategy, and execution. They have to believe wholeheartedly in the mission and value of the company.”
After you’ve poured your heart, soul and money into your business, the next step is to be positive. If you’re starting already expecting that your business will not succeed because of all the horror stories you’ve heard, you won’t get very far. There will be many roadblocks and challenges but if you’ve invested in your dream and are dedicated, the chances of overcoming them increases.
Get Feedback About Your product
You’re gisting with your friend and you have a brilliant idea that you’re both 100% sure it’ll be viable and that everybody will love it. According to Sifa Asani Gowon, co-founder of Koko’s Kitchen, this isn’t the best way to start out.
“Make sure you have feedback from strangers and people who aren’t afraid to tell you the truth. Your business will be all the better for it.”
Don’t rely on what your friends or family say about your business. They may think you have the greatest idea on earth but on the flip side they may also think your idea is useless and will fail. Overcome this by getting opinions from people who don’t know you but know enough about the market you want to break into. The information you gleam from this could just be your armour during that trying year.
Master your market
One of the many reasons businesses don’t make it past the initial stage aka the battlefield is that they find it difficult to draw in customers.
“You may have a wonderful product…but no marketing structure to get it into the hands of customers. Creating a proper and reliable marketing and distribution network is absolutely crucial.” Sifa says.
Building on this network will ensure you have what you need to draw customers in and bring in the money you need to break even. Do you have a plan for how you’re going to market your products? Are you connected with the people who will move your goods/services from producers to consumers? If you’re still clueless about your market even after you’ve started officially launched your business, then you have a code red situation.
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