Set up basic systems
To output a product, deliver a service, or sell something online depends on a bunch of internal systems. A system may involve a series of steps that must be taken to create a desired result. For example, your invoicing system may involve collecting the order from sales, entering it into accounting software, generating and mailing the invoice, and tracking the incoming payment.
Building systems is really the nitty-gritty of building a business. It's your job as the owner to identify, develop, implement and continuously improve systems. These inner workings of your business must run smoothly and must work together in order to fulfil your customer promises and, ultimately, generate a profit.
Establish a database
Make it easy to capture customer and prospect information before you open for business. A solid database will make your selling and marketing efforts much easier because you won't be scrambling for leads or marketplace insights. Research and select the most appropriate sales software or customer relationship management system for your particular business. Consider putting all of your customer data securely in the cloud.
Marketing can be expensive, so begin by developing these basic tools for your new business:
- Logo with tagline;
- Business cards, letterhead, envelopes;
- Website and blog;
- Social media accounts (Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook fan page);
- Basic one-page sell sheet or brochure.
Your best investment in marketing is a clear and compelling reason to buy from your business. Get your benefits statement right, which is usually summarized in your tagline. Think of the famous FedEx example: "When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight."
Train your people
Employees are likely your biggest investment (and risk) so be sure to invest the time and energy required to train your new employees to run your new business systems.
Help them to develop a deep understanding of the features and benefits to your products and services. Prepare employees to respond to any customer issues that may arise. Update their computer skills, Internet skills, sales skills and communications abilities. Because things change, set a recurring training agenda to ensure your team enjoys access to continuous skills development opportunities.
After you push that launch button, focus on sales. Your young business is hungry for money and customers—without income you won't be in business for very long. Even businesses with the recommended six-month cash cushion shouldn't be complacent about sales because that money will disappear in the blink of an eye.
It's simply a mistake to wait for customers to come to you. Get out there and hustle according to your sales and marketing plan. Engage media coverage, knock on prospect doors, form strategic alliances, build channel partners or work on search engine optimization strategies. It doesn't matter what you do, just start selling. You'll need money to ease escalating financial burdens, fuel growth, prove your business model to investors and (heaven forbid) draw a personal salary.
Again, don't worry about getting every pre-launch detail right. Do the best you can. Open your doors when you have confidence in your processes, product and people. You've got plenty of time available in the years ahead to build the perfect business.
Roger Pierce is the founder of NewcomerStartup.com, co-author of the book Thriving Solo: How to Grow a Successful Business and one of Canada's top experts on starting up. Roger helps others get into business by sharing what he's learned from launching 11 companies.
Stay tuned for Roger's advice on how to become an Olympian of entrepreneurship on August 9.