At getlion, we’ve engaged with countless founders on our mission to support people in starting and growing their businesses. In doing so, we’ve identified five commonly overlooked things that could make or break your new business. Take note of these tips when starting a business, and be sure to remind yourself regularly.
1. You exist to solve a problem for your customers
Your business’s core mandate is to meet the needs/wants of your customers. Too many business owners create a product/service, and then try to find (or create) the demand for what they are offering. But all great businesses are first founded on the understanding of their customers’ need/s and doing their best to solve them. This approach will equip you to attract more customers and outperform your competition (on value, price, quality, access or ease of use). How well does your business do this?
2. Sales is more important than marketing
When starting a business, there’s a natural rush of excitement around building the brand, promoting your product and creating the strategy that will entice your customers. Not only is it fun, it’s vitally important! After all, how else will customers identify your business and brand?
But all too often, new business owners spend all their time on ideas, designs, campaigns and social media content, and not enough time actually engaging with and selling to customers. Talking to potential buyers, inviting feedback, building relationships and networking are far more important to your business’s bottom line than that next social media design on Canva (PS: a fantastic, free tool for creating your marketing content).
Remember, your marketing efforts are the key to getting your customers “in the door”, but your business won’t survive on foot traffic, “likes” or visitors to your website. You need revenue. Once they’re in front of you, shift your focus to closing the sale.
3. Build a credible online profile
If Covid-19 and the national lockdown revealed one thing, it was the importance of small businesses “going digital”. Having an online presence is a non-negotiable in today’s market, creating a new sales channel for your business and allowing more customers to find you. But, small business owners need to move beyond simply “having a website” for the sake of it. Your priority should also be credibility. Your website is now the first impression of your business – and the quality of what you create will have a direct impact on customers.
Thankfully, unless you have specific technical requirements (like an online shop), you needn’t hire an expensive developer to solve your problem. With the rise of free (or very cheap) and easy-to-use website “builders” like GoDaddy, Wix, and WordPress, having a great website is well within reach for most people. Rather save your money and build your site yourself.
And last but not least, your choice of email address is also VERY important when starting a business: In a recent study by GoDaddy – the world’s largest domain registrar – 33% of customers doubt the trustworthiness of a business that uses an @gmail or @yahoo email address. Do your business a favour and invest in a professional email address (e.g. firstname.lastname@example.org). You’ll win over more customers by doing so.
4. Get good at bookkeeping, but leave the accounting to the professionals
The goal of starting a business is to make money, and as the founder, you need to have a thorough understanding of your financial position at all times. But managing the deeper accounting portfolio of your business (tax, payroll, compliance and admin) is a daunting and time-consuming prospect. Rather, simplify your life by mastering bookkeeping, and then invest in a professional accountant as soon as you can.
In simple terms, bookkeeping requires you record the financial transactions/information of your business. By doing this, you ought to have a sufficient grasp on your business’s financial position, as well as an accurate record of income/expenses. There are simple ways to make this process easier, like setting up a separate bank account for your business, investing in a simple bookkeeping software, and allocating time each month to update your records.
Your accountant can then take these records and summarise, analyse and create the reports necessary to understand and manage the business more effectively (as well as using the data to prepare for tax and more). A good accountant will ensure you’re compliant and even manage your payroll. This peace-of-mind and time-saving is (absolutely) worth the investment.
5. Invest in community
Building your business will likely be a lonely journey. Rest assured, you’ll be disappointed, make mistakes, have to navigate unforeseen changes (like a national lockdown or recession), and at some point, you’ll face the temptation to give up. PS – don’t do it!
Your ultimate safeguard is taking the time and making the effort to invest in community with other entrepreneurs. Thankfully, the entrepreneurial spirit in South Africa is alive and well, and there are plenty of avenues to explore to expand your reach. Why not join a business network (like the NSBC or the Yoco Small Business Community), attend events hosted by experienced experts (like Yoco Meets or Heavy Chef), or invite someone to mentor you? Don’t do the journey alone. In most instances, someone else has already been where you’re going. Be humble, brave and open to learn from those that have done the work already.
PS: If you haven’t yet done so, we highly recommend downloading the getlion mobile app, South Africa’s leading one-stop mobile platform for entrepreneurs. By doing so, you’ll have access to all of the above solutions (website, email, accounting services, bookkeeping software, networking and events) and a host of other resources to help your business thrive.