Being in business in any form is a complicated undertaking. Startups, entrepreneurs, small businesses, side hustles and even corporations all have to deal with a lot of things just to get the formula right. While you can never be fully prepared for what you will experience we thought to put together a list of things that you really should be (at least) in the know about before you set out on the journey of starting a business.
I had to start with this because in many cases where I have spoken to where people’s businesses were struggling a lack of competitor knowledge is one of the most prominent reasons. The problem here is not one of the competitor’s identities and locations, though that helps. You need to have an understanding of the why behind your competitors. Particularly why customers choose them. You might enter a market thinking offering lower prices is the key only to discover that customers in that market care much more about something else.
Marketing is one of our favourite subjects here because of how important it is to businesses. Setting out a marketing strategy is very important to the business. Extra points if you have a long term plan. Now of course things don’t always go to plan and you may have to change this plan when you become aware of new information but remember it is better to have a plan and change it than to have no plan at all.
I hope as you read this you will not confuse a brand with branding. A brand is an identity, call it a personality to the business. Branding is the sum of all the methods through which the businesses expresses this personality. Things such as logo, colours, voice, tone and communication style all fall into branding. Evidently, you need to have a brand before you go about branding. Being clear on your brand before you operate is important because it will inform all the choices about your branding.
We are firmly in the information age and having a business without a website is questionable at best. You can start your business without a website, let that be clear. What you should have ready before you start is an idea to work towards a website. Remember not all websites are created equal. You can choose to have a landing page, one-way information portal, interactive website, online catalogue, partial eCommerce or fully integrated eCommerce. Know what each type of website means for your business.
Professional email and communication channels
It’s always a good idea to put your best foot forward and when communicating with the outside this is exactly what your business will need to do. The email@example.com is all well and good but there are many affordable email hosting services out there. Give thought to your social media game as well. This includes things like WhatsApp for Business. It’s a good idea to set up a separation between your business and personal communication channels as early as possible.
If you are from a government or other legal authority reading this then you will be pleased to know that we encourage operating fully licenced businesses. However, we accept that it is not always possible to start licenced. It is important to understand the licencing and regulation of any industry you want to operate in. The most important things to know are at what stage you are expected to register (some licences may depend on the number of customers or size), where it is done and how it is done.
The sooner you can start separating personal finances from business finances the better. Having a business bank account allows you to do this. Of course, we have to understand our Zimbabwean monetary system where we are a mobile money first country. If you can set up a mobile money account for your business this would be ideal and if you can’t then you may need to consider another to separate yourself from the business.
The law of the land is something we must always adhere to and having a business that is compliant with laws and rules is very important. Understanding what it takes for your business to be considered registered and compliant before starting on the journey is a good idea.
Customer number one
Of all the things I have mentioned here this one is non-negotiable. You can have a business without any other element on this list or any other element of business for that matter but you cannot have a business without a customer. You can have a business without a name, offices, colours, a logo, a marketing strategy or a bank account but there is no business without a customer. Customer number 1 is proof of concept. They are your proof that the idea is viable and I recommend having this one before starting any business.
Any ideas of something else you recommend a person has before they start a business?