Formation Works properties are abundant with entrepreneurs and ambitious self-starters; we love it. As business owners ourselves, we are inspired by the people who spend their working lives in our midst. Their enthusiasm and drive to succeed is infectious and collectively creates an atmosphere of positivity and passion in our buildings.
If you’ve been thinking of starting a new business, here are our top 10 recommendations, gleaned from our own experience and that of the businesses we host in our locations across Northern Ireland.
- Be passionate
Perhaps the most obvious one, but the passion for your idea, your product or service must be there from the outset. It is this that will continue to fuel you when times get tough. You’re about to embark on a difficult, tiring and very time-consuming process of starting a business from scratch, so you’ll have to really love it to stick with it. Your passion will help others become enthused about your business and therefore help it to grow, so don’t let anyone or anything knock that – it’s a vital element of your business.
- Research your potential market
Alongside your own passion, it’s important that there is a demand for your product or service in the market, or at least that you can create such demand. Too many businesses fail because people are obsessed with what they think will work without seeing it through the eyes of their potential consumers.
Market research can be invaluable in this regard, identifying the needs and demands of your audience and then developing solutions to suit. Use free tools like social media polls, email questionnaires and even simple discussions with friends and family to see what their opinions are. Encourage the people you speak with to be really honest about their opinions and challenge them on what it is they like and/or dislike about your idea.
- Have a solid business plan
This step will help you avoid investing a lot of time into a business idea that ultimately isn’t feasible. If you’ve carried out a business plan exercise then you’ll know what you’re aiming for in terms of turnover and growth, and it will also help you achieve investment from financial institutions and/or private equity funds.
A business plan will also help you review your progress as time goes on. You may find you need to adapt your plan as the business develops, and that’s fine, but having it to return to will keep you focused and motivated to succeed.
- Discover the power of networking
You’ll need to surround yourself with positive people to make your business a success. Even if you’re still maintaining another job until you’re on your feet financially, make sure to use this time to start engaging with people and developing relationships with potential customers. Discover the power of networking – attending trade shows, craft fairs or networking seminars – whatever is best for your business. Your network will be an invaluable resource to you as your business gets off to a start, and growing your network will help you grow your business too.
Perhaps most valuable will be the advice from experts and veteran business owners. These people will know first-hand what works and what doesn’t. The most successful entrepreneurs will learn from the mistakes of others. A shared workspace is the ideal environment for such ideas sharing – with many other entrepreneurs under one roof there will always be a willingness to help from empathetic business owners.
- Take professional advice
Seeking the help of professionals is a vital step when embarking on a new business venture. Get yourself a reliable accountant you can trust – one that has been referred by a friend or comes highly recommended. They will be an invaluable resource in guiding you on your financial undertakings and tax liabilities.
You need to become familiar with your legal obligations as a business owner to avoid penalties that could result from failure to follow government regulations. This is especially pertinent if you’re planning on hiring staff. If you’re not comfortable with the law in this regard, seek the advice of a HR professional or a solicitor.
- Do your sums
The financial aspect of running a business is probably the most challenging. You need to do your sums carefully and have a fall-back plan should things not work out as you envisage. Calculate all your business expenditure carefully – premises, supplies, marketing and staff salaries (if applicable) to gain as accurate a figure as you can. Having a one-bill solution for your office space will help make these sums more easily calculated – with all bills related to your office space amalgamated into one easy payment.
Stay in employment as long as you can and save up as much money as possible before taking the plunge. Waiting until it’s financially viable to begin your business will give it the best chance of success. Approach potential investors and lenders – having a solid business plan will aid those conversations and give more confidence to potential lenders.
- Keep learning
Don’t approach your business thinking you already know everything there is to know. Entrepreneurship is an evolving process and if you’re doing it right, you’ll be learning something new almost daily! There are so many valuable resources available to help this learning process in a way which will develop your business, many of which are funded via local councils and Invest NI, and others which are free online resources.
Never think to yourself, ‘I don’t have time to learn new skills.’ If your business means enough to you, you’ll invest the time and energy and your business will thrive as a result.
- Be prepared to take risks
Starting your own business is itself a huge risk, but one which is necessary in order to fulfil your ambition. Risk taking is part and parcel of being a business owner, but it’s important to be calculated in your approach to risk taking and not be flippant about it.
That said, don’t avoid risks out of a fear of failure. Most of the very best entrepreneurs in the world have experienced failure, but most will agree it is through such failings that they learned the most. Things won’t always work out as planned but the risks that do pay off will define your business.
- Spread the Word
You may have the best idea in the world, but unless you work hard at getting your message ‘out there’, the chances of success are slim. Have faith in your ideas and your ability to deliver them to others. Research your target market and the types of media they consume and use those to reach them. If you don’t have a large budget allocated to marketing, there are still lots of ways to engage with your audience. Building a social media community can be a very important one and posting often, using video content and stories will help build engagement.
You might be naturally introverted – innovators often are – but embracing the discomfort of public speaking is an important step. From networking with potential customers to negotiating supplier agreements, you’ll need to be able to communicate effectively, so make sure you spend time becoming more confident in this area. If you’re really not making any progress, employ the services of someone internally or externally who can help be the ‘face’ of your brand.
- Be kind to yourself
This is your business and you’re the most important person in it. It relies on you for its success, so you need to be mindful of the importance of looking after yourself. Resist the urge to work every waking moment to try and achieve success; it will only be counterproductive. Your business will only thrive if you do, so make sure to get enough sleep, eat a healthy diet and incorporate exercise into your weekly routine. This is important not only for you but for your employees as your business grows. It’s important set a healthy example for staff about the importance of a work life balance, otherwise you might find that soon you’ll have no staff or worse still, no business. Burnout is very real and very damaging so be careful to avoid it at all costs!
To find out if a Formation Works property could be the home for your new business, why not Contact Us today.