I would like to start off by saying that if after or even during this pandemic you don’t develop a new skill set, more knowledge, and a new business then you have already put yourself in the loosing percentile.
Now I will say that being a new entrepreneur can be challenging and nerve-wracking, but also incredibly exciting and rewarding. There is no end to the many financial, legal, staffing, marketing, and customer issues that can possibly come up as you launch your business.
1. Start a Business You Are Passionate and Knowledgeable About
Startups can be quite a grind, so pick something that excites and motivates you. Avoid businesses or industries that you don’t already know a good deal about, as the steep learning curve may hamper your success.
2. Pick a Business Idea That Has a Big Market Opportunity
Make sure to carefully reseach if there’s a big market for your product or service. Investors will typically only invest in your company if they see a large market opportunity and that the company has the potential to grow into something significant.
3. Focus on Building a Great Product or Service
Your product or service has to be at least good, if not great, to start out with. It has to be differentiated in some meaningful and important way from your competitors’ offerings. All else follows from this principle. Don’t dawdle on getting your product out to the market, as early customer feedback is one of the best ways to help improve it. As Reid Hoffman, venture capitalist and co-founder of LinkedIn, said: “If you are not embarrassed by the first version of your product, you’ve launched too late.”
4. Raise As Much Startup Funding As You Can
It’s almost always harder and takes longer to raise startup financing than you think. You must ensure you have a cushion for all the product development and marketing expenses you will incur. In an ideal world, you will have sufficient capital for your operations to break even. Don’t worry about diluting your percentage ownership in the company. Developing a great product takes time and money.
5. Ask for Advice from Other Successful Entrepreneurs
Advice from other entrepreneurs and business professionals (such as lawyers and accountants) can prove to be invaluable. Consider putting together an advisory board, and don’t be afraid to motivate members by giving them stock options in your company. Read industry newsletters and startup publications like AllBusiness.com and Entrepreneur.com. Find mentors who can give you advice on hiring, product development, marketing and fundraising.
6. Develop a Great Pitch
You should have a succinct and compelling story about what your startup does and what problem it solves. Have this ready for potential customers and investors (although you will need to tailor it to the specific audience). Keep it to 30 seconds or less. Articulate your mission and goals, and why your product or service is compelling and unique. And if an investor is interested, be prepared to follow up with an executive summary about the company or a 12-15 slide PowerPoint “deck” that dives into more detail about the company and the market opportunity.
7. Never Stop Networking
Networking can land you a new investor, a great employee, a new customer, or a great mentor. Attend industry and startup events. LinkedIn can be a powerful tool to help you network, so make sure both you and your company have profiles on LinkedIn and that you are constantly adding new connections. When someone does a Google search on you, your LinkedIn profile will usually show up at the top of the search results, so be sure you’re making a good first impression.
8. Great Customer Service
Companies such as Zappos and Virgin America became hugely successful because they focused on providing excellent customer service and support. You want your early customers to give referrals and sing your praises to their friends and colleagues. Thank your customers personally by email. Go the extra mile to show your appreciation.
9. Market and Then Market Some More
You continually have to be attracting, building, and even educating your market. Make sure your marketing strategy includes the following:
Build a professional-looking, up-to-date website.
Learn the fundamentals of SEO (search engine optimization) so that people searching for your products and services might find you near the top of search results.
Use social media to promote your business (LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, etc.).
Engage in content marketing by writing guest articles for relevant websites.
Issue press releases for any significant events.