The task of starting a business is incredibly exciting, but there can be a lot of teething problems. The first 12 months are the biggest test your business will face because there are so many things you need to put in place to gain customers, have a solid business structure, but also make sure you are happy with everything. Here are a few things that you should have in place by the end of your 12th month.
A Solid Marketing Strategy
You need to grow your customer base throughout the first 12 months, and the best way to do this is to gain an understanding of who your customers really are, but you also need to ensure that your business gets out there on search engine results pages. This is why Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is critical; it is a set of rules that you can follow to help your website “speak” the language of Google.
There are a number of things you may need to put in place here, for example, optimizing your website, ensuring you are using the right keywords on your content, as well as backlinks. Wondering how many backlinks you need to have is one little concern, but when it comes to SEO, the fact is that as long as you are hitting a lot of the overarching goals, you are doing enough to showcase your business and show up in the search engine results pages.
A Financial Plan
Developing a financial plan will consist of long-term and short-term goals. You need to identify the right sources of funding and have a proper budget. You may not be at the stage where you need to hire an accountant because of the costs, but when you develop a financial plan, this will ensure that you are not overspending.
One of the main reasons businesses go under is insufficient cash flow. When a customer purchases from you, you need to purchase from the supplier. Therefore, ensuring that you balance between what you can budget for and what you can use to grow your business is in place. You should never overreach your capability, which is why a financial plan will be invaluable, not just for the first 12 months, but forever. In addition, identifying what will happen if your business has insufficient funds will help you to avoid potential disaster.
Knowing How to Work Effectively
It is not just about making sure that you find your feet in the first 12 months, but about understanding where you are making big mistakes. The problem with so many organizations during the first 12 months is they go in blind, trying to find their way through without realizing that their problems actually stem from inefficient processes. You need to save time, which will help you save money. When you start to think about the right tools and systems that reduce the steps within the processes you are going to be working smarter instead of harder.
For example, when it comes to operating a website, having the right plugins that allow you to upgrade your website quickly is invaluable. Rather than outsourcing it to a web design company, if you have the ability to do it in-house you can use the right plugins to make short work of this. Conversely, you may also believe that if you don’t have the skills in-house, you will need to outsource to a web design company or to any other organization that helps you work better. Outsourcing is not a dirty word, especially at the very outset of your business when trying to learn so much about how you can work better.
The first year of running a business means you could potentially make big mistakes that land you in hot water. Running a business will demand you have the right permits and insurance, but you also need to have legal support available. You are liable if something happens to a customer.
For example, if your website is not sufficiently protected, this can cause a data breach where sensitive information is taken. If a customer has their bank details stolen via your website you are going to pay penalties, but you will also lose that customer for Life. Understanding the legal components of a business can be very difficult because, ultimately, you’re not a lawyer. But business lawyers are in abundance and finding the right one will ensure that you understand what you can and cannot do.
You should have created a business plan at the outset but what happens now is that as your business is trading in the real world, you start to fine-tune this business plan, either to get better-quality customers or to establish a more solid roadmap for your success.
A comprehensive business plan is hard to come by, but when you start to see how your business is going wrong in the first 12 months because of a lack of custom or inefficient processes the business plan is the bible you will use to give your company, your employees, and yourself, something to stick to. The first 12 months should not be about taking risks, and this is why your business plan should be set in stone by the end of your 12th month.
The Right Mindset
It is tough to do all this by yourself. The first 12 months will be exciting and anxiety-inducing in equal measure. You are doing a lot to acquire some freedom for yourself by doing something you are passionate about. Therefore, you need to use these 12 months to fine-tune your attitudes and if you need to make changes to your soft skills or how you present yourself.
Running a business feels like you are doing it all yourself, but if you have employees or support, they are there for you. However, it is ultimately about the decisions you make. This is why you need to make sure your head is screwed on properly.
It is a lot to contend with, but you can and should use these first 12 months as an opportunity to put the things in place that will benefit you for the next few years, and potentially, for the rest of your business life.