Updated: Oct 26, 2017
Starting a business is exciting, overwhelming, amazing and terrifying, whether it's a beauty salon or creating an app (yes I have done both!). There is no emotional rollercoaster quite like it, although I do find there are similarities to having a baby! And just like having a baby, you’ll be figuring things out each day, and just as you think you’re getting a handle of things, it all changes and you’re learning from scratch again.
You are filled with millions of ideas of how you are going to turn your ideas into reality, but then when you think of all the things you need to do, you can become overwhelmed, out of control and end up procrastinating because you have no idea where to start.
But knowledge is power, so I’m learning as much as possible from those who have been there, done that and got the t-shirt. These tips are too good to keep to myself so I want to keep sharing what I am learning so that it may help you turn your dreams into reality.
These are my main take aways from the latest collection of lectures from Y Combinator, the accelerator program where the likes of AirBnB and Dropbox started, with experienced entrepreneurs, like the founder of WhatsApp, share their experiences and the things that they wished they knew, helping us newbies focus on what is really important in the early days.
These tips are relevant for any type of business at any stage, not just for start ups, because it’s always a good idea to regroup and get clear on how you want your business to grow.
Step 1: Talk to Customers
• Listen to them. Understand their problems. Talk to them in person. Interview at least 100 of your ideal customers and ask about their day and pin point what repetitive, time consuming things annoy them. Then work out how you’re going to fix it.
• Find out what they say about your competitors and other brands, what do they like/don’t like about them? This helps you to understand their level of expectations of you.
• What websites do they use and what do they talk about on forums? Are there common issues that keep coming up that you can solve?
• The most valuable feedback comes from those who have tried your product or service but thinks it sucks. What are people saying about your business online? Find out why and learn from it, and turn angry customers in to raving fans.
• Also talk to your most loyal and frequent customers and find out what they love about you and why they keep spending more money with you. Do more of that!
• But be careful, decide who are the important ones to listen to because people often say one thing but mean another.
Step 2: Have a message with ONE clear value.
• Get crystal clear about what you can do better than anyone else that people will pay you for.
• Don’t get all excited by telling people about all the 100’s of features and things your business will be able to do for them. They don’t care. Instead focus on the ONE problem you are fixing for them and what will happen if they don’t use your solution.
• This was made clear to me with an analogy of thinking of your business as the cold medicine to your customer’s cold. The customer needs to know that it will solve the symptoms they are experiencing quickly (e.g. treats tickly coughs, runny nose, sore throat). This means you have to get to know and understand what your dream customer’s "headache" is (see step 1) and what are the "symptoms" so you can give a clear message that you are the "remedy" they need.
Step 3: Outsource
• Focus on what you do best and what brings you money (your core business) and be the best you can be, whether that's creating websites or making the best floral arrangements.
• Anything that is not apart of your core business, outsource it and get the best in class out there. For example, you could get Xero for your accountancy package instead of wasting hours building spreadsheets in excel, Stripe for payments or hiring a graphic designer to make your logo or virtual assistant to do your admin.
Step 4: Keep it Simple
• Start with something insanely simple and solve one problem for one customer better than anyone else.
• Resist the urge to create something with all the bells and whistles you want straightaway. Do one thing really well first then expand.
Step 5: Measure the Right Things
• As much as we all love having lots of Facebook followers, this does not pay the bills.
• Pick the top 5 things that your customers do that brings in money to the business and log them every week and see if they go up or down. These things could be how many customers come through your door, how many items were bought, overall weekly sales, clicking on an online promotion etc. Find out why the numbers have moved.
I hope this gives you some idea of where to get started and take action! I would love to hear what tips you are going to take action on in the comments below.
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