How do you ensure your business gets off to a great start? If you adopt the right approch then you can. If you do the right things you can choose to set yourself up properly to succeed. Here are five key things you need to do in order to get a great start in creating a profitable business:

1. The ability to think from the customer’s perspective

Above everything you need to serve the customer’s felt needs. If you are not solving a problem or meeting a need, why should they purchase your goods or services? To succeed you have to see things clearly from the customer’s perspective and not your own. They don’t want to hear about your problems, only how you can make their life easier and more enjoyable. Never forget this! The most obvious way to do this is to talk to prospective customers and continue taking to them when they become actual customers. They want you to understand them and not the other way round. The more you understand how your customers think and look through their eyes, the more likely your business is to succeed from the word go.

2. A clear idea of what you want to sell or provide to customer

You have to make a compelling offer that is crystal clear to the prospective purchaser. What are you offering, at what price and how long will it take to deliver? Vagueness will not sell to anyone. And, in the electronic world in which we all live, communication needs to be swift, if not instant. So take the time to be clear about both what you do sell and what you don’t. Then find someone else to whom you can refer the work you don’t feel capable of, or just don’t want to take on. For example, we offer tax return services and provide tax advice but we don’t deal with complex and specialist tax schemes nor do we offer investment advice. You just can’t be good at everything. But we do know people who are very good in each of these areas and who will treat our clients well. In addition they will also pay us a commission which is also good.

3. Experience and expertise in the market you are selling into

It is rarely wise to start a business in an area where you have no experience. Most successful businesses are based on the owner’s expertise. It may be that one partner has the technical expertise and another financial or sales acumen, but someone needs to know the service or product well if the business is to thrive. The one obvious exception to this is when someone purchases a franchise, when the expertise is provided as part of the franchise package. The customer will expect your understanding of the business to be more than skin deep. In any event, the business is likely to work well only if the owner is motivated by the work they do and finds the work fulfilling. And, anyway, why would you want to do work that you did not enjoy and find fulfilling?

4. An understanding of your market

Even if you have been involved in a business sector for some time you will need to take some time understanding the market you will be operating in. Finding relevant information is easier than ever in the internet age and there is no excuse for not doing thorough research. You may know some facts from the company you used to work for but now you need to find out how their competitors do some things better and listen to what customers want. And just because there are established ways of working in the industry doesn’t mean that a new approach might not work even better. But make sure you have the facts at your fingertips and have done your homework carefully.

5. The ability to sell

Don’t panic at this! Some people are born salespeople and others sell reluctantly. You will know what style works for you but you must get to talk to people about your product or service. The business that does not market itself will fail! You will need to find an approach that works for you and you may be surprised to find that a friendly approach that offers the benefit of your experience to potential customers is more effective that a hardnosed sales pitch. But make sure you work to get a steady stream of enquirers coming to you. You should hire experts where needed but beware the exaggerated claims of some ‘gurus’. Above all, find out what works and do more of it, dropping quickly approaches that are not productive.

There is no magic formula, but applying yourself diligently to these issues will give you a great advantage in making your new business a success. And there are plenty of opportunities to learn, so use them regularly and well. Make sure you improve yourself in order to improve your business – and never stop learning.

Ian Marlow runs HFM, a London tax and accounting business serving clients both resident in, and living outside, the UK. For more detailed tax information and access to their excellent free monthly tax newsletter, go to the HFM website => http://www.hfmtax.co.uk .

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