By Lucy Godwin, outreach writer at Xero, @LucyJaneGodwin
As famous inventor and businessman Thomas Edison once said, “genius is one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration”. In other words, having a revolutionary idea for a product or business is a great start – but there are plenty of hard yards to cover before it becomes a successful venture.
The best way to prepare yourself for the road ahead is to make sure you plan well for the future. Here are three important steps that all entrepreneurs should consider.
Resources and tools
It’s vital that you have the best resources and tools available before you launch a startup. Things to consider include:
What software do you need?
Do you need an office?
Can you run your business online?
What equipment do you need to invest in?
What communication tools do you need?
What marketing tools will you use?
How will you track your success?
Do you have a mentor or coach?
Do your research and find out what’s available. Make sure you choose options that are scalable. Will you be happy to leave your home office if your staff numbers increase? Will your accounting software work as well when you have 10 clients as it will when you have 10,000? Do you have the time to manage your social media pages?
It’s also helpful to think about where you can get advice if you need it. A mentor is a great start, but there are also plenty of resources available online, many of which can be found by a Google search.
For example, at Xero accounting software, we’ve created a Small Business Guides section on our website. It’s a place for startups, entrepreneurs and small businesses to learn about everything from cloud computing to smart invoicing processes. We also encourage readers to submit requests for articles and tips.
Write a business plan
A business plan helps you figure out where you want to take your idea. It provides a structured way of thinking about your short, medium and long-term goals and serves as a roadmap for your startup.
It’s also a chance to get everything in your head recorded in one document. This way you can reference it when you need to and share it with others.
Don’t be intimidated by a business plan – it doesn’t have to be enormous. In fact, the trend is leaning towards shorter business plans and there are plenty of templates available online.
There’s a great article on Entrepreneur.com detailing seven major elements of a business plan.
Once you’ve come up with your first draft, it may be helpful to get a friend or family member to check over it to see if there are any gaps.
Of course, there are countless different approaches to writing a business plan, so remember to use any templates you find as guidance, rather than verbatim.
Get your branding and marketing right
It’s important to think about how you want to market your product or business early in the process. Advertising, promotion, sales and pricing are all an important part of your marketing efforts and will play a large role in your startup’s success.
Branding is a good place to start – after all, first impressions count. Your brand should be recognisable and represent your identity, while appealing to your target market. It will help determine everything from your name, logo and your website design. Consider how you want to present yourself – tech savvy, ethical, humorous, sophisticated, youthful, fun, eco-friendly, outdoorsy… the list goes on.
The Next Women has a helpful list of branding tips for entrepreneurs.
Once you have clear branding in place, you can think about the rest of your marketing. How are you going to let the world hear about you? Word-of-mouth, social media, online advertising, traditional (print, radio, television) advertising, blogging and networking are just a few of many ways to market a startup. Developing a marketing framework will help you make the best use of resources available to get the word about your startup out to the world.
Check out The Next Web’s list of 10 actionable marketing steps for startups.
Starting your own business takes a lot of hard work, but being properly prepared for the journey is a fantastic first step. Startup Weekend is a great way to get familiar with the many practical processes and elements involved in entrepreneurship.
Lynn Hamilton, one of Xero’s developers, recently attended Startup Weekend in Palmerston North as a mentor. She thoroughly enjoyed the experience and would recommend it to anyone who wants to add to their entrepreneurial skill set.
“Startup Weekend is fantastic way for developers, designers and entrepreneurs to meet like-minded people in the industry. If you’ve got a burning desire to try out a business idea, Startup Weekend is the place to test your idea and bring it to fruition with customer validation and guidance from industry experts,” Lynn says.