We deal with a lot of startup business clients and many ask us if they should get help to start their business and what help is worth investing in.
Should You Get Help To Start Your Business? Absolutely!
According to a statistic I read recently, 95% of Australian businesses don’t receive any government or grant funding to help them start up their business venture. Bit of a depressing statistic, especially when it comes backed with around 80% of startups rely on personal savings to get off the ground.
While funding is just one avenue of support or help that startup founders can get, it is important to consider the four main areas of your business that I’d consider investing in before you launch, namely:
Of course, you will ultimately have to worry about many and any aspect of your business, but I believe these four core areas are the ones that can let you down very quickly causing businesses to fail.
But before we go on to discover what help you should be sourcing for your business, let’s look at a much bigger question first.
Is Business Ownership Right For You?
One can easily be enchanted with the glitz and glamour of business owner life. After all, we seem to be home more, making HEEAPSSS of money and we do lunches and “networking” events that are really more just an excuse to not do any real work.
That’s what entrepreneurs look like to the outside world but for every one of those successful entrepreneurs there are 20 more hustling and struggling to make ends meet. If you’re not already, you’ll likely be doing your own share of the mandatory grind to success. Some just do it longer than others.
If you want to know whether businesses ownership is right for you, you should ask yourself if you:
- Are disciplined enough
- Have the commitment to see it through
- Have passion for what you do
Owning a business, and especially starting up a new business, is very stressful. While your friends knock off work at 5pm, you might still have another 8 hours of work ahead of you trying to meet deadlines, or worse, writing proposals that lead to nothing.
You will need to have the discipline to ensure you do the work when the work is there and not to get distracted by other, more enjoyable, tasks. If you’re working from home, the danger of being interrupted by a partner at home, children or your dogs, is very real and you will need to be disciplined enough to give up some of the fun times and knuckle down. Beers with the boys on Friday night? Maybe only a couple if there’s a job on Saturday.
Everybody tells you to work on your business, not in your business, but when you’re a one man band trying to get off the ground, you’re doing it all by yourself, from grunt work right up to business development. If your friends are going out for a few drinks but you have things to do, don’t let them be a bad influence on you, be committed to delivering a quality outcome to your clients in a timely manner. Lamborghini’s don’t earn themselves.
Lastly, you will also need the passion for what you do to keep going when it gets hard and the hours get long, it will give you some resistance towards burnout. As your startup business begins to grow you’re going to get very busy for a period of time before you can afford to hire your first staff member. Getting through this period where you might be working 70, 80 or even 100 hours per week will be tough. If you don’t have the passion for your business and what you’re doing, you won’t survive these long weeks. What will happen is you will burn out and give up. Make sure you take some time off as well. Don’t risk burnout!
One of the best suggestions I can give you is to get yourself a business mentor, or at the very least surround yourself with other business owners who have a similar mindset as you. This will keep up your motivation, keep you accountable to the goals you’ve set for yourself but you can also learn an invaluable amount from other’s who are or have gone through a similar process. Learning how to run your business is just as important as learning how to switch off from your business for a while to recoup some sanity.
If you’re in Western Australia, I highly recommend you get involved with the Small Business Development Corporation and check out some of the free courses and training that they offer and also if you’re on Facebook make sure you join the SBDC’s group for business owners. It is an absolute gold mine when it comes to asking questions or for support from your fellow WA business owners.
The Types Of Help You Should Get For Your Business
Now that we’ve covered whether, or not, business ownership is right for you, let’s look at the four main areas that you will need help with when you start up your own business.
Most business owners already know that they will most likely need an accountant. Even from Day 1, you will probably want to talk to your accountant to assist you with the structuring of your business.
You could easily set yourself up as a sole trader, apply for an ABN and register your business name with ASIC. You might find that in terms of taxation ( no, you won’t be escaping taxation even though there are a lot of tax incentives available to you as a business owner) as well as paying yourself a wage. a different company structure might be more appropriate for you depending on your goals, projected income and the number of directors involved.
You will also need to consider whether you’re required to charge GST on your goods or service or not. Will you be required to pay yourself superannuation or is there a structure where you could possibly avoid that extra 12% super payout?
Getting an accountant to help you with this part of your business is very important. You can always change structure down the track but it won’t necessarily be cheap or easy. You want to pick the business structure that is right for you and your 2-5 year, realistic, goals.
Avoid restructuring if you can, I promise you that you’ll find accounting and tax work will appear like mostly a waste of time to you. and I firmly believe it is. Outsource it to a quality accountant that knows what they’re doing, that allows you to keep focused on your business and on billing more time and selling more products.
Pick an accountant that is right for you. In my opinion, this should be a person, or team, that considers themselves part of your team. While you could opt for cheaper providers, the help and assistance you get from an accountant that is doing their job properly will ultimately pay for itself.
When it comes to tax time you will be glad you pick somebody who is competent, timely in their follow-ups and clever in the way they investigate your potential claims, tax incentives and rebates. The ATO doesn’t want you to avoid tax, but they also want you to claim what you’re eligible for and with our tax system that could be a lot.
Get business help, get yourself a good accountant.
Starting up a new business can often be done on a budget. Home businesses are more accepted nowadays than ever. With an expensive looking website, business cards and a nice outfit you can fake it until you make it.
Advertising, for example, used to be available to only big companies back in the day but nowadays it is significantly cheaper. Not only is online advertising cheaper but it is also more measurable than any newspaper, radio or billboard ad ever could be. Today, we can engage with prospects instantaneously having tracked all of their steps through your funnel.
The problem we see on a frequent basis is that while you can start your business on a budget, you will also need adequate financing to support yourself to do the job properly, and for long enough, to build and sustain a reliable network of referral partners, past clients, and online lead generation.
The reality is that your first few clients will likely be very hard to come by and you will probably undercharge them for your services because you’re so keen to close the deal. This means profit margins are down, resulting in an inability for you to reinvest into the business.
However, reinvesting in the business is absolutely essential if you want to be around for the long-term, and grow to a point where you’re making a decent amount of money for you and a team under you. After all, nobody starts up a business to remain small fry.
Being underfunded is the number 1 reason that many of our clients fail. You might have the best business model in the world, the best product or service to offer that nobody else can, but if nobody hears or finds out about you, what do you really have?
Attain appropriate financing so that you don’t have to worry about your monthly marketing budget chewing up your savings. Your marketing is what’s going to continue to bring more customers in, and we’ve met very few businesses where more customers didn’t normally mean fewer problems.
Make sure you’re checking out government grants, angel investors and any other possible avenue of additional financing so you’re not always dipping into your own savings. The majority of Australian business owners use their own savings account to finance their business dream. That can be dangerous territory.
A good accountant should be able to help you with exploring opportunities for funding, just expect to pay them for their time. This is also where your business mentor will come in really handy. While they might not be able to assist you financially, they will hopefully teach you about investing back in your business, using your money wisely and identifying possible new avenues for capital raising for you.
From a digital marketing perspective, if you can’t afford to run a sustainable campaign for 3 months then you’re probably not at the point where it is worth investing and getting help.
The online world opened up so many things for us, instant communication, online shopping, highly targeted advertising and a flow of information that is almost overwhelming. It also connected us with some of the cheapest service providers in the world. Printing, SEO, web development, graphic design are some of the common areas we see getting outsourced overseas. When it comes to business, reducing your costs is often a good thing, however, there’s a difference between reducing expenditure and cutting corners on your business investments.
Your branding, like your website, is a direct investment in your business. You only get one shot at launching your business so you want to get this one right, rebranding can be an expensive exercise.
This is why I believe you absolutely need to get help with your branding when you start your business and that it is 100% worthwhile paying for the right talent to create you a branding suite.
Your brand needs to communicate your identity in a split second, which is often all you have to capture the attention of prospective customers. Make sure you’re investing in your image, offering a snapshot of what your company is all about in something that is more than just a logo.
I believe, you, as the business owner, should feel a sense of pride when you look at your own branding. It should also communicate with your target audience what you’re about, where you’re positioned in the market, and what sort of engagement we can expect to have with your business. Expect all of this to be judged harshly.
One important, but also easy, DIY task to watch out for here is that your business cards, logo, website, print and/or marketing material are all consistent with both your brand and across each other. I often see brand consistency being one of the first victims when it comes to DIY design, website or social media posting work.
Staying brand consistent is relatively easy as long as you’ve been given clear instructions, or a style guide, at the start. Unfortunately, when you source a $2 job online, the designer in question is most likely not overly interested in your business’ success or looking at the bigger picture. You need to get a style guide with your branding package.
Worse yet, I don’t even want to start to recount the number of times I’ve dealt with businesses who have had their logo designed online, paid lousy dollars and then they were never really supplied the correct file format for their logo to begin with. 6 months down the track the designer has gone MIA and they’re stuck with a JPEG or PNG copy of a potentially stolen logo.
Did you know a .jpg copy of your logo is virtually useless to a printer? Forget professional signage or having polo shirts made up. Getting a vector copy of your logo is so essential and yet we still see designers not supply these to clients. Horrendous!
Let’s talk about colours quickly. As you’re probably aware there are millions of different colours on your particular shade of green, blue or orange is quite unique. Usually, these colours are presented in codes such as hex codes like #009cdb (this is 3am’s blue), an RGB, CMYK or Pantone value. These are the precise identifiers of the colours used for your logo and branding work. You will need these values close at hand, ideally in a corporate style guide document, so that you’re never straying from your brand’s consistency that I spoke about earlier.
Sourcing A Designer To Help With Your Business
Sourcing a graphic designer that will deliver the necessary elements but also doesn’t cost the world is a bit like looking for a unicorn, except these guys do exist.
If you’re wanting to separate fly by night designers and a professional graphic designer be sure to ask them the following questions. If they don’t answer yes to all of these you haven’t found your match (in my opinion).
Before signing a contract be sure to ask your graphic designer these questions:
- Will the artwork be original and created by yourself?
- Will you provide a vector file format for my logo?
- Will I have full copyright on all artwork?
- Do you provide a style guide?
- Will the fonts used be fully licensed?
If you can tick all of the above boxes when you’re looking at branding during your business startup process, you’ll have the armoury packed with tools ready to flaunt your business brand in all sorts of ways.
In recent years Facebook and Google advertising services have often been sold under the banner of social media or search engine marketing, as marketing has a much more attractive and appealing name than the stigma around the word “advertising”. Advertising is very salesy.
Marketing is, by definition, the activity, set of institutions, and processes for creating, communicating, delivering, and exchanging offerings that have value for customers, clients, partners, and society at large. While this is the fancy definition from the American Marketing Association, in a small business sense we more specifically want to look at the marketing mix, which back in the day was made up of the 4P’s and how you can get your product or service out there using a mix of strategies that complement each other.
The 4P’s of the marketing mix are:
These four make up a matrix on how we would traditionally approach the marketing of any good or service. Google or Facebook advertising and advertising, in general, would fall into the promotion category. It is a direct way of us promoting your business offering to your target audience. While it forms a pillar of marketing, on its own, it isn’t strictly speaking marketing and it certainly isn’t a marketing strategy.
Developing a marketing strategy, with or without the help of a marketing agency, requires you to examine these four areas in relation to your business and formulate a plan that sends a consistent message to your target audience, no matter at which pillar they come in contact with your messaging. Think of a recent online purchase you made with a reputable eCommerce store.
The logo on the website is probably all over the box and product packaging you’ve received. Was there maybe another small printed insert, what about an instruction manual or something similar? How did you even find out about the product? Was it possibly through an Instagram influencer as opposed to ads? Was it all of the both? Probably.
The channels that you utilise for your marketing should all breathe the messaging of your product, business and brand and reinforce it.
Staying on top of all of this can be quite the challenge so getting help with your marketing is highly recommended. The earlier you can involve marketing support during your business startup phase the more clear of an idea they have on your vision, your goal and ultimately the execution of your launch. Your marketing should be controlled and measured and subsequently optimised based on data. Random viral successes are often not as random as they might seem.
But even if you’ve already been operating for years, it’s never too late to get some help with your marketing. Yes, you could go as far as rebranding or refreshing your entire look and roll it out with a big bang hyped up campaign, but even small optimisations and improvements in what you’re currently doing could net results that would allow you to reinvest and scale.
Something I touched on earlier was small businesses failing due to being underfunded in their marketing. Getting a consistent flow of new prospects knocking on your door, ringing you or shopping your virtual storefront is vital to business success. You can achieve that with a clever marketing system or funnel. You will always have some sort of decay when it comes to your current client base, you must ensure you’re constantly filling your database and sales pipeline with new prospective business.
I’ve spoken previously about what happens when you source cheap providers or try to do things yourself to save on costs. You can read about the dangers of using some overseas providers here, needless to say, fully biased, you should definitely get help with your marketing.
Our Business Startup Package gives your startup marketing or rebranding project a big green tick. We’ll take care of everything rebuilding your site right through to sourcing printed materials for you. Keeping costs down while supporting local small Australian businesses.
If you’re not quite ready, or sure, we also offer a free 1-hour consultation, where we sit down with you and go over everything you have in place at the moment and what you might want to consider implementing over the next 3, 6 and 12 months. Consultations available via Skype if you’re interstate or international.