Coming up with a business idea and then starting a business can seem overwhelming and complicated. When it comes to starting a business or organisation, aspects such as forming a business plan, registering the business and understanding your new financial, accounting, tax and regulatory obligations can be daunting. But before considering all of that, what is crucial is getting that first step right, which will set you on the road to success.
The German philosopher Johann Wolfgang von Goethe once said that ‘there is magic in the first step’, and this is something that published author and third sector guru, John Baguley, kept at the forefront of his mind when setting up his organisation, the International Fundraising Consultancy [IFC].
Today, the IFC is a management consultancy with a global presence that is focused on fundraising for charitable organisations, NGOs, not-for-profits and social enterprises. When it came to setting up his own organisation, it became abundantly clear to Baguley that he would not be able to account for all the elements of risk associated with his venture. To that end, he urges hopeful entrepreneurs to embrace the magic of the first step that Goethe spoke of and be ready to tackle any obstacles that may arise.
Baguley tells the Leaders Council: “When you actually take that first step of launching your organisation, problems begin to face you and you enter a process of starting to deal with them as they emerge. It may seem easy to try and set up an organisation without risks and so you might keep postponing the start of your venture, but you cannot actually cover all of the risks. You must simply go for it.”
However, Baguley also stresses that before even taking the plunge of starting a new business or organisation and embracing the challenges that come with it, any hopeful business leader ought to carry out thorough market research to help lay the foundations for success.
“You have to do your market research before the first step. You need to know that the product or service that you are providing is one that people want to buy and are interested in. If they are not, you don’t have a scalable product, and the whole thing won’t work.”
When carrying out this research, entrepreneurs should consider whether there is a market for the business, product or service and indeed whether that market is big enough to support the ambition for that business. This also includes consideration of the competitive landscape, what the strengths and weaknesses of the competition might be, and market opportunities and threats. A clear idea of the overall market is essential, and where the business will eventually fit into it.
Jonathan Craig Wright, director at Clearwell Mine Management Ltd which operates the Clearwell Caves tourist attraction in the Forest of Dean, also speaks very highly of the importance of undertaking thorough market research before launching a business.
Although the Clearwell Caves business was founded by Jonathan’s father, Ray Wright, he has been actively involved in developing the business over many years since it first opened to the public as an attraction in 1968.
Wright says: “You have to identify a need. Do that market research to ensure people want the service you are providing and then it is about providing that service is an imaginative way.
“This is where understanding your competition and researching them becomes critical - you need to make sure you do things that will make you stand out from other people.”
Financial advisor, accountant and consultant Hirsch Sharma, also warns young and hopeful businesspeople of the urgency of planning when it comes to forming a business or organisation. In his words, if one fails to plan, then one plans to fail.
Sharma recommends that entrepreneurs set themselves initial goals for the business, and carrying out the relevant research will then help determine whether the goal is realistic. Once realistic target has been set, then it is a case of breaking the path to goal down into manageable, daily milestones.
“For some businesses, that initial goal is an easily achievable goal. For others it may be too high. For the latter, one needs to bring it down to a realistic achievable level. Then one has to break it down to a daily goal.
“To achieve your daily goal, determine how many products you need to sell in one day. If it is a service company, how many new customers paying what level of fees will achieve this daily goal? How are we going to sell the products or how are we going to get more customers? These are the questions that you need to ask yourself.
“Maybe one can achieve it with the same customers by upselling more services or different products to existing customers. However, one must carefully analyse what is required and how one can achieve this.”
With a plan in place, it is then about building a team to execute the plan. Brilliant recruitment practices are linked to the success of your venture. As Baguley puts it, a leader is only as good as the team they build around them and being willing to invest in the right people and share responsibility is one of the key elements that an entrepreneur must get right early.
Baguley explains: “You cannot do it all by yourself. You won’t be able to scale up alone because you won’t have enough time.
“To help you, you should bring in experts, people who you can trust who are great at their job. That will ensure your organisation that you are building really delivers for its clients.”
The work and responsibility that comes with employing people are tremendous. Adopting the right approach to finding and bringing the best people on board for the role and the wider business or organisation are essential.
To attract the best candidates, important aspects not only include a competitive remuneration package, but also being able to sell your vision to candidates. Inspire them with the vision, ensure that there are career progression possibilities in place, and build a progressive, diverse and engaging workplace culture which shows candidates that they are valued.
By clearly outlining company culture and making it one of the main objectives of the business, it can be properly integrated into the hiring process and every new or prospective employee can be introduced to it. Culture ought to be at the core of any business or organisation.
With these considerations in mind ahead of taking that first step, you should be on the road to building a successful business or organisation. We wish you the very best of luck!
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