A friend I know had been thinking about launching a small business for the last few months. Whenever we met, that's all he had in mind and would talk about. And at some point in time, I finally had enough of listening to it. "What on earth are you waiting for?" I finally asked.
It turned out, he was wary of the possibilities of failing at it and lose all his life’s worth of savings.
Not unlike many modern entrepreneurs-to-be, he was wary of launching a small business because of the apparent complexity of the operational and legal hurdles involved in starting a business — not to mention the inexperience.
However, with a little motivation and egging on by the friends and family, he took the plunge. A couple of years in, turns out he has a thriving business and doing well for himself.
I happened to meet him for lunch and asked about the secret sauce for launching a small business. He let me in on not one but seven takeaways from his experience of launching a small business in the local community.
7 takeaways from launching a small business in your local community
My friend told me the goal is to get off square one quickly and onto the fun stuff — and to ensure the following:
Get inspired about launching a small business.
Raising finances can be tricky — act smart.
Pick the right people to work with.
Create a knowledge pool.
Never underestimate the importance of great customer service.
Market your business effectively.
Craft your elevator pitch.
Let’s take a look at each of his learnings from starting a small local business.
1. Get inspired about launching a small business
Most businesses did not start their journey by falling in love with the problem. They started by falling in love with the solution. Success stories abound of entrepreneurs who saw an existing problem and realized they could build a solution.
It does not matter if it’s a problem that they have personally experienced or one that their friends, family or an acquaintance wished they could solve. These little moments of “Oh man, I wish this thing could do that as well,” often ignite revolutionary ideas.
Related: Your business starts with your why
2. Raising finances can be tricky — act smart
Raising finances for launching a small business is likely going to be more complex and time consuming than you thought. It’s going to take a lot of effort and convincing get angel investors or venture capitalists to invest. So be patient. For local businesses, another great opportunity lies in the way of grants.
“Free money.” That’s what small business grants are, right?
For an entrepreneur would-be, nothing sounds better than “free money” when launching a small business. Unlike business loans, you don’t have to pay back small business grants, so you are spared any sleepless nights over term length, interest rates, APR or refinancing. Just prepare the necessary documentation to apply, qualify, and voila! — free money.
Related: How to get a small business grant
3. Pick the right people to work with
Today, talent is an important metric for the success of any business. The right talent for the right job cannot be stressed enough. In his book Good to Great, Jim Collins says:
“People are not your most important asset. The right people are. Get the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats."
This is especially true for local businesses where the margin for success or a failure is that much thinner. Having the right people on your team is the key to determining success or failure.
4. Create a knowledge pool
Any business launch comes with its fair share of success or failure. The important thing is to not only learn from your success but more so from your failures, for failure is the key to success — and every mistake will teach you something valuable.
Another important thing is to document everything for you want to be prepared for a similar situation in the future. This is where a knowledge base software can be an indispensable tool for small businesses.
Beyond the infrastructure, and perhaps the inventory, a business's true value lies in the collective sum of the knowledge owned by it. Every business, regardless of its size, creates, captures, shares and modifies information.
Subsequently, this information becomes intellectual capital and turns into a commodity. And this capital can only be realized to its full potential when it's readily available for the next project task, process, or the product. This makes it mandatory to record and store information in a flexible manner. Invest in a good, feature-rich knowledge base for the most effective knowledge management.
5. Never underestimate the importance of great customer service
What’s that one thing that separates a good company from a great one? A great company is never hesitant in walking the extra mile to make its customers feel valued. Great companies make exceptional customer service a part of their business operations to forge lasting relationships with customers and anyone else on the other end of the line.
Just because a business is small doesn’t mean the quality of its customer service has to be as well.
6. Market your business effectively
When finances are low and budgets shoestring, spending money on marketing might be the first thing you look to cut if you’re launching a small business. Let me stop you right there!
While traditional marketing methods are expensive and difficult to measure, small businesses have never had a better access to cost-effective, trackable marketing strategies — in, other words, digital marketing. Putting your business on local listing sites like Google Maps, Google Places, Facebook, Swarm, Yelp and more is a great start.
Think about implementing email marketing in the mix — the tried and tested digital marketing channel with an average return of $38 for every $1 spent.
Think local. What’s happening in your community?
Sponsor the local baseball team or a 5k charity walk/run. Put your business name on bookmarks and leave them at the local church, or the library. The bottom line is get to know your ideal customers and think about how and where they spend their time.
And make sure to be there!
Editor’s note: Ready to start marketing your small business without breaking the bank? GoDaddy offers a suite of online marketing tools — including products and services to easily manage local business listings, social media, SEO and email marketing.
7. Craft your elevator pitch
You need to be marketing at all the time. Therefore, you need a compelling elevator pitch. An elevator pitch is meant to be a concise but compelling summary of your business. Research has revealed that the average attention span of an adult is between 6 to 8 seconds. And that’s all the time you have got to grab someone’s attention.
Invest some time into crafting a killer elevator pitch.
Here are a few tips:
- Make a strong statement upfront.
- Be positive and energetic in your delivery.
- Practice as much as you can — practice makes you perfect.
- Don’t make it more than 60 seconds in length.
- Avoid using technical jargon.
- Explain what makes your business unique.
- Pitch the problem you are solving.
- Invite participation or interruption.
Closing thoughts on launching a small business
If you’re launching a small business, the future is full of promises and opportunities. But at the same time, there is no substitute for hard work and planning. You would be hard-pressed to find an entrepreneur who didn’t fail while on the way to success. But at the same time, there are countless others who did not find success because they were too afraid to fail.
Which one are you going to be?