Let's build your business... in just ten steps.Mar 21, 2023
So, you've got a brilliant idea for a mission-led business that could change the world, and now you're ready to turn it into reality. But… what do you do first?
Let's explore the ten essential first steps to kick-start your biz along with the pros, cons, and insider tips for each stage. Ready to dive in? Let's get cracking!
- Define Your Vision, mission & purpose.
First things first, you need a clear and compelling ‘guiding light’ that will give your business a solid foundation on which to grow and inspire others to join your cause. Aren’t vision, mission and purpose three ways to say the same thing? No, most definitely not!
Vision is the picture you are imagining, the world you want to create with the work you do. The destination if you will.
Your mission is how you are going to do it - the map to get there.
Your purpose is the why - why are you doing this?
What is my vision for Business but Better? A world where business success is measured against more than just a financial metric; where businesses must do good for people, must ensure a fair and equitable supply chain and must not exploit the planet but in fact regenerate it. Whilst being financially sustainable enterprises.
My mission is: To provide education, inspiration, skills and mentoring to entrepreneurs behind businesses that are working on solving a social or environmental problem.
And my purpose is: To inspire, encourage and equip founders who are growing the next 1000 better businesses for people and the planet.
Think about the impact you want to create and how your business will contribute to that goal.
- Keep it simple and concise
- It MUST be authentic to you. You must actually care.
- It should resonate with people on an emotional, personal level.
- Align it with your personal values
- Identify Your Target Audience
Next up, figure out who you are serving with your product or service. These are the folks who'll benefit from your mission and become your biggest fans.
- Go beyond demographics. 18-30yo woman is not a target market, it’s a demographic. Think about interests, life stages and pain points
- ChatGPT is an enormous help here if you ask it the right questions.
- Be as specific as possible
- Conduct Market Research
Is anyone else already doing this? If so, what are they doing wrong, or right and how could you do it differently, or better. Look deeply into your industry, your competitors, and find market trends to identify opportunities and gaps that your mission-led business can fill.
- Analyze competitor offerings and positioning. Pricing, what niche are they in, who are they serving?
- Study market size, growth, and trends. Is it worth entering this market?
- Identify your unique selling points (USPs) within the market. What can you do differently?
- Develop a Unique Value Proposition
My favourite part… What makes you different? Let's craft a powerful value proposition that sets you apart from the competition. This is a big one for entrepreneurs as there are so many copycat businesses out there. It’s a hard road to hoe if you don’t have a differentiator. Have a really hard think and map out what makes your business and offering different. But not just things like ‘smell’, or ‘packaging colour’, things that matter from a customer service point of view.
- Focus on the key differentiators - you only need one or two if they’re strong.
- Speak directly to your target audience's needs
- Keep it clear and compelling and specific to your audience.
- Validate Your Idea
Now it’s time to test your idea. 43% of startups fail due to poor (or no) product-market fit. Ie, no one wants what they’re selling. So, let’s avoid becoming a part of this statistic and do some research. Use the idea validation techniques we discussed earlier to refine your offering.
- Talk to your target audience - do their needs match up to your assumptions?
- Test your idea using surveys, prototyping, social media and even crowdfunding (like kickstarter).
- Iterate and refine based on feedback. Remember, if your product is perfect when you launch, you launched too late.
- Create a Business Plan
Do you know what every startup needs? A 50 page business plan. I am joking of course, I think business plans belong in the bin alongside boards of 10 people with corporate backgrounds and bank managers who think social media is ‘pointless’. However, I do think you should have a plan on a page in the beginning. Don’t know where to start? You can grab a template at www.businessbutbetter.co
- It’s a living document, so ensure you return to it constantly.
- Include realistic financials if you can at this early stage.
- A plan on a page keeps you heading towards your goal, so make sure you are passionate about that goal, as lots of opportunities will come your way and threaten to derail you.
- Business name & IP check
Let’s do something fun… coming up with a business name. You now have an idea of where you sit in the market place, what your vision is, who you are serving… now you can put it altogether in a name. Naming a business is harder than it sounds though.
And once you have a name, you need to ensure no one else is already using it. So do a thorough google search, do a local trademark search (and include the countries you want to go into one day), check the URLs (if the .com is gone, someone is probably already using the name) then if all checks out, if you can afford to, get a lawyer to do a proper trademark search. Don’t skimp on this bit.
- Use name generators to try and come up with a new word, or a portmanteau (mixing a few words together). Less likely to be trademark problems in the future.
- Classes matter, so if you love a word but someone already has it, are they in the same class (industry) as you?
- Don’t fret too much about your business name, a lot of entrepreneurs get caught up when it’s been proven it doesn’t matter too much.
- Ensure people can spell and say it - it’s much easier to spread the word if they can actually talk about it.
- Set Up Your Legal Structure
Well, all the boxes have been ticked so far, so the next step is the legal stuff. Choose the right legal structure which will probably be a corporation (depending on where in the world you are. If you’re in Aotearoa New Zealand, you’re looking at a private company (limited liability company). In Australia, much the same. In the USA you have some more choices including a Benefit corp. Do some research and if you get stuff, consult a legal professional to find the best fit for your goals. But this bit isn’t too complicated. Then, once you’ve decided, get it set up.
- Consider tax implications and reporting requirements
- Think long term - you don’t want to have to change structure in the future if it grows faster than you expect.
- Seek professional advice to avoid pitfalls
9. Secure Funding
Do you need funding? Your best bet (if the business type supports it), is bootstrapping. But if you need to, you can start to explore various funding options like grants, loans, crowdfunding, or investors. There’s a lot of work involved in raising investment, I always recommend bootstrapping first.
- Bootstrap, bootstrap, bootstrap!
- Create a strong pitch that highlights your mission and potential impact - but don’t overstate the potential.
- Again, think long term if you’re raising money. You need to ensure your investors share your vision. Don’t just take money from anyone.
10. Build a Strong Team
Last but not least, surround yourself with a passionate, skilled team who believes in your mission and shares your values. They'll be essential in making your vision a reality - you are nothing without the people around you! Not in a position to pay people yet? That’s okay! Ask for help from advisors, ensure your family knows what you are doing, ask friends for their feedback. People are crucial, even if they are not technically a paid member of the team.
- Look for complementary skills and experiences - don’t hire people who you like because they share the same skills (which is human nature). You need people who balance your weaknesses out.
- Prioritise cultural fit, values and attitude in what roles you can. A top performer with a bad attitude will ruin your business quicker than you can possibly imagine.
- Don’t be an asshole. Leading a team is obviously complicated, even if it’s just your founders. The top tips I can give you: genuinely care about people, be kind and thoughtful, and communicate, even the hard stuff.
What are the next steps? High on my list would be building your brand, creating your brand and content strategy and creating a marketing plan. A LOT goes into a startup, but if you tick these nine steps off in some approximation of this order, you’re on the right track.