Is Self Employment an Easier Option?

I must confess that working as an employee I never enjoyed waking up early. I played it by the ear until I started having babies and had to do school and nursery runs.  I developed a fine art of getting ready in little or no time at all, just because I had the morning blues (most days).  Well now I am self-employed and I am sure you will like to know if I get a lie in once in a while.  The answer is rarely, too many opportunities to maximise!!!

The Reality of Self Employment

A lot of us think of self-employment as an escape route from taking orders from a boss who towers over us and watches our every move.  We want to do our own thing, work at our own pace and in our own time.  With self-employment, you get very little ‘me’ time – especially at the early development stages.  In the first few years of starting your business, you have to work really hard to get it off the ground, build a trusting reputation and keep it afloat.  I strongly believe that starting a business is neither for the faint hearted nor the work-shy.  A new business will place unimaginable demands on you and most of these demands you cannot delegate as no one else knows the plan like you do. Even if you employ freelancers or consultants, you still need to drive the business forward because your reputation is at stake.  Remember input = output.

Do I Carry It All?

I contract some of my work out to freelancers when I get really busy but quality control is a very important aspect I need keep in check.  If my freelancer does a shoddy job, I can’t point fingers at anyone. To my client the work was done by Business First Steps and my reputation and quality of work is very important to me.  I have been burnt a few times and I do not intend to let that happen again.  So when contracting out make sure you get valid references, check their work and sign a proper agreement to cover amendments and cancellations.

Accept the Facts

If you are considering starting a business, you must be ready for the rigour of the first few years.  You will be climbing mountains and pulling yourself out of valleys sometimes. Accept the fact that there is hard work to get through to get the rewards business ownership offers.  There is going to be late nights and early morning rises, emotional highs, lows and in between moments.  Set your mind on the goal you want to achieve and get your priorities in order so your life is well-balanced.

Be Flexible

You also need to be flexible and know when to re-route and change direction. Your initial starting point might not be the best option after all. If you fail the first time but you know you are built for entrepreneurship,  don’t be discouraged, take a step back, recharge and try another route.  My pilgrimage to my present destination took me through a variety of business options including toner supplies – a far cry from where I am now.

Do not believe all the get rich quick gimmicks out there that claim you can make £100,000 in 30 days.  People that succeed legally will tell you how much effort they had to put into their business to get it to the stage it is currently at.

You will get some time off for good behaviour, but in the initial stages they may be far in-between.  So get your mind prepared for the journey ahead, get help where you can and start your journey rearing to go.

My advice is if you want to join the elite group of business owners, count the cost before you commit to that business.

At Business First Steps we can help you turn your start-up into a success!

Enjoy the process….Temi.

www.businessfirststeps.co.uk

Defining a Niche Market for your Business

Business can be a pleasure if we get things right from the start. One of the keys to being a successful business owner is the ability to identify an industry gap and your niche market.   I am sure a lot of us hear about niche markets all the time, internet marketers always advice – find your niche, know your niche!  So is all the hype really worth it?  Yes it is!

In this blog, I want to demystify how you can identify a niche for your business idea or improve on what you have.

The Wide Reach of the Web

The World Wide Web is just as it name implies, a web that collects all sort of information from all over the world.  Cyberspace is versatile and reaches the most remote parts of the earth.  So how do you compete with a business in Mongolia or another in Kenya?

You Find your Niche Market

When you decide to start out in business and if you are like me, ideas might come in drones and crowd your mind with so much information. They might overwhelm you and some people even quit at this stage…yes before they start!  The solution is not to quit but to start your quest by identifying the things that interest you.

If you are interested in motorcars, you may not be able to compete with the likes of Mercedes or Ford Motors. There is a likelihood that you can offer what customers are missing from the big competitors.  Even though they eat the cookies, there are bound to be some crumbs that may fall on the ground. Just imagine if you keep collecting the crumbs every time they get a cookie. Before you know it, you may have a cookie of your own!

Analyse Your Products and/or Services

What do you want to offer?  Is it an area you are very knowledgeable about?  Or is it something you can learn?  Your product may seem like a great idea to you, but will your customers feel the same way?

For example, your product may appeal to mothers but what kind of mothers will your products appeal to, mothers of toddlers, mothers of boys, mothers of teenagers or grandmothers?

Narrow Down your Search

Once you have been able to identify your market e.g. toys for toddler boys. You need to determine the keywords that describe your market.  You can now use the best keyword search facilities to identify how many people search for what you have to offer.  You may discover that there are many people looking specifically for what you have to offer but very little competition.  If the competition is low, you may have found your market.

Revamp a Product or Service

There might be a lot of competition for your proposed product or service, but don’t give up!  There might be nothing new under the sun (According to King Solomon of the bible) but there might be better ways of doing things.  Can your product compliment an existing one? Can you offer an extension of what is currently available?   You should study your competitors and think of how you can make your business unique.

Find the Right Description

When people ask about your business, develop a well thought out description of your niche market. For instance if you are a personal trainer, never introduce yourself as ‘just a trainer’. Introduce yourself as ‘a personal trainer with over 12 years experience of providing Thighs and Abs Training, specialist area being Abs and Thighs training for mothers who have had a C-Section’.    Now you bet people will pay attention! (this may be idea for someone out there).

Identifying a niche market for your business can help it stand out from your competitors.   Before you embark on your business there are other issues you will need to factor in as well. Using a niche market strategy in isolation may not guarantee business success.  But it will compliment your other efforts as you embark on developing your business concept.

Check out my brainstorming sessions – your virtual business partner when you need one.

I wish you good success.

Temi

www.businessfirststeps.co.uk

Photos courtesy of sxc.hu Spekulator and Lockheed.

Analyse Your Business Plan

Hello Fellow Business Owners,

It is always a privilege to be able to write to you.  I enjoy sharing my thoughts and what I have learnt in the world of business start up and development over the weeks and months gone by. 

This week let’s talk about your business plan.  To a lot of people, this is a daunting task that requires many sleepless nights, toiling over what to write about your mission, passion and vision.  Starting and running a business requires constant analysing, planning, changing and adapting.  A business plan however informal is a good place to start your business concept.  Starting a business without a business plan is like going to a new place without a map – surely one is bound to get lost. 

Your first business plan is your perception of what you expect your business to be.  It forms the basis on which you launch out into the business world.  It might contain a lot of expectations, hypothesis and forecast.  When you start your business some of these assumptions will change, reality sets in and you now have to adjust the plan. 

Don’t be discouraged if your business doesn’t go according to plan, pat yourself on the back for crossing the biggest hurdle of starting off!!! Now you need to focus on what works and enhance it. 

Analyse the Plan

At least after the first three months of business you should review your initial business plan, take a critical look, alter what needs to be changed and set a new plan.   

Sales Forecast

What was the initial sales forecast?

 Is the business meeting up? 

If things are not working to plan, do not let it get you down.   You should look at other sources of income for your business.  What commitments can you let go of?  Think of how you can reduce your expenses whilst you work hard to increase business awareness and hopefully more sales.  

Products

If your products are not bringing the expected income for your business,  then think of what you can add to enhance these products so they no longer stand alone.  What will people need in addition to what you provide?  For instance if you have a nail bar, will your clients like a neck or head massage whilst they get their nails done?  Do you have a fast track service (at an extra cost) for those who can’t wait? 

Customers

Are you targeting the right customers?  Sometimes the people we think will buy our products are not actually those who need them.  Look closely at the people that patronise you, what are their needs, what other services do they ask for?  Studying your customers and adapting your products and services to meet their needs is the best route to customer satisfaction and repeat purchase.

There are many aspects of your business plan that needs to be reviewed after the first few months of trading.  Go through the whole plan and ask yourself what should change and what should go.  There are other aspects of the business plan that are worth your consideration and these we will address in another blog entry.  Until then, I pray you are able to rise above the current economic situation and make a success of your venture. 

BusinessFirstSteps provides business plan writing and review service to help you navigate the first steps of the business world. Have a look round our website, we will be glad to be of help. 

I wish you good success.

Temi Koleowo

What is your Business Mode of Transportation?

Hello fellow business owners,  I hope things are working out well for you this week. 

I have been doing a lot of thinking and assessing lately.  Every now and then, I get the urge to reassess my business, my vision, my achievements etc.  What has been coming to me lately is how to streamline what I do, so I can be more effective and provide a better service to my clients. Being able to critically analyse the present state of my business will enable me to choose the right mode of transportation to move my business forward.

Now I understand that many of us like to dabble into a little bit of this and that which is quite common with start-ups.  This might happen for a while as you try to find a good fit for you and your business.  But the time comes when you have to sit back and analyse the past few months of running your business.

What has been good, what has failed, what can you improve?   

These questions will help you decide on the mode of transportation you want to travel in to get to your next business destination. Whatever you do, don’t pay the fare until you are sure of where you want to go. 

Modes of Transportation

Now I have used the various modes of transportation in my business, some have worked well, and some have been a near disaster!

Aeroplanes

We all love to fly so we can arrive at our destination as early as humanly possible.  There is nothing wrong with that if you know exactly where you are going. But think of a pilot in front of a plane who is yet to master his navigation system – a recipe for disaster. There might come a time where you and your business can board or even fly a plane, just make sure you board with your pilot licence i.e. your business growth has been constant and you are ready to step up to the next business level.  . 

Trains                                                                                                                                                                                           This is another mode of transportation we can use as business owners to propel our business vision.  Trains are not as fast as planes – well if you are not on the Eurostar. This may be a better option for those who are somewhat sure of the direction in which their business needs to travel.   There are tracks laid out ahead of you (better understanding of your business), so navigation is a lot easier. Get on this mode of transportation knowing that the stations and stops are far in between (established competitors don’t disembark often).  You may not get as many chances to make amends quick enough, so you must be able to match business demands with supply.  

Bus: With buses, you know as long as you pay the right fare, you will get a reasonable good ride and a cheaper mode of transportation too!  You may not find a seat immediately but as people get off (competitors exit), there are more chances of you been able to sit down.  The same applies to business start-ups – when you get on the entrepreneurial bus, initially the journey starts slowly, and then you can speed up as you encounter bus lanes – these are dedicated routes for your industry.  

The bus may seem rather rowdy initially but if you persevere, you could get a good seat for you and your business (once you know your target market).  But don’t get too comfortable though, due to the frequency of the stops, people will be getting on and off the bus.  Some of these people (competitors) are going to the same destination as you.  You must think of ways to keep your seat on that bus until you are ready to get off and get on a train. 

A good business idea has the potential to grow as long as the owner takes small steady steps in the right direction.  Do not be hasty to get on an aeroplane straight away, travel on a bus to get a good feel of what you business is about. As you do that, enjoy the ride!

Till next time, I wish you good success.

Temi. 

www.businessfirststeps.co.uk

Do you Love your Business?

It is always a good idea to evaluate our lives and motives at regular intervals, asking ourselves questions such as:

  • Are you in love with your job or business?
  • Is it serving the right purpose or is it just something to get by?
  • How do you know what you love to do and do what you love?

These are questions a lot of us do not actually want to answer, especially if you have been in the same role for many years doing the same job or running the same unprofitable business.

On another spectrum, there are some people out there, who wake up with exhilarating excitement to face every day. They are those who are fortunate enough to have found something they love to do.

Stopping the Same Old Thing

If every morning fills you with dread and you wonder how you will get through the day, it might be worth your while to take a step back and evaluate your life. It is of vital importance that you love your business and not love just the money you get from the business. Money is easy to love, but it is not so easy to sustain that love when things are not working.

If there is no true joy and passion for what you do, need for growth and improvement will be on the back burner. You will have no desire to expand or grow your business, eventually the aspiration starts to wane and the business might collapse.

True Business Love

When you are involved in a business you love, you are keen to develop that business and always taking steps to make it work. You are passionately engulfed in business activities that will ensure your venture grows. There is the urgency to provide solutions and solve problems to push your project to the next stage. You are also always in a constant state of productive and proactive change, and you are most of the time invigorated and excited.

The passion and fervency you use to run your business is what turns into sustained profits. The challenges that might occur along the way are seen as the chance to climb higher. You are open to opportunities, in tune with your inner self and able to spot channels that will accelerate your business growth. The core element of an entrepreneurial mindset is PASSION, something which cannot be developed doing what you do not love or enjoy.

Finding something you enjoy and love will take a conscious effort on your path. It is an envious place to be when you are doing what you love and getting results. Once you discover your passion for the right business, your natural instinct kicks in and drives you to success.

There are ways in which you can discover and embrace something that interests you and find the business of your dreams. Visit http://www.businessideabooster.com to learn more about how to discover your passion and start a journey to a more fulfilling life.  Alternatively sign up for the one-2-one Passion Definition, Business Idea Development or Brainstorming Sessions.
Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/6424651 Picture by Nellart sxc.hu.

Emails and Time Management

If you have a work inbox, you most likely will get emails everyday. Some from your clients, your suppliers,  email listings and some unwanted.  So how exactly are you suppose to deal with your inbox on a daily basis so it doesn’t take over your business life?

Choose a Time Slot

Find a time slot in the day when you choose to open your emails.  If you are easily distracted, do not make it the first task in the morning as it may spiral out of control if something catches your fancy.  I choose to open my emails first thing as it helps set my mind for the day, especially information from my clients and email subscriptions.   Allocate a specific amount of time to deal with your emails, mine is twenty minutes maximum. 

Filter Your Emails

Some of your email will be urgent, some will be for further reference and some are meant for trash or junk mail.  Try to read through the important ones rather than save them for later.  Reduce the mail in your inbox as you go along – do not be afraid to hit the delete button.  Compartmentalized them into folders such as resources, email subscriptions, junk etc.  Make sure that your ‘read later’ pile is kept to a minimum and do ‘read them later’.

No Entry – Friends and Family  

                                                

Politely ask your family and friends not to send personal emails to your work inbox.  Less mail from loved ones can drastically reduce your workload and sifting process.  If they must send one (for business), ask them to make it short and to the point. 

 

Reply in a Jiffy

If you need to reply to an email, summarise your points  and do not go into an elaborate write-up. 

Maintain Good Practice

  • Once an email is read, remove it from your inbox either into another folder for reference or delete it. 
  • Try to keep your inbox as clear as possible, if an email is lingering there for too long – maybe you do not need it after all. 
  • Unsubscribe from email listings you no longer find useful and keep subscriptions to  a manageable level.
  • Make it a habit to junk the mail you did not solicit for or need.  
  • Keep your work inbox for work and not for leisure activities, if necessary create a mail box for that purpose and make sure you notify people to use it for your personal emails.   
  • Shift through your inbox once a week to weed out emails that have been lingering unread for days. 
  • Show junk and spam mail no mercy as they are major time-wasters. 
  • Do not visit your inbox too many times during the day, I visit mine thrice a day morning, lunchtime and before I close shop for the day. 
  • If you are expecting an important mail, then be strict with yourself to check in and check out without loitering!

Don’t forget to glance through your junk mail as some important mail might slip through the net.  As you tackle your inbox this week, be firm so you can spend your time doing what matters. 

Wishing you every success.

Temi

www.businessfirststeps.co.uk

Coming soon to a site near you – Time Management Tips for a More Effective You.

Photo courtesy of sxc.hu Kveselyte, WR-fife

Customers and Constant Communication

Hello Business Owner,

I hope your business is doing what you want it to do. Are you developing better relationship with your customers which can translate into more sales?

Just one question for you though, how often do you communicate with your customers? 

  • Is it daily, weekly, monthly or never?
  • Once they contact your business or buy from you, is it bye-bye and chapter closed? 
  • Or is it – make sure you keep in touch so we can benefit from each other in the future?

Constant Communication

This is a key component in our world where we are bombarded on a daily basis with so much information.  You might say people receive so much information and I do not want to become part of the noise.  But it is the noisemakers that get the attention. 

Simple Scenario

Just follow me on this – You open your inbox to check your mail. All day you have been thinking of getting a fish tank. Though you remember asking for some information about fish tanks 8 months ago, you weren’t ready then and did not follow it up.  Now that you are ready, you are online anyway and Google is winking at you.  You type in fish tanks and tons of businesses compete for your attention. The company you got some information from is nowhere to be found. Customer Lost!

Just imagine if that company had been sending information about new fish tanks and special offers every month!!!

Let’s face it; it is hard to compete with every business online. There are the big guys with big budgets who are able to muscle their way into people’s hearts with fancy marketing gimmicks. 

So What Can I do?

If you provide your customers with exceptional service, they should come back to you for more.  But hey, you need to remind them that they need you and let them know how you can be of help.  You can do this through Constant Communication .

Keep in touch with your customers – it is that simply!  New Technology has made the job a lot easier so you do not have to sit in front of your computer all day typing email addresses every time you need to send information through. 

The format of your communication can be varied and equally interesting. You can write about your industry news, new inventions, new legislation, special offers, tips, benefits, how to look after products, what your services can do for your clients – the list is endless.

Use fancy emails, newsletters, blogs, one line statements, articles or even traditional emails.  Once you have got the information to hand, you can choose one of the following email marketing companies to do the hard work for you:

http://www.getresponse.com 

http://www.constantcontact.com

http://www.aweber.com

http://www.vistaprint.co.uk

I specifically choose these ones as most of the emails I receive from reputable businesses and Internet marketers use one of these three, that says a lot about them. 

So what’s next – fit weekly, fortnightly or monthly communication into your business schedule and see how things change for your business.

Our May Newsletter provides more tips on keeping in touch with your clients – Business First Steps May 2011 Newsletter

I wish you every success…Temi.

Photos courtesy of OmirOnia and Djayo – Sxc.hu.