Sadie Keljikian, Express Trade Capital
There are numerous difficulties associated with starting a new business. Establishing sustainable practices that leave room for growth is complex, but crucial to building a successful company and brand. We’ve already talked a bit about smoothing out cashflow and creating a sensible production process, but now let’s talk about some of the vaguer aspects of building a business:
- Problem: you’re in the early stages of building your business and while you know what products you want to design and sell, you aren’t sure how to establish a brand for your business. How can you differentiate yourself from your competitors and create your own space in the market?
Establishing a brand is one of the most complex and crucial steps to building a successful business. Without a clear voice and intention, you are likely to get lost in a sea of businesses that sell similar products. The first step is to identify your niche: who is most likely to buy your products? Do your products appeal to an underrepresented demographic, or will you have to work hard to stand out among a large, commercially popular group?
Once you’ve figured out who your target audience is, you can start thinking about ways to more effectively appeal to that demographic. You may want to think about what else is popular or important among the people who buy your products and take a multi-pronged approach. There are a few ways to approach this depending on your priorities and preferences.
Most businesses have an overarching goal or company philosophy that guides their practices. Some businesses even take a stance on sociopolitical issues, as Uber, Lyft, and several others famously did after the 2016 election. While this isn’t necessarily a bad idea, it’s important to consider the fact that you may lose as many customers as you gain in doing so, depending on the issue and stance you choose. Some less divisive tactics include supporting a charitable cause and advertising your involvement or arranging a licensing agreement with a public figure (social media influencer, celebrity, etc.) who is relevant to your target demographic.
Another potential way to build your brand is to partner with a company in a similar field. Associating your business with an already trusted brand is a great way to establish yourself as a legitimate competitor and begin to form valuable relationships across your industry.
- Problem: you recently decided to start hiring a team and expanding your business, but you’re not sure where to look or how best to choose new employees, especially since you can only hire a small number of people within your current operational budget. How can you ensure that you’re building your business in the most efficient and practical way?
We’ve talked about the complexities of hiring a new team within a limited budget before, but the key factors to consider are universal. Before hiring anyone, identify your business’s needs and do some research to determine the most efficient solutions. There are almost certainly businesses just like yours who’ve already figured out the best approach through trial and error, so looking into their methods will often save you the trouble of learning the hard way.
Once you know what you need, boil it down to the essentials and act as quickly as you can without rushing the decision-making process. The benefits of hiring the right people dramatically outweigh the cost of additional salaries, especially when your existing team is massively overloaded with work. As long as you vet your potential employees carefully and hire the best people you can, you’ll have a solid foundation for your team as it continues to grow.
- You’ve got a great team and your business is growing more quickly and dramatically all the time. You’re excited, but you start to realize what Peter Parker learned from his uncle: “with great power comes great responsibility.” Having a growing and thriving business is the goal, but before your business reaches its potential, you need to consider things like healthcare and human resources if you want to keep your employees happy. You value the employees you have and want to do right by them, but how do you start?
Employee resources and benefits are crucial to a growing business, but the vast array of options and variables can be difficult to sort out without prior experience. Obviously, you should work out your budget and do your research, but if you plan to secure health insurance first, it is wise to hire a trustworthy insurance broker. The broker will be able to walk you through the options available within your budget and explain any complicated jargon that may confuse you.
If you decide to establish your human resources department first, however, you may find that you’ll be better equipped to approach employee benefits without needing a broker. Many small businesses start out without a human resources department, leaving employment issues to the owner or individual department heads. This can work for a while, but as the business grows, those responsibilities can quickly become overwhelming, especially for those who aren’t HR professionals. Hiring an HR professional will free up other employees to take better care of their regular responsibilities, plus your HR person will be qualified to ensure that your business is operating within legal parameters and isn’t risking a lawsuit.
In both cases, guidance from an experienced professional is a massive advantage, especially since a wrong move could cost your company dearly.
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