How to Prepare Your Startup for the Year Ahead

Most entrepreneurs dream big in the beginning, envisioning a company that not only meets but exceeds expectations. While the sky is the limit, you’ll only make it there if you prepare yourself ahead of time and have a firm grasp on what it takes to succeed as a modern-day entrepreneur.

After five years, about 50 percent of all businesses fail, so your odds of succeeding are questionable. Fortunately, there are some specific actions you can take to improve your chances of success.

Today’s entrepreneurs have more tools at their disposal than ever before, but also some unique challenges. Round your year out right while looking ahead to next year by getting started with the following:

Learn your industry

One of the first steps in launching a business is learning your industry.

Success requires attention to detail, so you must know the latest goings on in your industry and how technology impacts your business. Go to conferences in your sector, take online courses to gain new skills and study your competition. Knowing what features and new items your competitors roll out keeps you from falling behind them.

Write a business plan

Even if you have a firm idea of where your business is going, take the time to write a plan. This gives you both short- and long-term goals to focus on as you head into the next year. Entrepreneurs with targets and specific goals in mind tend to do better in the long run than those without.

When you have a business plan in place, you’re at an advantage because you have something to show to potential investors, and a strategy to turn to when you run out of ideas and need direction.

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Secure financing

It’s vital to have enough funds to keep your company going, even if you aren’t yet making a profit.

You’ll need to pay for your startup’s workspace, inventory, software and if you have them, employees. There may be times when your cash flow is iffy at best, especially if you grow at a rapid pace.

No matter how much money you start with, you may find you need some additional financing to get you past any bumps in the road.

There are many different ways of securing financing, such as:

  • Getting a personal line of credit from a local bank
  • Taking out a business loan
  • Starting a crowdfunding campaign

Remember that you may be extremely busy at one time of the year, and then business slows during another. Prepare for the unexpected and don’t take on more debt than you can comfortably handle.

Know your technology needs

Technology changes rapidly. Study the trends and figure out what you can afford and what you truly need. You may not be able to afford every hot new software at first, so focus on the ones that help your business run more efficiently. Automate as much as possible so your employees have more time for building your customer base and improving your brand recognition.

For example, adding software solutions that allow your sales team to access customer data from their mobile devices enables you to improve the customer experience and retain the clients you already have.

Also, think about the technology that might help you in the coming year as your business grows. You may not need a customer relationship management software solution at the start, but adding one later could take your business to a new level.

Think about the changing needs of your company and how technology helps you improve over time.

Hire the right people (and train them properly)

Your team can make or break you. However, finding the most qualified employees isn’t easy. Finding the right team should start with understanding your company culture and making it clear to potential candidates what your work environment is like.

Think about the things you stand for as a business and as an individual. If you care deeply about social matters, what ones can you embrace without alienating employees or customers? How can you make sure your work environment reflects those values?

For example, perhaps someone in your family has special needs and your company embraces that. Your brand donates to causes, and you give employees time to volunteer if they’d like at a local resource center.

Also, think about the reasons someone might want to work for your brand.  How can you expand on the things that make your business unique?

About 25 percent of employees leave their jobs each year due to preventable reasons, such as better work-life balance and poor management. Keep your best workers and reduce churn by surveying them and making improvements as needed.

Before you launch your startup, make sure your team is thoroughly trained. If you have a sales staff, make sure they fully understand your product and how to resolve any issues with it.

In addition to in-house training, bring in some outside professionals in sales for educational opportunities, and perfect your processes ahead of time.

Create a marketing schedule

Ahead of your startup’s launch, create a marketing schedule for the next four quarters. Think about your budget and the ways you can get the word out about your company’s products and/or services without going over your allotted spending. At minimum, lay out plans for the first quarter.

Get the buzz going before you open by enlisting the help of family, friends and any previous customers. Ask them to share about you on social media, invite them to a grand opening event and utilize your network for some free word-of-mouth.

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Prepare for the unexpected

No matter how well you plan, you can count on the unexpected cropping up. However, if you spend time preparing for the unexpected, you’ll more easily handle issues when they arise.

If you’re unsure about any aspect of starting your new business, seek advice from a mentor or consultant before moving forward. It’s better to take care of issues before your grand opening than after whenever possible.

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