Some would say you are insane to start a business in lockdown. Yet it is quite possibly the best time to launch out to develop that long-cherished desire to manage your own business.
While the lockdown has caused great financial crises in some quarters, it has also had some unexpected outcomes which can serve to the benefit of entrepreneurs. There has been a significant mindset shift among the general populace towards supporting local business, and doing business online. A major technology acceleration has thrust new drive into online communication in every sphere: personal, business, faith-based, education and skills training, consulting services, hobbies and crafts – the list grows almost daily.
The lockdown has also jolted people into action: some have been retrenched and need alternative income sources; others see an entrepreneurial solution as a means of taking back a measure of control, yet others now have that extra time to develop a long-nurtured passion. The fact of the matter is that in many countries, there has been a surge in the creation of new business, most of that, online.
So before one launches an online business, what should be considered?
What are the foundation blocks you must build on, considering the restraints and opportunities posed by lockdown?
Make sure you have a solid plan with built-in flexibility to cope with the unforeseens that inevitably crop up. What is your product or service? Have you researched the real need for it? Are you convinced of customer/client take-up? Do you have the right equipment, tools and resources to start, to maintain and grow your activities? Have you decided how you are going to market and advertise your business? Will you have effective and reliable support in terms of staff when you start growing? Do you have sufficient funding to manage the challenges of planting and establishing an enterprise?
Above all, do you have the passion and the urge to tap into that potential within you, so if the going gets tough, you have the inner strength and conviction to dig deep and keep going? Statistically, 20% of start-ups fail after a year or less. And after five years, only 50% make the grade. So with the basics sorted, what are the major challenges you will need to overcome?
Mapping the road ahead
First, count the cost. Be realistic when it comes to the demand on your time, because sorting out work/life balance is crucial. Fatigue, relationship stress as well as financial issues can undermine on-going success. Don’t be over-optimistic in drawing up a budget – rather err on the side of caution. Ensure that your planning includes short-, medium- and long-term goals so that you don’t lose perspective.
Spend time preparing a marketing, public relations and advertising plan. Communication and customer relationship play vital roles. Target the market your product or service will benefit. Develop an e-mail list of current and prospective clients and make sure that the information you send contains valuable tips, details of the benefits and uses of your product/service, recommendations from satisfied clients and news about upcoming offers or products. Social media has become a highly proficient marketing and advertising tool – learn how to exploit it to the maximum.
If you need funding to launch and get on your feet, you will need to present a very convincing plan to prospective funders which contains all the details mentioned above. Funders must know what benefit there is for them in backing you.
Funding and money-management can be a stumbling block if not professionally handled. Not all budding entrepreneurs have the skills and expertise to comply with the many legal and financial requirements – such as government legislation, income tax, VAT not to be overlooked – that could easily trip you up. Online business certainly saves many costs, overheads, travel time, rent, and so on, but there are always unexpected expenses, and there are times when you experience slumps and need some “padding” to tide you over. You can certainly learn much from the experience of forerunners, but consulting with experts in financial matters is a strong recommendation.
Customer service of course is a requirement. Supply and deliver what and when you have promised. If you are unable to do so, communicate immediately with your customers to keep them informed. Always keep an eye open for opportunities to over-deliver on expectations. Developing relationships with customers will give you insight into their needs and interests that, appropriately used, could serve to great advantage.
Learn to adapt, to be flexible, and above all, stay positive. Lockdown is constantly introducing disruptions in every sphere of life: don’t expect same-old; fixed, unbending plans and strategies are marked for failure.Have faith in yourself, and remember the famous words of Sir Winston Churchill: “Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”