9 May 2013

Three considerations if starting a business

Hello, today I want to talk about some things that you could consider before starting up a new business.

In a nutshell these are:
  • outsourcing
  • automating
  • scaling
These words do not have much meaning for some businesses. But I would advise that you think about these topics before you go too far down the planning road.

So, what do I think these words mean? Let’s look at them in order.

Outsourcing. To me this means finding people to do work for you. It does not mean becoming an employer. Finding help externally can be a big step. You are handing a portion of trust over to someone else. You are buying their services while letting go of some of the systems that you have created. I suggest therefore that you plan ahead from the start so that any systems or ways of working that you create can easily be transferred to another party. It will make it easier to step over that threshold. Try to imagine that when you do hand some work over you will be handing it to a person who you may never actually meet. So create working practices that can be handed over relatively easily.

Automating. This is not about kitchen appliances. I know that you can buy items that automatically make bread, wash dishes and roast your dinner to perfection. We’re thinking about creating systems in your business that will allow it to run itself with very little input from you. This is not the same as outsourcing or getting staff. It is a technology thing, yes, but technology used intelligently. For example: you have a website – great – and on your website you sell items to people who could be anywhere. You have an off the shelf payment system that transfers the money to your account. Your website knows your stock levels and tells you when it’s getting low. The site also will send notifications of sales to a warehouse where your stock is kept. They will then fulfill your order with your branding and sales literature. Your bills are paid through direct debits. You might not necessarily start out with a system this automated, but you should be aware of the possibilities and you should plan and intend to lead your business towards this model.

Scaling. No, not climbing mountains – making things bigger. You should think very carefully about this. You should look for a business model that is scalable. That is a system, or product line that can grow to become as big as you wish. So, you should not create a business that depends upon your own unique skills, that has a very limited marketplace (niche is good so long as your niche is not tiny) and you should avoid sourcing products that can’t be sourced on a long term basis. You should have something that is repeatable on a larger scale without making major changes to the way your business is run or major changes to your product lines. Get automation right and scale should be a logical next step.

Now. You might be thinking that you are not really interested in any of this and that your business consists of making things with your hands and selling them in a small shop and displaying them on your website. There is nothing wrong with wanting that. If you are doing something that you love and it is bringing in enough money so that you do not need to work in a regular job that’s great. I am not addressing you here. Though I would say that it might be worth thinking about the above as well as doing what you love. Remember this. You could create an automated scalable business as well. It will enable you to do what you love doing. If that is making models of fairies and trying to sell them, great. But having a back-up is good sense. It means that you don’t need to turn your passion into something you depend upon to make money.

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