The article below by Colin German of CMG Consulta was published on Life On Point (January 2022 issue). Click to read it.
It’s the dream of many to start up a business. Whether inspired by one’s passion, triggered by the urge to address an existing problem or just an opportunity which happens to present itself throughout life happenings, there are some basic elements which can make or break a startup. The initial energy and drive to set the ball rolling feels good, yet beyond that feel good feeling, there are some elements which should not be underestimated right from the start. Prevention is better than cure and being aware of what to do and what to avoid can help your startup concept thrive. Why not start right, right from the start?
Colin German from CMG Consulta will delineate 8 key areas which need to be considered when taking an idea from concept to business. Experience shows that every business or startup failure, can be seen to have been weak in considering one or more of these areas. Without further ado, let’s go straight to the point and explore.
1. Define your Market and if possible ‘Think Global from the start’
Defining the markets that you would like to target is very important since different markets present different opportunities and different markets require different strategies to penetrate them. The markets and the different penetration strategies for each market are crucial to pre-plan in order to ensure that all actions and activities of your startup are coordinated to achieve these objectives. In doing this, think global from the start. Unless you have good reason to and this is by design, do not necessarily focus on the local market since that could be quickly exhausted and it will present limited growth opportunities.
2. Go For Something Innovative
Innovation is all about finding ways to ensure that a business stands out from its competitors in the market it is trying to target. In developing your idea and in designing everything that goes around that idea to build it into your business, it is important to ensure a degree of innovation. Keep in mind that innovation is an ongoing process. What is the “wow factor” that is being delivered to your clients? What will make a client jump up and get excited about your product or service? What is going to make the client choose your product or service over other competing ones? How are you going to make sure that the client is clearly aware of this innovation?
3. Drive a Competitive Advantage
When setting up a startup, you typically have an idea that you would like to develop into a business. Progressing on having an innovative product, in a defined market, it is also important that your products and/or services address a gap in the market where other products and/or services are either not present or are weak. The existence of a real competitive advantage when compared to the existing players in the market is crucial here to ensure that the potential clients will choose your product and/or service over the existing competition. Traditionally you can create a competitive advantage by having products that are unique, cheaper, or that have more features. Nowadays, however, you can also create a competitive advantage through the delivery method to the customer or through the whole customer experience. Whatever method is chosen, the importance here, is that the advantage is important to the potential clients.
4. Make sure your business is financially viable
When you’re setting up your business there is always the need for some investment. On top of this investment, you will also require some running costs. Over time, the business will slowly start to generate some revenue. When one considers the slowly increasing revenues against the costs, it is important that the business will start to generate a return to the investors in a timeframe that makes sense to them. Until this return is generated, the business requires different sources of financing its expenses. Many startups are set up from personal funds and traditionally a bank loan or overdraft were used to support this. With banking posing greater challenges to startups, other options are today sought such as borrowing from friends or family, additional partners or even angel investors.
5. Technology is key… are your principles sound?
Nowadays, many business models obtain competitive advantage from the use of technology. Technology assists reaching out to the customer, delivering the product or service, and even handling the full customer experience. When designing a startup, it is crucial to ensure that the assumptions being made in designing a business model are based on sound technological concepts that could easily be used to drive the business. In addition, it is also important to ensure that you or your team have access to the technologies that are required. Many entrepreneurs, unfortunately, make assumptions that technology will solve a problem or create an opportunity without them being familiar with this technology, consequently, the actual business model is sometimes not able to be delivered.
6. Ensure you have the right expertise at your fingertips
This may sound obvious, but at times we meet start-ups with a great idea however lacking the expertise to do it or manage it. There is a very big difference between ‘having an idea how to do something’ and ‘knowing how to do something’. Your startup requires knowledge and a degree of experience in the area to set it up and operate it successfully. You or the team require this knowledge and ideally some related experience to take the right decisions, shape the product/service and push it that little bit extra to be a notch above the other products/services on the market. If this knowledge is not available in house it might also be possible to buy it in through employees, partners, or advisors.
7. Build your business around the client
Without clients your business cannot survive so it is important to build your business around the client. The client should be at the center of all decisions, all processes and all structure. In implementing this, consider all the stakeholders in the business and all the different individuals, partners, suppliers, and service providers that are part of bringing value to the client. Consider an organization structure that facilitates these objectives where roles are clearly defined, responsibilities detailed, and everything is measured in order to ensure transparency across the board. This is crucial to ensure that, on kicking off the business, all information, requests, goods, services, and delivery will flow smoothly and will be able to be tracked accurately.
8. Build the right team to drive your business
Typical startups are built around the entrepreneur. They usually employ family members and, while this is a good idea at the start, it possibly doesn’t always help the business in the long run. Ideally people in the business need to be there for their competence and not for their relations to the owner. This is what delivers actual value to the startup. On top of this, sometimes, tough decisions might need to be taken on employees or performance and it is more difficult to do so with family.
Working with businesses in the Creation stage of their lifecycle is a very exciting prospect as we get to help businesses take an idea, shape it into a concept, flesh it out, create a plan and eventually set up the business to implement this plan. There are many entrepreneurs around and people with great ideas however not all ideas make it to a become a successful business. Whilst the list above is not exhaustive, it gives a good general flavour of the major aspects that you need to consider at the outset when shaping your startup.
Colin German is Co-Founder and Senior Consultant at CMG Consulta (Home – CMG Consulta ) a boutique business consultancy that helps Create (Create – CMG Consulta ) businesses, ideas, structure and sustainable operations; Accelerate (Accelerate – CMG Consulta ) their efficiency, grow their business and achieve their commercial dreams; and Transform (Transform – CMG Consulta ) their business models, operations, profitability and market approach. While doing all this CMG Consulta Educate (Educate – CMG Consulta ) clients in planning and running their business sustainably by creating a direction based on research and fact, by crafting plans of action to achieve these objectives and by ensuring that all decisions are taken based on fact, numbers and research.