In today’s world and specifically in light of current economic conditions, setting up an SME in the workplace supplies sector is, at the very least, arduous. It warrants careful consideration and a whole lot of research support, sprinkled with a touch of luck.
When embarking on an entrepreneurial venture, there are several pivotal factors upon which to reflect and assess in order to launch a healthy and sustainable new business.
What’s the thinking?
Why are you in business? In all likelihood, you’ve been in a previous supplies/service-focused company with all the support structures already in place – so the right foundation for a start-up is paramount. What product or service is being offered and what’s the USP? Is the offering desirable and/or better than what’s currently in the marketplace? What results or outcomes does your company offer and how can the added value of your solution be demonstrated?
In the initial weeks and months prior to the commitment to go live, a substantial body of research will be required, which should be both impactful and relevant and guide you through those key decisions from the very start. Before moving forward, ask yourself why you would buy from you. After all, customers will pose the big question: what’s in it for me?
Leveraging the value of your solution means informing the marketplace about the available product or service. From a marketing perspective, does the message incorporate all the marketing mix elements and provide a clear identity and service proposition?
Increasingly crucial is to make every customer – or potential customer – experience that feeling of being special and unique (even in a mass market model). Included in the engagement process and vital in the early days are networking and establishing the profile of the venture. Advice comes in many forms – with plenty of people willing to impart it.
Use it, filter it and keep building those links to maintain the momentum.
Creating, setting up and finally running the business will consume a vast amount of energy and personal resources. While enthusiasm and passion are vital ingredients in any project mix, realise you can’t always do everything yourself. Even the most noted dictators (Caesar being the original) can suffer from burnout and what we might dub bloody-mindedness.
At this point, I’d suggest factoring in something often missed until it’s self-realised: extra help and advice will be needed and should be welcomed, whatever the level of success achieved initially.
Who is the target market? How will you disseminate information and engage customers to buy? The requirement for a responsive and entirely customer-centric solution is essential.
Trends are fickle, but good business practices and an almost fanatical devotion to serving customers rarely fail to deliver, and this must be ingrained from the beginning.
Good communication is essential. Messaging should always be instructional and interactive, drawing responses from clients which make them feel – rightly so – as though they are the centre of everything you do. As organisations mature, I’ve often heard clients remark: “It’s not the same as it used to be” or “They don’t seem to care or listen anymore”.
Technology can play a huge part in making the engagement process a strong driver for new customers and increasing profitability. A thoughtful, regular, but not intrusive personalised communication plan is the most effective. Rather than blunderbuss, be more rifle shot!
The core business will attract an initial audience, with lessons learned over the past couple of years revealing the real need to diversify and become a key supplier across a broad spectrum of products and services.
Our industry is changing as it comes under pressure from the vast array of competitors able to drive into our market at a time when the core ranges are being structurally challenged.
The not-so-secret formula is to find the stuff purchasers want and the other suppliers are failing to deliver. Become the ‘go-to’ solution provider and the target audience can be expanded, services improved and extended, and the business model much more engaged.
It’s all about the money
What investments are being made to acquire customers and how much do you expect to spend to attain the first one? Are prices both competitive and profitable? What is the path to break even and how will you tend to cash flow before the first client puts money down? How will you maintain and expand results and relationships with other buyers?
Starting a company requires thorough preparation and a compelling message. Challenges will be there from the launch, but essential support is available from any number of sources. Forging a plan based on an innovative concept is fundamental to fostering successful relationships, building a brand you can be proud of and, ultimately, converting it into a profitable return on investment.
Complete awareness and the organisation of cash in the venture are vital components of making it flourish. Ensure a cash flow forecast and adequate working capital requirements from the beginning. It is also imperative to understand legal requirements, including compliances, certifications and processes, as the costs of not doing so could prove debilitating.
Currently, start-up expenditure in the workplace supplies industry can prove prohibitive. However, there are, dare I say it, service-led companies that can facilitate new businesses by providing everything to underpin those cost areas. Look for them, go to them and hopefully, you’re on track to cross the Rubicon.
While cash is a crucial factor, don’t forget to deliver a story designed to promote desire in your customers – and those with the potential to engage – to make them want to ask for more.
One final thought… you might want to consider waiting until after the Ides of March to get the venture going.