Starting a small business isn’t easy. With all the challenges facing businesses these days, it’s hard for beginning entrepreneurs to know how best to set themselves up for success. Knowing the proper first steps can mean the difference between thriving and failing. Here are six things your small business needs to succeed.
Effective public relations
Cultivating strong public relations is critical to building your reputation and defining your brand. Public relations differs from advertising in that advertising means paying directly for a media presence. Public relations is about gaining a presence through building relationships with the public. Good PR helps define your brand in the public mind. It’s about articulating your company’s vision, making contacts, and creating a lasting impression among consumers. Consider hiring a PR firm or consultant to handle your public relations needs.
Accurate market research
You’ll never communicate clearly to a public you don’t understand. Ergo, research and analytics are necessary at every step of a company’s evolution. One method is quantitative research. Qualitative research involves crunching demographic and web traffic numbers to gain a fact-based perspective on your target audience. Another path is qualitative research. Qualitative research means getting personal feedback from customers regarding their subjective impressions of the brand. The two modalities can and should be combined. A customer effort score, which measures the effort a customer needs to make to solve an issue, is a prime example of this and can aid in improving customer service.
New digital technologies
Don’t neglect the potential of technology. Even those entrepreneurs who strive to keep operations as simple as possible can benefit from new business technologies. Advancements in automation, especially robotic process automation (RPA), give business owners additional options for scaling efficiency. Customer relationship management (CRM) software can help organize digital marketing campaigns. Project management tools are useful since they can replace traditional meetings with virtual, mobile conference rooms. Shop around for technologies that could make your operations run smoothly and with less overhead.
It’s hard to overstate the magnitude of the threat posed to small businesses by cybercrime. A year ago, research done by IBM found that the average cost of a data breach had risen to $161 per record compromised. That’s enough to cripple a startup. Software should be updated with the latest security patches and antivirus software installed on all user endpoints. An increasingly popular solution to cybercrime is to take a zero-trust approach to security. “Zero-trust” in this context means insisting upon verified credentials from anyone accessing your network and keeping networks monitored continuously. The most effective security system isn’t a gadget: It’s knowledge of the threats.
Optimal insurance coverage
One of the most important considerations when starting a business is guarding it against liability. The U.S. government requires any business with employees to have unemployment, workers’ compensation, and disability insurance. These are only the beginning. The protections offered by the legal structure (see below) only protect against certain liabilities. General liability, product liability, and home-based business insurance are worthwhile options for filling in gaps in coverage.
Note that many states insist upon additional coverage beyond the federal requirements. Requirements from state to state, so research accordingly. For example, if you live in Washington, you might search “business insurance Washington State” to find the requirements and the options that fit your company’s unique needs.
The right legal structure
The legal structure of your company is critical to keeping yourself and the business protected from liability. This decision also impacts your ability to secure funding and how much you’ll pay in taxes. Sole proprietorships are the easiest to form, but the assets of the owner and company aren’t separate. A limited liability company (LLC) separates the two. All structures carry their benefits and drawbacks. As with insurance, regulations can vary by locale, so do plenty of research before making this critical choice.
Business success is never a given. It’s the product of careful planning and effective strategies. These six tips are just a starting point. Do your research and find the solutions that fit your company’s vision and values.