Business 101 - Our guide to business

The process of establishing, cultivating and growing a new business requires determination, skill and commitment. Although big brands may make success look seamless and easy, in truth, the considered cultivation and refining of a forward-thinking business plan which synchronises and optimises each and all working components is a complex undertaking.

From sales, marketing and customer service to accounting and practical business processes, a sound understanding of the drivers of economic conditions, market trends, and the legalities of establishing a new business are essential. In addition, identifying a unique selling point that differentiates a product or service from its competitors is critical in attracting popularity and generating sales. There are numerous apps and tools which can help streamline the process and help to make a freshly launched brand successful. Researching and trialling new software ahead of an official launch will help businesses fine-tune their processes. However, reading the how-to's and listening to the advice of seasoned experts about starting up a business is the perfect place to begin your new brand journey.

So settle in, take notes and learn the finer detail of how to create and establish a blossoming new business.

Much like an orchestra, a successful company requires masterful composition. To synchronise the working parts of a business, appreciation of the whole being greater than the sum of its parts is key. Each department; sales, marketing, product development, customer service, accounting and other business processes should be invested in with equal importance and inter-communication between each of these elements of the business should be open and unconstrained. Scheduling opportunities for cross-fertilisation of ideas and the resolution of issues that arise during the course of doing business can be a progressive force that helps make your business successful. Also, encouraging conversations around development as a wider concept that goes beyond an employees' assigned role is positive and progressive. To achieve this, strategising the long term objectives and goals required to achieve profit and growth involving staff at all levels should be facilitated on a regular basis. Alongside this, planning across each department's goals and outputs should be assigned a high priority. Here's how this can be achieved:

The Sales Team

Responsible for meeting a company's sales goals, this function generally includes sales representatives, sales specialists, and customer service representatives. Focussing on sales, customer acquisition, customer retainment and business growth, a brands size and needs should dictate the size of its sales force. Pre-determining a businesses values, sales cycles and sales promotion plans should be the first step in establishing what your startup's modus operandi should be. For example, will you make sales utilising telecommunications or adopt a more personal approach to sales, and which market segment do you wish to predominantly focus on? Once such business values have been determined, recruit a sales manager who will take full responsibility for embodying and managing the sales plan, or if you already have such an individual in the post, construct a personal development plan that will ensure they have the appropriate skills to achieve this. This employee will hire, train and lead other sales team members and ensure that an effective sales strategy and culture develops.

Such a critical role comes with great responsibility and with the potential for shaping and moulding features of a brand's presence which will lead to its ultimate success. The opportunity to show tenacity and be creative in a role such as this is essential, so select an individual who displays energy, optimism and drive. A good salesperson will tirelessly and innovatively promote your product or brand.

Once your sales department is up and running, ensure progress is sustained through the continuous review of the sales team’s performance and achievement of targets. By analysing key performance indicators (KPIs) incorporated in your customer relationship management tool (CRM), from average sales revenue per salesperson to individual salesperson statistics, a brand's strengths and weaknesses can be better understood.

Recommended apps: Hubspot Sales Hub, Zendesk Calendly, Salesflare

Marketing Team

The critical qualifying element of a new business plan is the development of a marketing strategy. Identifying a brand's mission statement that will guide the content of its business plan, should be based on the target buyer’s fundamental persona. Other key elements of the marketing strategy will include an analysis of the market segment your brand is targeting, your principal competitors and budgeting for success; A SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) will point the way to the basis of a strong marketing strategy to guide the work of the marketing team and your brand as a whole. From social media management, content marketing, product launches to coordinating and producing all materials representing a company, the marketing team is responsible for communicating a brand's values and superiority in an organic, relatable fashion.

A comprehensive understanding of your product or service, identification of potential leads, loyal clients, investors, and the wider community is essential in launching and managing an effective and efficient marketing strategy. The marketing team should build creative assets which are inherently on brand, alongside key messaging components conveying a business's personality. Long term and short term campaigns, underpinned by SEO strategy and market research, should outline strategies for accomplishing quarterly goals.

Recommended apps: Buffer, Slack, HootsuiteCanva, HubSpot Marketing

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Customer service

Commonly overlooked, customer service is the backbone supporting companies. Helping businesses uphold their standards, managing client expectations, concerns and complaints, quality customer service adds integrity and offers the space for support and negotiation when selling a product or service. By establishing a strong customer service strategy, clients feel heard and able to voice their opinions and frustrations whilst collaboratively working towards a resolution that leaves your brand image, reputation, credibility, and customer satisfaction score intact. Ensure you offer multiple channels of communication with clients. Many people find phone conversations too lengthy and chatbots too two dimensional; In truth, email is the most reliable form of contact. 40% of customers now prefer self-help information over human contact, so be sure to include a product FAQ page, customised blog posts and customer forums geared towards establishing fast fixes for frequently arising issues. A Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system allows your team to track customer interactions, including communications, questions, and complaint resolution status. If this has not been established, prioritise this element of your customer service strategy.

When briefing your customer service team, ensure they appreciate the importance of taking the time to listen to the detail of your client's issues actively. Always practice empathy and compassion, then clearly communicate all relative and useful information. Most importantly, clear and strong leadership is of great importance when managing a customer service team. Each day your team will be front and centre of disgruntled client complaints; Remaining positive and compassionate in the face of unrelenting negativity from that particularly challenging customer is not always easy!

Recommended apps:  Dialpad, Thematic, InMoment, HubSpot Service Hub

Accounting

Good financial accounting is an aspect of business that many startups fail to recognise the importance of. Consequently, a business can fail to assess its profits or losses accurately and possibly not always take advantage of tax allowances it is entitled to or, on the other hand, the company may fail to pay the taxes that are due, thereby incurring a fine. Companies can even be struck off the Companies House register for neglecting to file accounts and keep records accurately. Insight into financials isn't rocket science, but it is essential that you have staff or enlist an agency with the requisite skills to manage your accounts effectively; But although its important to get the right support, it is essential that you yourself understand the current and future financial health of your business through the support you enlist. You may decide that you have the requisite skills to manage your own accounts or at least some elements of financial accounting yourself. But do be realistic about this; If you decide to go down this path, there are so many apps along with access to expert advice available to do this. Its important that you’re honest with yourself about taking on this responsibility. It can be very time consuming and for an entrepreneur just starting out, you’ll have your hands full just managing the business itself.

First and foremost, register your business with HMRC or your company with Companies House, then select the best business bank account to meet your needs and set up a structured financial record-keeping system which you manage effectively on a routine basis. Ensure cash flow is managed properly, with income and expenditure synchronised. Never overspend unnecessarily when large invoices come in and always pay bills on time. Understand your compliance responsibilities and categorise income under the assigned headings you have established. Adopt a VAT scheme suitable for your business and expenditure to provide business insight. Set realistic and achievable goals and then forward plan with budgets and continually re-evaluate as the industry matures. Understand your customers spending habits through compiling accounting data. Finally, keep organised and on top of the generation of invoices for the work you have completed and keep abreast of your RTI responsibilities.

Recommended apps: QuickBooks, FreshBooks, Xero, Zoho Books

Be disruptive

The ultimate 2021 trend, (think Netflix and Zoom) disruptive innovation offers clients fresh angles on traditional products and services. Disruptive innovation strategies are making sophisticated products and services accessible and more affordable to a broader market. The aim of disruptive technology is to make a product or service less expensive and more convenient than the products offered by the more constrained, more mature companies present on the market. Providing breaking opportunities for clients through cutting-edge technology, design and services, and offering disruptive techniques through USP's, the benefits simultaneously offered to the user as well as the brand are many. Through the innovation of process and structural improvements, introducing new ideas and products to the markets will boost the economy and spark the creativity of your team and can improve job satisfaction. Orchestrating innovation-driven growth must be demonstrated by game-changing products, services or ideas that inherently change how we see the world and interact with a product or this service. If a brand's disruptive innovation is not robust and progressive, this leaves the space for another business to swoop in and steal your spot.

Product development

New product development (NPD) refers to the innovation process of transforming and progressing a new product pitch into a market-ready product. In truth, market research, referring categorically to the seven stages from ideation, research, planning, prototyping, sourcing, costing, and commercialisation, is the most critical and practical stage for realising success. Investing time in understanding and appreciating market position, competition, and economic conditions is as vital as just investing money in a new product. The more research that is conducted, the more information you will be in command of to understand how success can be achieved. A products lifecycle stages from development, introduction, growth, maturity and decline, identifying where products or services are in their lifecycle will have a direct impact on your profit margins and revenue.

Recommended apps: Pinpoint, ProductPlan, Tailor, TestFlight

Time to grow your business