Starting a new business today can feel like a one- man band! Now that’s not to be dramatic but there’s so much to do and only 24 hours in a day.
We live in a time where from launch date businesses have had to adapt to new marketing channels (web and social), decide how to invest in and utilise new technologies, and compete on a global stage — all with little to no money.
One overlooked side effect is that no single founder can be an expert in everything. This was, perhaps, always true, but what’s that saying? ‘fake it til you make it’.
So what are they?
Regulation and compliance
Nothing ever stays the same. Markets and technologies shift, but so do rules and regulations. Having an accountant to take care of the companies legal obligations doesn’t absolve the CEO from knowing what those obligations are because at the end of the day the buck stops with you! Too many new business founders – that I have comes across over the years – do not take that time to at least be aware of the different things they are required to do. Such as, employer requirements, HMRC declarations, VAT and at what rate, insurance type and cover, data handling & protection and the list goes on.
In my experience it would be a good idea to have an understanding on what your compliance and regulation obligations are before you start trading, because as soon as you begin the clock starts ticking. At the end of the day we don’t know what we don’t know so depending on your industry, it can make much more sense to bring in a consultant rather than trying to understand the complexities yourself — and risk fines or worse for non-compliance.
Financial planning & management
So founder has big idea, starts business, becomes a CEO/Director and has more big ideas about what great things their new business should do. So we’ve established that many CEOs – but not all – are ideas people and some do not have the finance skills or understanding of cashflow, profit margins, reducing costs, budgeting etc. Many new startups do not require a full-time CFO but just having an accountant doesn’t help with financial planning or management.
Outsourcing for a financial consultant could be the best thing so that this important area of the business is taken care of.
Performance indicators provide a business with insights about how well it is performing. Most businesses I have come across don’t know how to utilise KPIs so that they inform decision-making.
A KPI has to be related to your business strategy. You need to understand what your 1 year, 3 year and 5 year goal is and work backwards. So for example if your a direct sales company your KPI is going to be sales-centric ‘no of new leads’, ‘no of new leads converted’, ‘no of sales’ etc. But in order to achieve the sales goals, KPI’s need to be set for the customer perspective, internal perspective and learning & growth perspective. They all need to inter-link and can’t be neglected.
Competencies and recruiting the right talent
Finding the right people and developing the right skills and competencies is key for sustainable growth. But this doesn’t just apply to your employees and acquiring new talent. What’s the saying? ‘Lead by example’, as the person that others will be following you should want to identify your weaknesses and constantly learn so you can continue to inspire.
Perhaps one of a businesses biggest ‘thorn in their side’ is the fact that customers – or just internet trolls – can voice any displeasure so much more publicly and loudly than ever before. Businesses have to constantly monitor and maintain their online reputations.
Social media, swiping right and a plethora of other things have given us a new world of instant gratification. With that customers expect instant customer service — and can take to the web to share their displeasure at less than satisfactory service just as quickly. Think about your customer service channels, support ticket system and response time.
As technologies change practically at the speed of light, it’s vital for companies to innovate or be left behind but many startups – not necessarily tech startups – are predicated on the fact that many of these technologies don’t even exist! Enter consultants… They can be vital for integrating new technologies, in particular mobile, app development, and cloud computing.
Data, data and more data
I read in 2013 that 90% of the world’s data was created in the previous two years. We’re now 5 years on so imagine how much is out there now. But managing, keeping safe and extracting insights from the ever-increasing amounts of data your company produces needs to be in the hands of a qualified professional who can help you get the most return from that data. Not to mention that your following regulations on how your securing and storing that data.
Welcome change with open arms
We are living in an era of constant change for the foreseeable future: change is the new normal. Preparing for and embracing that change or knowing when to stay the course is a skill that can take time to hone. Now not everything new is better or even constant which is why we have trends. Consultants can help CEOs determine when to embrace change and when to stay the course. No business wants to be late in the game or run the risk of becoming obsolete.
Sustained growth and new markets
There are many things that affect the growth of a business. Some are external, while others are internal and different companies will face different issues. But there is one constant through all of this– flexibility is key and all businesses need to have an lean approach, ready to respond to changes in the industry and environment.
This is evident within every industry. Every industry has its giants – the big international corporation that takes a big bite out of the market such as Amazon or Google. Therefore small businesses need to constantly fight to compete by breaking into a new market, innovating their tech and investing in new and improved systems to name a few.
Now by no means is it easy for businesses to break into new markets – at home or abroad – and there’s no doubt that Brexit will make it even more difficult for those looking for international growth. It involves implementing new processes and working out how the new service should be integrated into the work the business currently does.
If you take nothing else from this post than take these three things:
1. strive to constantly learn and improve as a business leader
2. strengthen your network and
3. don’t be afraid to consult for help before it’s too late!