Opening a new business: How to avoid the pitfalls

A new year brings new opportunities and for many businesses the attention turns to taking the next step or making a fresh start with a new business idea. It may be a necessary next step for a business to bring its popular products to a new area or for an entrepreneur to take on an entirely new risk. In the currently challenging economic environment, especially within the retail sector, it’s now more important than ever to plan effectively to increase your chances of achieving business success.

How do I start?

A key part of starting any new business or growing an existing business is the business plan. This will guide all the decisions for setting up the business, how it will run and the aims for its future. Bringing a long sought-after idea to fruition is an exciting time for any business owner, but a concrete plan is essential to avoid your ideas going off track and to ensure there is a structured approach. 

How to plan effectively

Research is an important part of forming an initial plan and will allow a better understanding of the market the business will operate within, the competitors it will be up against, the products planned to be sold and the customer they will be sold to. Taking the time to assess the feasibility, suitability and possible pitfalls will be crucial in avoiding any obstacles that could affect the success of your business later down the line.

A good business plan outlines what the business is and what it hopes to achieve in meticulous detail. How the business will be funded, the risks involved, and a realistic timeframe should also be included to organise what resources will be needed, where and when.

Elements to consider

It’s important to take the time to consider as many possible aspects about the new business as possible. First and foremost, who is the target market for the product or service? The target customer forms the foundations of nearly all business decisions, giving it a purpose and overall profitability.

Will the business sell through a bricks and mortar store, online or both? The needs of the target customer and their spending habits will determine this, but also how best to showcase the product or service and what is achievable in terms of finances and resources.

Who are the main competitors? These will be businesses that have built a strong reputation for selling the same or a similar product or service. Discovering the reason for their success and where a new business can better them is key.

Is the business scalable? The business idea must have room to grow to ensure it is sustainable in the long-term. Scalable business elements are those that can be built upon. In the case of a restaurant this includes the locations it occupies, the menu offered and the skills base of its staff. Including a long-term plan with specific milestones for the business is an important aspect of planning for success. 

Challenges to tackle

Building an effective team is an integral part of any new business and finding employees with the right experience who share your business values is a time-consuming process. It’s useful to decide what aspects of an employee are most important to the business and to prioritise these as part of the hiring process. 

A lack of experience is a common problem for those wanting to start a business, especially when it comes to the legal and administrative tasks. Taking advantage of free online tools, government-funded business advice schemes and networking events is hugely beneficial in finding the right people and the right knowledge to help.

Having a unique selling point is key to standing out from the crowd and increasing the chances of profitability. However, developing a unique idea is easier said than done! Inspiration can be found by delving deep into understanding the potential customer and what encourages them to purchase. From joining a local Facebook group to speaking to and trying out competitors, the more work that is put in, the more it shows in how enlightened the business is.

Embarking on a new venture can be an amazing opportunity for a business to grow or to get a first foot on the ladder. By approaching a new idea with a concrete plan, a business is much more likely to avoid the common pitfalls, set up successfully and continue to thrive.

By Adrian Tweedale, owner of The Elite Fish & Chip Company

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