1. Pinpoint the right market
Ideally, you should introduce your products or services to a young and fast-growing market. In more mature sectors, you will need a competitive advantage in order to distinguish yourself, i.e. product or service innovation, great customer service, or the right price point.
That means you should use a specialized research company to help you first gather as much information as you can to define your potential market, such as your competitors’ strengths and weaknesses and the development time required to get your product off the ground. Keep in mind that during this time, you will not be making any sales.
2. Put the right people on your side
People on your management team should have skills that complement one another. The best leaders ensure that they recruit the top experts for each area of operations. You should not be afraid to hire people who have, in their respective fields, more expertise than you do.
You should also look at your outside resources as a part of your team. From a practical point of view, you will need technicians, sales people and managers, a lawyer, an accounting firm, as well as marketing or public relations help.
If you don’t have the resources to set up a board of directors, you can also opt for a strategy committee and invite an expert to act as a sounding board for your business decisions. In advanced technology, there are more and more incubators that offer a wide range of assistance for increasing your chances of success.
In the end, the true test is the market. To reach customers quickly and efficiently, you should think about hiring marketing specialists at the outset. Marketing, while often neglected, is critical to the success of any business.
3. Think about the road ahead
Avoid fire-fighting and losing sight of your long-term objectives. Make a list of all the factors you have to consider in the immediate and medium term, especially if you foresee rapid growth. To help you manage that growth, you need to examine all available options, such as purchasing or leasing premises, furniture and equipment. You might also consider outsourcing different operations, such as human resources, rather than handling it internally.
Down the road, you will have to consider growth factors, such as energy and resources, raw materials, salaries, financing and technological needs. If you have carefully assessed your growth potential, it’s acceptable to think big. For example, if you are positioned in a niche market, you may not be profitable unless you start exporting. To get a better idea of your exporting potential, check with national, provincial, and regional export support services such as those offered by Canadian trade commissions in other countries.
4. Get your financing in shape
Start-ups are often financed by the savings of their founders (as well as the savings of families and friends). In many cases, it may be necessary to look for outside capital such as Angels (private investors), venture capital funds, assistance funds, or social economy funding agencies.
Be sure you do your homework and know what investors expect from you. A businessperson who invests in companies once said, “If you knock on a door prematurely, you run the risk of it being closed to you later, particularly at the time when you are really ready to enter it.”