During one of our many editorial meetings (usually held in coffee shops, pubs, amusement arcades, bus-shelters, anywhere that’s out of the office and likely to prevent us from doing the hard work of actually writing editorial), we came up with the fun idea of listing the many, many steps to start-up.
We decided to list 168 steps (for want of a better random number). Of course, coming up with 168 steps is even harder than writing them, so we called on our trusty readers via the Anthill blog, in what has since been described as an experiment in Magazine 2.0 (reader-generated print content).
The good news is that the response exceeded our expectations. (Great! We’ll never have to write editorial copy again!) The bad news is that the volume of suggestions submitted also exceeded the limitations of a print magazine. In fact, the suggestions collected over the first week, if printed, would fill out 58 pages of standard A4 copy paper. As a 96-page magazine, we were given a decision to make: Fill Anthill Magazine with reader copy or turn the column into a series. Fortunately, we’ve decided to do both.
Over the next few months, readers can expect to see more and more reader input in Anthill Magazine and the continuation of this article, which we’ve craftily edited into themes. This first edition, it’s all about evaluating that great idea and your intentions (a most suitable place to start).
Know your offer. People are easily bored, easily confused, and easily distracted from whatever it is you’re trying to sell them. Know what it is you have to offer people, how it will make their life better and why you’re the best one to do it all for them. Get that right and they’ll listen. Harry Potter started life on a paper napkin. If you can’t manage to get your idea down on one as well, you’re not trying hard enough.
Grant Smith, www.hillandknowlton.com.au
Choose the right market. If you have to choose between great team, great product and great market, choose the market. The first two are much easier to change. Look for large, growing, under-serviced markets that will allow you to build at least a $10 million company off the back of them.
Scott Handsaker, www.trickytix.com.au
Go for SMART money. When raising seed or start-up capital, look for investors who have learnt the lessons in your space before and can open doors for you. The last thing you want is Bill and Betty BBQ getting skittish when you’re strategic plan needs to change along the way.
Matt Kesby, www.ployme.com.au
Make sure your product or service has a clear point of difference in the market. There is no point being the same as your competitors – why would a customer switch to someone that offers exactly the same thing as their current provider? Be different and better in a way that matters.
Amantha Imber, www.inventium.com.au
Solve a problem! Any Problem! Become your customers “Problem solver”. Simple solutions to simple problems have an obvious benefit to customers. Ask your customers, “What’s important to you?” not what’s MOST important, because that prompts ranking and most customers will get it wrong!
John Lloyd, www.Swapace.com
Stand Out. Make sure you stand out from the competition. Identify and promote your unique selling points. If you are entering an established market and have something new to offer, ensure you promote it. You can have the best products or processes but unless you tell people what they are, they will never know.
Adrian Risely, http://hiddendoor.com.au
Pick something that is going to be in demand in the future, preferably delivered digitally and plan how you will be there at that point in time, ready to sell. Make sure that you do the research first and build a sticky brand to own the category. And don’t skimp on the branding.
Luke Faccini, http://blog.thesponge.com.au
Know your outcome. What do you want to achieve? Are you trying to change the world? Make a million dollars? Or just make some cash on the side? If you don’t have a clear vision for where you are heading, how will you know when you get there?
Leela Cosgrove, www.leelacosgrove.com
Plan your exit before you enter! Most business owners go into business not only to earn an income, but (perhaps more importantly) to build the value of the business and sell it. In fact, more than half of all small business owners in Australia plan to use their business as the primary source of funding for their retirement. For many owners, the value locked-up within their business is their second largest asset behind the family home, and in some cases it is even more valuable than the family home. Yet while most people will happily invest time, effort and money planning for the sale of their home, they don’t do the same with their business.
Craig West, www.enjoyit.net.au
Build your business from day one with the intention of selling it. Selling a business normally involves preparing and providing a massive amount of critical information about your business to a potential acquirer. Having an exit strategy from day one and keeping accurate and detailed records and plans, being well organised and ensuring you constantly review all areas (financial, commercial, legal, technical) of your business will not only put you in a good position when raising capital or selling your business, it will help you build a much stronger business.
Philip Druce, www.oztion.com.au
Providing a good product and/or service comes down to what the customer wants, not what you think they want. When developing your product/service, make sure you get as much feedback from potential and existing customers as possible. If you get caught up in your own hype of what you think is good, you will end up trying to sell something that no one really wants. When you have a product that customers want, selling it will become easy (and possible!).
Ryan Djurovich, www.rypemedia.com.au
Know the point of no return. What are you prepared to do to succeed? This is not a solitary decision – work it out with your family, business partners and advisers. It is too late when you get to ‘the point of no return’ to decide you are willing to risk your house but your wife, or your business partners are not. Set this point in a calm and rational manner. Avoid the emotion of the moment.
Rohan Ogier, www.carboncopy.com.au
Focus on the Key Benefit. Customers only buy benefits. Focus on the key benefit. Match it to customers’ ‘needs and wants’. Benefits can be either real or perceived. Remember cigarettes were sold on the key benefit that they were good for you – more friends, fun, wealth and self-esteem. If the customer can’t see the benefit, they won’t buy!
John Lloyd, www.swapace.com
Pursue customers, not investors. I have done the whole “pursue investment as my main role” thing for a short while, and it is a waste of your passion and drive. Get customers. If you are starting out with no product to sell them yet, that’s no excuse. Get customers anyway, and get them to pay for the build. In the valuation game, it’s all about relative scarcity, and power. If you are a lucrative start-up, you are scarce, and more valuable.
Liesl Capper, www.mycybertwin.com