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Starting Your Business
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Practical Startup Hints To Help You Succeed.

In my more than thirty years experience as a Chartered Accountant, I have met many successful business people who have taught me much and for that I am grateful. Learning from smart people is a perk of what I do.

One important thing I have learned is that entrepreneurship is as much a process as it is a skill as it is an attitude some people are born with. And all kinds of people from all kinds of ethnic communities, from both genders, and of all ages have successfully started and grown businesses.

As it is all an individual circumstance for the business owner, I have observed that the following resources are critical to operating a good business.

First of all, you need one or more mentors and a good support network. Your network provides information, influence, and introductions to information and people and organizations you need. Your network must include the people\skills\knowledge you need to develop and achieve your goals.

Second, you need a practical understanding of the day to day operations and activities in your industry and market. You need to know about commonly used and available technologies, methods and processes. How are products normally distributed? What are your critical sources of resources and of raw materials? How will you do what to ensure certain critical events are brought about?

Third, you need to have a core set of business skills, and an understanding of strategies commonly used in business. You need communication skills, business acumen, financial skills, analytical skills, time management skills, organizing skills, leadership skills, and a host of other business and "people" skills.

Four, you need the support of your family.

Five, you need to be healthy.

That's it. The big five.

So lets say you have the basics. Now what?

Focus On The Value You Create For Your Customer
Peter Drucker said it simply and succinctly. The only purpose of a business is to server their customer.

In order to understand what your customer values, you have to find out who they are and where they are and ask them.

Generally speaking, value comes from satisfying needs such as performing tasks, providing customization, bringing something new, conferring brand image or status, reducing risk, providing convenience, and where no one really wants to compete, doing something for less money.

Test your assumptions about value by getting your product or service into their hands and ask them. Only through direct validation will you be able to make the cash register ring enough to times. Changing approaches could make that an  interesting to maybe rewarding number of times. 

Focus On A Particular Market Niche
The ideal situation is to find a segment of the market you can own. It means being widely recognized as being the "Go To" for whatever it is you do that makes you stand out as sufficiently different with a reputation and image for doing the "Go To" well. The other side of this coin is being all things to all people, which is simply impossible.

Once you build a platform business on a niche, you can actually grow your business out into something related that you do that you also do well and add these products and services for your existing customers and attract new ones to your "Go To Proposition". Either way, you need a profitable base from which to start.

Focus On Key Activities, Resources and Alliances
Quoting Peter Drucker once again, a business looks like what it does.

This means your key activities, resources and alliances are organized and deployed so you can serve your customer. Simply look around and you'll see what he meant. A grocery store looks like a grocery store from the outside and on the inside, sells what a grocery store sells, in engaged in grocery store activities, is supplied by food distributors, and may compete on prices, specials, freshness, range of items etc. You have large general grocers and smaller, niche focused butchers, cheese "shoppes" and international and cultural food stores.

Focusing on the key ones, those core to your mission, and keeping things simple are important here because this brings clarity that can be taught, duplicated, scaled etc.

Focus On Smart Execution
Once you have a practical plan and developed your strategy, you have to get down to the actual organization of your business so it can deliver on its raison d'etre and routinely provide the best product or provide the best service you can. This focus on customer satisfaction should be a passion.

Organization is an art so there are no hard and fast rules to do this effectively except use common sense. Keep your objective in mind and understand there are many different combinations and options for achieving your necessary tasks. Develop a good understanding of your available options and choose the one that best meets your requirements now and for the foreseeable future. That part will be gut feel.

The most important task is to surround yourself with the best people you can. Your own task is to identify and concentrate on what you're best at, and find ways to hire skills you do not have and to delegate out tasks. People who fit into your work culture ( the set of shared values towards customers, quality, work habits, character etc) are ideal

Communicate your instructions and expectations to those responsible for respective parts of the plan and and provide them with the necessary resources to make it happen. Concentrate on quality, service and customer satisfaction. Monitor the progress of your people and plans and make whatever adjustments you have to to ensure your goals are realized.

In the longer term, invest in productivity and process innovation, strive to implement your industry's best practices, and continue to innovate and learn. Improve your methods, materials, technologies, skills, facilities etc.

Of course all of what you just read is just an outline and in a way meaningless. Only when you start to put this outline and its ideas and concepts into action and "experience and live it" will it become significant and unique to you.

Still, this is the way the world, and the world of business works. And don't worry about making mistakes. Everyone does, and no plan ever survives contact with the customer. The important part is to learn from your mistakes and be flexible enough to respond to what challenges you every day and solve whatever problems come up.

This flexibility comes from having strong people around you, a healthy bank balance (meaning cash management is key), and understanding the risks you face in business.

And in the end, there is no sustainable business without quality, hard work and a satisfied customer.

© 2016 John B Voorpostel

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