As a budding entrepreneur, you have likely heard the less-than-hopeful phrase, “starving startup,” or dismal statistics about the low odds of a business surviving its first year. Luckily, the facts paint a more positive picture. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics, there has been an upward trend in the birth of establishments and a corresponding downward trend in establishment deaths. In fact, data show that about 75 percent of businesses today survive their first year. With the right steps, you too can survive your first 12 months and hopefully thrive for years to come.
Create a Foolproof Business Plan
A startup has to have a business plan before it can make any real progress. Many entrepreneurs do not include the proper information in their plans, leading to trouble down the road. Your business plan should project three to five years into the future and be as detailed and accurate as possible. It should include:
- An executive summary.
- Company description.
- Market and industry analyses.
- Organization and management structure.
- Description of your product or service.
- Marketing plans.
- Sales strategy.
- Funding request, if applicable.
- Financial projections.
For an even better chance of receiving the backing and continued support you need, learn how to make your plan stand out. Separating yourself from the competition can help you make an impression on potential investors and create business relationships that will carry you through times when revenue is thin.
Make Customer Service Your No.1 Priority
A startup won’t last a full year without superb customer service in the modern business world. Customers are the lifeblood of any business, and securing a loyal customer base isn’t easy. Prioritizing consumer satisfaction above making a profit or a name for yourself is the only way you’ll maintain an edge over your rivals. Offer better customer service, loyalty programs, rewards, and incentives than your competition does.
Be there for your customers as much as possible, hiring a strong customer service staff and coming up with solutions for common complaints. Your customers will return the favor, recommending your company to friends and family. Word of mouth advertising is one of the most effective ways to spread brand awareness and cultivate a league of loyal followers. Customer service is an investment that will give you returns for the lifetime of your company.
Keep Content in the Spotlight
Content marketing is a major facilitator of brand success in a company’s first year. A company’s content sets the tone for what the brand does, what its mission is, and what it has to offer consumers. Content, when done correctly, shows that a business can provide relevant and engaging information. Good content sets your brand apart and marks you as a thought leader in your industry. High-quality, well-developed website content, blog posts, and guest articles can boost your reputation as a respectable brand in your field. It builds authority, increases conversion rates, encourages social sharing, and works toward long-term success.
Measure Your Progress
Operating your business blindly, with no understanding of where you stand or how you’re doing, is a recipe for disaster. You have to record your company’s metrics regularly and compare them to your business goals to see how you are performing. Measuring your successes or failures is the only way to make adjustments and stay on track. Adapt to changes in the business atmosphere to ensure you’re always wisely spending your time and money. During your first year, metrics are especially telling. Your measurements can tell you whether you’re on track to become profitable, even if you’re still in the red by the end of the first 12 months.\
Your first year in business can be full of insecurities, difficult decisions, and personal stress. However, it can also be the most rewarding year of your career. With the right plans and preparations, your small business can flourish in 2017 and for years to come.