Tim Campbell’s 12 steps to running a business – part 2

Skills, market research and mentors are key to start-up success says Bright Ideas Trust founder Tim Campbell in the second part of his advice series...

Earlier this week former Apprentice winner Tim Campbell MBE shared the first three of his 12 tips to start and run a business. Here, he continues with tips four to six.

4. Entrepreneurialism – Have you got the qualities to succeed?

There’s no perfect set of characteristics to be successful in business. We each have a set of characteristics which makes us who we are – our inherent personal qualities along with the skills and experience developed and gained in life and work so far.

So ask yourself, ‘Do I have what it takes?’ This question will include some or all of the following personal qualities that are required day-to-day to run your own business:

  • Discipline and routine – Can you make a plan and then follow it through? Can you focus on achieving your goals even when there are other things to do that look interesting or appealing that might distract you from your aim?
  • Diligence – Do you like to apply yourself to tasks and see them through to the end result, even if the going gets tough and it’s easier to give up and move onto something else?
  • Trustworthiness and honesty – Do you care about delivering to other people what you promise them and are you reliable with your own and other people’s money?
  • Punctuality and reliability – Do you appreciate the importance of committing to other people that you will do things at a set time and then consistently meet this commitment? Do you dislike being late and do all you can to avoid it?
  • Organisation and efficiency – Do you like to get things organised? Do you routinely look for ways and get pleasure out of finding ways to do things better, more easily or for less cost?
  • Sociability – Do you like to get on with people? Can you find ways to engage with a range of different people?
  • Co-operation – Do you enjoy working with other people to complete tasks and get results in a collaborative and inclusive way?
  • Empathy – Do you try to see another person’s points of view and adapt your approach or goals in light of these so that you can both get something out of a situation?
  • Communication – Can you speak and write clearly and can you persuade others to agree with your way of thinking?
  • Adaptability and flexibility – Can you change the way you do things when situations or circumstances mean that this is necessary to achieve the desired result?
  • Leadership – Do you possess any leadership qualities? A definition of leadership is ‘getting someone else to follow you’, so can you get other people to believe in you and your ideas and to help support you through the challenges ahead?
  • Tenacity – Do you have the resolve and drive to get through tough situations and not give up when it does get tough?

This is a long list of attributes and it would be unusual for any single person to answer ‘yes’ to all of these. In order to ascertain whether business ownership might be right for you, you should be able to tick off a good few of them. If you’re not sure, you could always ask someone who’s close to you to give you an honest view!

5. Identify your audience

Once you have worked out what your business proposition is, you will need to clearly identify who your audience is.

Assuming you have a product or service that you’re confident there is demand for, you then need to think about who is going to buy it. It’s unlikely to be just one market segment. In fact it would be a little risky to have a product that only appeals to one group of people, unless it’s a luxury product or service or highly sought after. Identifying who your audience is and how to reach them is a critical part of your business planning.

One way of identifying your audience is to run market research. You will no doubt have a good idea of who you think will buy your product but a small research campaign is a great way to hone in on your key market. Street research is a valuable tool, but it’s likely you will only get a small group of people to engage with you and you will have to be very careful with how you tempt them to do so. Think of a friendly approach and assure your prospective customer that you will only take a few minutes of their time.

You can also conduct market research by using online surveys. There are a number of free survey tools you can use which are easy to set up, provided you have a database of prospective customers. Alternatively you can post a link on a social media site and tempt people to click through. Another good way of identifying your target audience is by looking at your competitors – the way they present their product or service often reflects who they are targeting.

If you find you have a very broad target audience, try thinking about segmenting or sub-dividing it. You may think your product appeals to young people between the ages of 18 to 30 years but think about what groups that may include: men, women, single people, young couples, young parents, older couples, different nationalities and cultures etc. You could probably get 30 or 40 different target groups.

Once you have an idea of your target audience, you will have to think how your business proposition appeals to each group and will you need to modify, adjust or adapt it to appeal to the different groups. It may well mean that in following this exercise you adjust your entire business idea, but then flexibility is a key quality you will need as a business owner!

6. Mentors – Finding the shoulder to cry on

Running your own business can seem daunting: the fear of failure, no-one else to help you make those big decisions. Then again, you may have wanted to start a business so that you didn’t have to answer to anyone else and were in control of your own destiny.

When starting your first business, it’s highly unlikely that you will know everything that is required. Wrongly believing that you know best and being even the slightest bit arrogant can be dangerous. The commercial world can be hard place and there is no shame in asking for help, advice and support.

There is always someone that can help you. Parents, friends, teachers or colleagues will be there for you but can only help you get so far, at some point you should connect with someone who has experience of running their own business to help you out – a business mentor. A search online will show you many organisations offering business mentors. There are a number of mentors who give their time voluntarily through charities, including my own Bright Ideas Trust, but there are also many commercial organisations that charge for mentoring services too.

A good business mentor is someone who has had experience of running their own business. There are very knowledgeable business people who have spent their careers in corporate organisations and they can give you lots of advice too on many processes, systems and markets and this is what you want to tap into.

Many mentors have good general experience but it’s likely that most will have a specific skill or area that they excel at. It could be sales, marketing, finance, production, logistics, buying, manufacturing or design. If you can identify a specific area that you feel may be your weakest, then getting the support of a specialist mentor can make the difference between success or failure.

There are lots of other places you can get help and advice too and in the UK we’re fortunate that there are many who like to help businesses succeed. You can try trade associations, Chambers of Commerce, charities, government bodies and local authorities. Never be afraid of approaching someone who is in a business similar to the one you are starting. You may well have to convince them you are not a direct competitor but what’s the worst thing they can do? Say ‘No’!

It’s important to take the step of finding support sooner rather than later in your journey. This will help you make fewer mistakes and better decisions in the early days and help you make the best use of your time and resources.

Tim Campbell MBE is founder of the Bright Ideas Trust. Read his first three steps to running a business here and watch this space for his next steps to help you start and run a successful business later in the month, 

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