Believe it or not, it’s a great time to start a business and especially in Singapore, which has been ranked second in the world for being the most ‘pro-business country’ after
New Zealand. With overnight sensations being created on YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram and Udemy, there are no limits on who can launch a successful endeavor. These ‘new-age’ jobs don’t even necessarily require you to have a degree, or gazillions in the bank to bring your ideas to market.
But what you do need is unshakeable desire, a robust plan and story to drive your project to the top of the leaderboards.
As a serial entrepreneur myself, I have made plenty of wise and poor decisions through my entrepreneurial journey. I’ve hustled repeatedly, building projects from the ground up and have now fine-tuned my launch strategy to 12 basic steps.
Here’s my step-by-step guide to help turn the vapor of your dreams into a successful business.
1. Get Some Clarity
Ask yourself: why? Why do you want to start your business? ‘Why?’ must be the question you ask yourself over and over again, day in and day out. This simple three-letter word is your guided aide to making good decisions.
You need to be clear on your ‘why’. Are you seeking extra money? Do you want more freedom? Are you looking to give back? Do you want notoriety in your industry? Are you uninspired by your current role?
Then move onto other soul-searching questions, which will help you carve your niche according to your passion and calling:
• What are your key skills?
• What ignites your passion?
• What lifestyle do you seek?
• Are you an expert in any specific area?
• How much money do you need to kick start your idea?
• How much money is available to you before sales are established?
• Are you ready for a non-linear rise to success? Long hours and grit included?
2. Define Your Business Idea
You may already know what business you wish to launch; if so skip to step number three, if not, you can ponder the below questions to help you refine an idea:
• What ‘pain-point’ are you looking to solve?
• Are there any apps or technology advancements coming soon which will change the business environment? Can you foresee a trend?
• Are your skills transferable to a new industry? You may see an opportunity within a differing industry where you can apply a fresh approach.
• Can you improve an existing concept or product? Can you add enhanced features, create more value for the customer, make it cheaper and/or bring it to market faster?
• Scour forums and comment sections on articles to see what people are critical about. Can you offer a solution to an identifiable problem?
• Research online courses. If courses are selling really well, clearly there is a demand for whatever it is teaching. Exhaust online research for ideas.
• Network with other entrepreneurs, they usually provide a wealth of information and advice.
3. Research the Market
Who is already providing the same or a similar service or product to your idea? If you can’t find any competitors, why not?
Research your potential competitors, suppliers, partners and other collaborators in your niche. Start conversations in forums and groups to get insights and advice. Don’t skip this step.
It would be heartbreaking to plough full steam ahead with your concept only to find out way down the line that it’s already been brought to market.
4. Pre-test Your Idea
Offer access to your product or service for free or a nominal fee with the purpose of getting feedback and refining your offering. By allowing people to interact with your project, you will have access to another ‘voice’ and ‘fresh eyes’. This is the fastest way to iron out the kinks, experiment, adjust and pivot prior to launching officially.
There’s a reason tech companies go into beta stage before unrolling their full project. Take a leaf from their book.
5. Get Your Legal Ducks in a Row
Even if Singapore is a fantastic place to launch your idea, you still need to get all the official admin in order. Here’s a basic checklist to cross off, but there may be extra permits, licenses or approvals you need depending on your sector:
• Business structure (Pte Ltd, LLP, Sole Proprietorship, Partnership, etc)
• Company name
• Business registration
• Permits and licenses
• Bank account
• Trademarks and/or copyrights
• Office space (if required)
• Domain names and social media addresses
6. Write a Robust Business Plan
Your business plan is a living and breathing document which should grow with your business as it progresses from idea to the finished offering. You should be making constant updates and amendments to it. If done correctly, it acts as a blueprint for your journey.
If it feels like a chore to write up your plan, you need to revisit step number one on this checklist and ask yourself why you want to start a business in the first place.
A business plan with 15-25 pages should suffice, unless you have a complex business or are pitching to investors. However, anything over 40 pages may indicate that you need to be more concise.
You can download many free business plan templates via online search engines.
7. Money Money Money
There are plenty of different ways to come up with resources to kick-start your idea. Here are a few ways to pump the gas into it:
Close your windows and doors, you are on lock-down. No more take-outs or fancy dinners, you are self-funding and therefore putting your social life on hold. The good part? You retain ownership and control.
Beg, steal, borrow from friends and family (OK, maybe not steal), but you can practice your pitch with people close to you and see who believes in your concept. This could provide useful feedback too.
Search for grants. Visit the websites of SME Portal, Business Grants, Enterprise Singapore and SAAA Singapore to see if you can access any funding for your idea. It can be drawn out process, but you will retain equity in your business.
Consider a crowd-funding campaign on the Kickstarter, Indiegogo or GoFundMe websites. These sites have been gaining in popularity and are responsible for bringing amazing projects to life. Perhaps your idea would be a good fit?
Apply for an incubator or accelerator program. These are usually well suited to tech-related projects, but other industries are also considered. Here, your project is nurtured by an experienced company who can provide guidance, advice, contacts and, sometimes, free resources such, as office space. There is a list of these providers at the Fintech website.
Search for Angel Investors. Not for profit associations, such as CRIB, can help to connect you with investors and to network with other entrepreneurs.
Look for equity partners or venture capital (VC) investors. VCs have strict criteria, so you may need to build up some traction before approaching them.
Negotiate pre-orders from any key clients in your niche. You have stronger bargaining power if there is a particular client who wants your product or service. They may even be prepared to negotiate in return for a stake in your company. You can get creative and look at franchising, early-license and white-label contracts.
Trade equity in your business in return for a particular service. For example, you offer copywriting or computer IT support to a company in return for free or heavily discounted office space. Becoming thrifty is the name of the game here.
Seek credit via a micro-loan or traditional bank loan. Check the interest and repayment criteria to make sure it’s feasible, though.
8. Time to Get Creating
After all the pre-work, it’s time to create. This can be an exciting phase of development, but requires patience. Recruit your mastermind team consisting of suppliers, vendors, merchants and manufacturers around you to create your project.
It’s really not viable to do everything yourself, unless your ambition is to be a hobbyist or one-man band with limited output, in which case this checklist may be over-kill for you.Freelancers can be hired for reasonable rates via websites such as People Per Hour, Upwork and 99 Designs.
9. Home from Home
Consider your image, brand, foot traffic, demographics, rent and rates, infrastructure and accessibility when securing office-space.
Co-working office space has exploded all over Singapore in the last few years, so this could be an option as you start out. Equally, you can research other start-ups and see if you can rent a desk or share an office with them.
10. Recruit Your Hit Squad
Delegation is key when it comes to scaling your business. You need to build up your hit squad, be it employing freelancers, admin, sales or marketing support.
Job listing site Indeed currently allows employers to post jobs free of charge. You can also sign up for a paid LinkedIn account under the one-month free premium account trial on offer which gives access to extended profile information and a certain number of ‘In-mails’ to other members you want to headhunt.
11. Making Your First Few Sales
Every company is born to sell. Developing sales strategies is a game of trial and error; however, there’s a whole host of information available on the web, which can point to appropriate sales channels and sales funnels.
You can even spy on your competitor’s social media strategy via Ahrefs, SEMrush and Hootsuite. Put your Sherlock Holmes hat on and decipher your competitor’s social media mentions at the Social Mention website.
The entire sales-cycle is an entire topic of its own. However, all sales methods will involve identifying your target market, creating ‘fans’ and growing your customer base into revenue-earning streams. You will test and adjust different elements of your marketing mix using online and offline methods.
It’s vital to stay plugged into Google analytics and other sales and analytical automation tools available to you.
12. From Seed to Tree
To scale your business effectively, you will need your marketing message to be continuously switched on. You can grow in multiple directions, through merger and acquisition, franchising, entering new markets, extending product ranges, segmenting your audience for a different offering and opening overseas offices.
Regardless of your approach, you will need to have a well-oiled marketing machine and already be proficient with your social media strategy, which holds true for most industries. You will have developed an email list and will be investing in your existing customers and clients, continuously adding value and leveraging your historical track record.
You will experience growing pains at some stage, where you perhaps turn work away, or don’t have enough manpower to deal with customer service. These are good problems to have, but ones which need a robust remedy to resolve, adjust, scale and grow.
One thing is for certain, opting to become an industrious entrepreneur means you are initially going to work more hours and days than in a regular 9-5 job. You will slog, you will curse, you will sweat blood and tears. You may even feel like giving up, which is when your initial desire for your project (see step number one) comes to the rescue.
Your business is like your child and it’s your initial desire and passion for your project which stops you from abandoning ship when things become tough. So, if you have done the necessary mindset work in the first place and have clarity crystalized, you will be able to pursue and endure the journey towards your life’s calling.
Dee Allan is the founder and director of 3C Synergy recruitment consultancy. She is a qualified copywriter and career coach. You can follow her blogs on www.bossbabelady.com