Once you’ve successfully launched your business, you can enter phase four of the entrepreneurial process – operating and monitoring.
During the start-up phase you should have identified and addressed any areas of immediate concern, and you now need to monitor your operations for any ongoing issues that affect the overall running – and profitability – of your business.
So while it’s perfectly possible that, at this point, you may well be overwhelmed with delivering day to day operations, it’s important to keep an eye on the wider picture.
To be a successful entrepreneur you don’t have to get involved in all the practicalities yourself, but you do need to know your business inside out.
So if your business was your chosen specialist subject on Mastermind, would you know all the answers? Or would the programme’s theme music – titled ‘Approaching Menace’ – be perfectly named for you?
Keep An Eye On Everything
You may or may not be involved in the minutiae of your business’s day to day running, but you do need to have an in depth knowledge of how everything is working at this stage. If you don’t, when a problem occurs you won’t know how to solve it as you won’t understand its root cause.
If you have a team in place, ensure you have regular meetings – these could be either formal or informal but hopefully both – to track progress and check on any ‘niggles’ that may become problems if not picked up on early.
Trusting your team doesn’t mean just leaving them to it; it means listening to their worries, sharing and celebrating their successes and asking for their opinion on how things are going and where anything could be changed to make their lives easier or improve the business’s systems, processes or performance.
Make sure you keep in regular contact with your suppliers, manufacturers, distributors and retailers so you don’t get blindsided by any unexpected problems, and ensure your staff have regular supervision and appraisals.
Nothing should be below your attention at this point.
Listen To Your Customers
Encourage feedback from your customers through online surveys or face to face conversations to see whether your product or service is meeting their needs and if they have any ideas for new developments or improvements.
Take any complaints seriously, whether they relate to the product or service you’re selling or to how you treat your customers. It’s important to respond in a positive way but also to ensure you learn lessons and implement any changes needed as soon as possible. A fledgling company will have enough challenges to deal with, without mismanaging an issue that has the potential to impact seriously on its reputation.
Consider sharing customer comments at team and management meetings so that everyone can be aware of how things are going and input any ideas they may have for how things could be done better.
Don't Drop The Market Research
In phase one – investigation and research – you should have invested some time and possibly money in market research. This isn’t something you should drop now – once your business is up and running, it’s still beneficial to carry out or commission some more formal research on how the brand is being viewed and responded to, whether you have the place in the market you were expecting, and whether your product or service is being well received.
Keep Up With Your Public Relations
In phase three – start-up – you will have considered what social media and traditional media channels were suitable for promoting your business. You may even have appointed a public relations or marketing agency or team member to support you.
Public relations need to be ongoing – you can’t launch then simply go quiet and expect the word to spread on its own. You should have had a marketing plan in place before you launched, but be flexible enough to look at what’s working and what isn’t and optimise the use of those channels which seem to be working well.
Monitor your social media feedback and the ‘chat’ about you so that you can address any negatives quickly, and shout about any positives.
Track Your Forecasts And Bottom Line
Your forecasts were designed to help you identify any times when cash may run short, so it’s important to track where you are and be ready to act if necessary. Keep a weekly track of whether your revenue is coming in as expected, and whether your costs are also at the level you predicted. If you find any deviations you’ll need to revisit your forecasting.
Identifying anywhere that the business is not delivering as expected means you can take steps to address ‘issues’ before they become ‘problems’. Matching your performance against the forecast is essential in managing your business successfully.
Also make sure your business bank account is looking as it should, and that you have funds in place at the right time for expected outgoings such as your tax bill, as well as a contingency for any unexpected expenses.
Try Not To Go 'Off Piste'
Running a new business can be an exciting time, but make sure any new ideas you have are planned for properly before you decide to implement them. Your original business plan was developed for a reason – to see you and your business safely through its infancy. If you want to expand or diversify early on, make sure an equal amount of planning goes into the new ideas as was invested in the initial concept.
Try to look at your business through the eyes of an outside expert. Would they be impressed with what they saw? If you identified a need for investment at this stage, would your books instil the confidence needed in a potential funder?
Why not dim the lights, sit back in a big black leather chair and ask yourself some difficult questions – then, when you’re ready, move on to phase five of entrepreneurship: problem and challenge resolution.