Yekemi Otaru: 50 tips from 50 days since starting a business

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The first time I sold something for profit, I was eight years old. I knitted my first jumper and it was too small for me. So I knocked on the doors in my neighbourhood to offer it for sale. I think it was at the fifth house that I sold it. The buyer bought it for his daughter who was a couple of years younger than me. Those were the days… I got a thrill. And it felt easy and natural.

Starting YO! Marketing is different. It has required a lot of research, preparation and a lot to decision-making. While it has been a natural career progression from me, I’m learning that it’s not easy. But everyday, the thrill grows…

Here are 50 tips I’ve gathered in the 50 days since starting a business full-time in Scotland:

You have an idea

1. Contact your local business support office e.g Business Gateway, Scottish Enterprise, Elevator UK
2. Get a business mentor
3. Leverage your professional network
4. Write a business plan (detailed for first year, and indicative for up to 5 years)
5. Quickly spot what you can’t do then give it away
6. Practice explaining what you do in detail and in short, especially if you intend to pitch for funding
7. Approach every prospect as a chance to test your idea or solution, whether or not it ends up in a sale
8. Start with one idea and build on it when starting a business
9. Research your competitors and be clear about why you are different
10. Consider a part-time gig to fund your business at the start
11. Always leave well with previous employers. They could be one of your very first clients

Communicate your idea

12. Get your 30 secs, 2 mins and 10 mins pitches crafted early on
13. Be clear about what your value proposition is for your target audience
14. Use trademarks, copyright and/or Intellectual Property to protect your ideas where possible
15. Don’t be afraid to ask associates and/or new hires to sign an NDA
16. Google yourself, would you do business with this person? If not, fix your online profile
17. Test your ideas through blog posts and articles – invite feedback
18. Write a book that documents your idea. It’s one of the best ways to copyright your solution to the market
19. Get a website – WordPress, Wix and SquareSpace are great to start with
20. Get business cards. Have them on you all the time and don’t be shy to give them away

Make your idea visible

21. Your business’ sales cycle could be three months or more depending on your target market, product or service
22. Consider office space – Will you work from home? For how long? Will it matter to your customer base?
23. When securing office space, consider where your customer are. Location is key for easy commute to meet people
24. Co-working spaces are a God-send. There are several e.g. Regus, i2, Elevator UK, depending on location and your needs. This might be a better option to begin with, then gradually ease into a full blown office accommodation when you feel ready
25. Consider using a PR firm

Build an audience

26. Grow your Twitter following
27. Use Twitter polls as a mini market research tool
28. Use Twitter and LinkedIn ads to elevate your key messages and drive traffic to your website
29. Be clear about your goals in your first year, including revenue, number of target customers, cost structure, partnerships and recruitment
30. Create a LinkedIn company page
31. Promote your book through speaking engagements, blog posts and social media

Open your mind

32. Look outside your city for opportunities when starting a business
33. Look outside your industry for opportunities when starting a business

Make digital tools your friend

34. Use Skype or Zoom for meetings instead of phone calls. It personalises your interactions when you can’t do a face-to-face
35. Use Evernote (or a similar tools) to build a library of resources that you can share on-the-go with potential and existing clients
36. Leverage Google My Business and Google +
37. Submit your website to webmaster tools e.g Google, Bing etc.
38. Discover Fiverr for help with small online jobs

Organise your life

39. Keep track of your finances from Day 1
40. Learn double entry accounting. It helps in the early days if you want to do it yourself
41. Get an accountant if you are a limited company
42. Use your first few projects as case studies and testimonials. You might have to negotiate with the client but it’s worth a try
43. Aggregate your emails in one place using Thunderbird (or a similar tool like Sanebox)
44. Establish a CRM system early on. Highrise is a good start
45. Check out FrontAccounting, a free accounting system
46. Consider using free word processing software such as Libre Office as an alternative to Microsoft
47. Save money if you currently work elsewhere. A few months of living expenses is a good buffer for the early days

Take care of yourself

48. Build an exercise routine into your schedule
49. Be patient – time goes much more slowly when you’re working for yourself. Whether you are waiting for your next client or expecting a response from a prospect, it will not be a 48-hour wait. More like 2 weeks…
50. Create a schedule that allows you have social (fun) interactions where you are able to speak frankly. Working for yourself can be lonely so you deserve the fun and downtime.

Yekemi Otaru is managing director of YO! Marketing which is a marketing and strategy consultancy working at the interaction between business strategy, digital and marketing strategy. They work mainly in the B2B advanced manufacturing and engineering sectors. 

She is also the author of The Smart Sceptic’s Guide to Social Media in Organisations

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