Which of the Three Little Pigs would you rather be and what has that got to do with your business?
Just to recap on the story...
The Three Little Pigs have been sent out into the world by their mother, to 'seek their fortune'. The first Little Pig builds his house out of straw but a wolf blows it down and the pig runs to this brother's house. The second Little Pig builds a house out of sticks but the wolf blows that down too. The brothers run to the third Little Pig's house which is made of hard bricks. The wolf tries, but fails to blow this house down. The wolf tries several times to trick the Little Pigs into leaving the brick house, but each time, the pigs outsmart him. Finally, the wolf decides to come down the chimney. What he doesn't know is that the Three Little Pigs have outsmarted him again and he falls into a pot of boiling water and is cooked.
So what has this story got to do with future-proofing your business?
You can build your business out of 'straw' or 'sticks' but it won't take much for the 'wolves' to blow it down. If you build your business out of bricks and with a strong foundation, it will withstand any attempts that the 'wolves' might make to blow it down.
What makes up a strong, solid foundation for your business and how can you make sure the 'bricks' you use to build it, are the strongest around?
When starting or growing a business, you need to have a clear and detailed PLAN. The plan should ideally include these five key ingredients.
1. Set achievable sales TARGETS
As a start up, you may have invested your own money or borrowed money to cover the period before you start making profits. You need to know how much you need to sell, in order to pay back the investment, as well as generate enough money to live on.
As you grow, so do your overheads. Before you make any financial commitments, you need to reset your sales targets, to feel confident that you can meet those commitments.
When you work out your targets, it is a good idea to add in a contingency because things will go wrong, mistakes will be made and unforeseen problems will arise.
The SAS Business Box's Revenue Target Calculator is a simple to use tool, to help you work out your targets. You plug in how much you need to take out of your business and your business costs and the calculator does the rest.
2. Have a clear MARKETING Plan
Make sure you have identified at least 5 different ways to attract the perfect client for your business. These can include direct mail, networking, display advertising, email campaigns (ensure you are being GDPR compliant) and telemarketing.
Take time to research what will work for your business. Take a look at what your competitors are doing.
Work out WHO your perfect client is, HOW they like to be communicated with and then WHERE they spend their time. Keep these in mind when working out your marketing plan.
3. Make sure your WEBSITE and SOCIAL MEDIA PRESENCE reflects your business and is attractive to your perfect client.
How many times do you go and check out a business online before you make the decision to buy from them? Your potential clients will do the same. You don't get a second chance to make a first impression.
If you are a start up, ensure you have the Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Website domain names for your business as soon as possible. Set up an account on LinkedIn too.
Create an easy to navigate, attractive website up and get it up and running, before you officially launch your business. Ensure you have calls to action on your site, so you can capture information for your database. Have an e-newsletter ready to go onto it too.
If you already have a website, is it up to date? Is it still making the right first impression? Are you using it to engage with your perfect clients, as early as possible?
If you feel brave and confident enough, get some videos done to post on your website.
4. Make sure everything is LEGAL and your business is protected
If you are a start up, let HMRC know as soon as possible that you have started your business. You have 3 months to let them know or you will have to pay a fine. Also check which class of National Insurance Contributions you need to pay.
If you are going to hold data on customers or prospects, you need to register with the Information Commissioner's Office (ICO). It's an annual cost of £35.
Check that you have the right business insurances in place too. For example, if you take on an employee, you must have Employer's Liability cover for at least £5 million or face a fine of £2,500 per day (there are a few exceptions to this legal requirement) The SAS Business Box has more information in the 'Legal' section of the Box.
5. Protect the DATA and TECHNOLOGY that is essential for your business
Most businesses need at least one computer to operate successfully, even if it's just for 'doing the books'. Always make sure you regularly backup your data and computer configuration. It's not difficult or expensive. If you lost all of the information on your computer, would your business survive?
Once you have these five key ingredients in place, plan to take the time to regularly review these foundations and make any changes necessary.
One thing we can all depend on, is that things always change. Be ready to meet those changes confidently and positively. Good luck!