Monthly Archives: February 2021

Why You’re Struggling To Grow Your Product-Based Business (and How To Fix It)

Did you start your product-based business as a hobby?

You’ve always been creative; you have a knack for making beautiful things with your hands.

You come up with concepts that are incredibly artistic; that’s your talent.

You set up a website to sell your products recently, and the feeling you had when you made that first sale to someone who wasn’t a supportive friend or family member?

Unmitigated joy. Not to mention relief!

You have run your product-based business since then, but you’re at a point where you’re stuck. (It’s a good problem, I might add!)

Customers love your product, you’re gaining loyal advocates and followers online and may even have won an award or two.

However deep down, you know you want more.

Not only that; you know that the current state of play isn’t sustainable is you’re to take this business to the next level…

…so here’s why you’re struggling to to grow your product-based business (and how to fix it).

You Don’t Have a Vision or a Plan

It’s one thing to make the decision to monetise your creativity or idea.

Having a vision of where you want your new business to be in 2, 5 or 10 years is quite another.

“Calm down”, I hear you say. “I’ve only just started!”

That may be true, but having a picture of where you want to be gives you a clear purpose, and sets the scene when it comes to your goals and planning for the future.

There Is a Lack of Clear Goals & Objectives

While vision is a broad statement of where you want to be, your goals and objectives are more specific and go into detail about what you want to achieve, and when.

I’ll give you an example.

If you produce mugs which you customise with quirky quotes and are based in Edinburgh, your vision might be: “To be the go-to provider of branded gift mugs to corporate organisations in Scotland”.

The goals and objectives to achieve that could include: “To sign up 50 new corporate clients by the end of Q2 (in anticipation of the Christmas season in Q4)”.

That level of details is what’s needed so you and your team (if you have one) can focus on what needs to be done.

There Is No Mechanism To Measure or Track Progress

 

There’s a popular saying: “If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.

To begin with, you need to track and measure to know what the current state of play is in your business, where you really stand.

For example, how much do you make from sales every month? Is it usually quite consistent, within a certain range, or does it fluctuate wildly from one month to the next?

Once you understand that you can use the current status as a benchmark going forward, as it will be clear whether your performance in different areas and metrics is improving or deteriorating.

To continue with the sales example, you can track your sales monthly, quarterly and so on. And from that, you will begin to track trends and maybe even some seasonal factors that have a positive or negative impact on your performance.

All of which only become clear when you track and measure.

There Are Too Many Distractions

In our social media age, it’s almost impossible not to be bombarded with distractions.

You see what your peers and competitors are up to, and before you know it?

Comparison-itis.

It’s so easy to get distracted by following this trend or that, and it’s not uncommon for several of these kinds of distractions to occur.

Before long, you’re spending your time, energy and maybe even money on tasks and initiatives that are irrelevant and completely immaterial to your goals.

It’s a tough one, but it pays to stay in your lane.

Just because something is right for that other business, but that doesn’t mean it’s right for yours. And even if it is, this may not be the right time for it.

There Is No Focus on Income and Expenses

This is one I see happen often:

You love what you do, and you have a loyal and enthusiastic following on social media.

You get caught up in creating your product, responding to comments and queries online, selling, doing giveaways, offering discounts to family and friends…

……there’s always so much activity. But you haven’t stopped to assess how much you make and spend in any given month.

Is your income at least the same as your expenses?

Because if it’s not, you’re running at a loss, and you aren’t even breaking even.

Now, sometimes it’s acceptable for a new business to run at a loss in the initial stages, but by focusing on income, expenses and the financials as a whole you’ll know what your monthly run rate is, and can plan to get to a position which is more sustainable.

There Is No Foundation For a Grown-Up Conversation About Funding

Following on from the last point about income, expenses and financials. Without those in place, how can you even begin to look for investment and funding?

There are standard questions you must be prepared to answer when looking to scale with external funding, and having the answers ensures you can have a grown-up conversation about raising funds.

And even you intend to fund your growth plans yourself? I would suggest treating your bank account with the same respect and seriousness you would an external investor.

What’s Next?

You’re struggling because you haven’t got a vision or a Plan, you haven’t set your goals and objectives, you aren’t measuring or tracking your progress, there are too many distractions, you aren’t focused on your income and expenses, and you aren’t prepared to have a grown-up conversation about funding and scaling.

In short, the reason why you’re struggling to grow your product-based business is because you don’t have a Business Plan.

A Business Plan that is well-written and goes into the right amount of detail will cover your vision, explain how those translate into bite-size goals and objectives, help focus your mind and efforts on tasks and activities that deliver a return, and force you to look into the nitty-gritty of your business finances.

A Business Plan is what you need to fix these struggles.

How I Can Help

Not sure where to start?

If you need help with your Business Planning, I have designed some tools to help.

The first is a One Page Business Plan Template.

It’s short and concise, while containing all the essential elements you need in a Business Plan.

And in addition, it contains helpful prompts which will guide you along the process.

You can buy and download your copy of the One Page Business Plan Template here.

The second is a comprehensive Business Plan Template, which contains all the sections and details you would find in a typical Business Plan such as the Product & Service Range, Target Audience, Market Analysis, Milestones & Metrics, and Financials.

Similar to the first template above, it also has helpful prompts to guide you as you complete it and produce your Business Plan. You can buy and download your copy of the Business Plan Template here.

And finally, I provide a Business Planning Service.

If you would like to produce your Business Plan but can’t commit the time to do it yourself, you don’t have to worry! Contact me about my Business Planning Service, and we can arrange to get started on yours as soon as possible.

Should I Start a Business During the Pandemic?

When the coronavirus pandemic first broke out and initial restrictions on movement, business and social interactions were imposed back in March 2020, the hope was that it would all be over within a few months, at the most.

When such expectations were shown to be fanciful at best, the impact on the economy became clear as business after business – and sector after sector – started to feel the effect on sales and revenue as they haemorrhaged customers.

For some staff the effect was almost immediate, with record numbers losing their main source of livelihood.

Various schemes were announced by the government and while the support has been lauded as one of the most generous and wide-ranging in the world, it hasn’t enough to stem the tide of closures and job losses.

It’s not all bad news though. As unemployment figures increased there has been a trend which, while fascinating, is just as surprising:

A record number of new businesses were incorporated in 2020. (Incorporation is the process by which a new or existing business registers as a legal entity such as a limited liability company, that is separate from the people who own or run it. This is a good guide to incorporating a company).

When you consider that this does not take into account micro-businesses such as the myriad of new creative ventures on platforms such as Etsy and Shopify, and sole entrepreneurships in areas as varied as consulting, coaching and wellness, it’s safe to say that an unprecedented (sorry, that word again!) number of people have taken the decision to launch out into the deep.

Do you have a brilliant idea, but are discouraged by all the bad news?

Have you spotted a gap in the market, for which demand could be met by an idea that keeps you awake at night?

Perhaps you’ve been put off by the gloomy economic outlook?

Don’t be deterred. I know it doesn’t look like it, but this is a brilliant time to get going with your idea and start a business. Here’s why: 

There is a Wealth of Opportunities:

Without question this is a difficult time, the most challenging of our lifetime. Finances, relationships and even our health is being tested.

But in the midst of it all, there are opportunities to meet customer needs.

An example is the rise in food delivery businesses. With restrictions putting a halt to our culture of dining out and children at home round the clock, takeaways are a saviour for parents who are exhausted with homeschooling during the day, who need some respite at the end of the day.

There are stories of companies that have started or pivoted manufacturing items we previously never gave a second thought, but which are now essential such as personal protective equipment, masks and hand sanitiser.

The drive to provide goods and services online is also a huge opportunity for niches such as web design and development, copywriting, software sales and cybersecurity.

What opportunities could you harness and turn into a going concern? 

There are Significant Gaps in the Market:

Such gaps may have existed before the pandemic, or could have been created as a consequence of it.

Either way, it’s worth taking note and assessing how you could fill one of more of those gaps.

One example is that with the explosion in home working, many have realised they don’t have the best set-up when it comes to furniture. There has been huge demand for items like desks and ergonomic chairs, not to mention devices such as laptops, tablets and monitors which are needed for families to work and do their schoolwork at the same time.

Another is that because we are all more sedentary there has been an increase in demand for the services of professionals such as osteopaths and physiotherapists.

Perhaps you’re mourning the loss of a permanent job in a large healthcare practice or are on furlough. Could this be the best time to set up on your own?

Best Time to Innovate:

Historically, many businesses were borne in the midst of economic adversity.

Household names such as Microsoft, Airbnb, Groupon, WhatsApp and Uber all started when others thought they should have waited till the environment was more favourable.

But their founders knew they had something new and different to offer; something innovative which would make a dent in the marketplace, be of use, and make a positive contribution to communities.

Are you holding back on releasing your very good idea to the world?

It might be big or small, helpful in the fight against the virus or something that provides entertainment and light relief.

Whatever it is, don’t sit on it. Now, more than ever, is the best time to start a business.

What You Need To Start a Business:

One of the first things you need to kickstart your idea and bring it to life is a Business Plan.

It clarifies your intentions and prompts you to carefully consider what your customers need, and that’s just the beginning. Here are the reasons why you need a Business Plan, which I strongly recommend you start off with.

And your size or sector doesn’t matter; a Business Plan is a crucial part of your success.

Some tend to think they don’t need one if they are a sole entrepreneur running a micro-business, for example.

But nothing could be further from the truth! Here are 4 myths about Business Planning and why they are not true.

And finally, I have produced some Business Plan Templates which will make the process of writing yours so much easier.

They are available to purchase; find out everything you need to know about my Business Plan Templates here.