CEO of Vista ANZS On How to Successfully Launch a Small Business
POPSUGAR Australia has partnered with Vista to help you launch your dream business.
Launching a new business can feel daunting — and it should! You’re about to achieve a huge milestone by releasing your baby out into the world. If you’ve landed on this article, you probably have a winning idea or are hunting for a winning idea that can make you the big bucks and/or offer you the kind of work-life balance you’ve been yearning for.
If you’re anything like me, having a great business idea rolling around in your head does not automatically equal actionable steps towards creating and launching a business. Instead, it might actually trigger a case of progress paralysis, where the overwhelm of everything that needs to be done outweighs your killer idea that the world deserves to see.
One person who definitely knows a thing or two about running a successful business is Marcus Marchant, the CEO of Vista ANZS (Australia New Zealand and Singapore) — a global business that helps small business owners create custom marketing collateral. Ahead, he gives us his best tips for launching a small business to help you consider your idea from all angles, to ensure success.
Listen to People Who Have Done it Before
Speaking with people who have successfully launched a small business (or have struggled to get their idea off the ground) is a no-brainer when exploring all the ways you can build a thriving business yourself. If putting yourself out there feels daunting or premature, we shamelessly recommend listening to our podcast, Dinner For Two. Hosted by Alyce Tran, co-founder of In The Roundhouse and The Daily Edited, she is joined by a different guest every week to share their knowledge, insights, and experience, answering the most common questions that come up when you’re either launching or own a small business.
Consider Three Key Things Before Launching
According to Marchant, there are three key things all aspiring small business owners should consider before launching their business:
- The Idea: Having an idea that you want to build a business around is an obvious first step to starting a business but it cannot be overlooked. But ensuring there’s a market for the product you want to create is equally crucial, so start by looking at what already exists within your niche market and cast a critical eye over what they’re doing well and what they’re not doing so well. This will help you start to figure out whether there’s a place for your business.
- Your Branding: Branding isn’t as simple as picking a logo and running with it, and as Marchant explains, branding actually encapsulates every touchpoint your business has with prospective customers. From the logo, to physical products, packaging, and even the written tone you use when communicating with your customers — all of this is branding. Vista has this great checklist of branding elements you might like to consider before launch.
- A Website: In this day and age, having a digital presence is non-negotiable. In short, if your business doesn’t exist on the internet, then it kind of doesn’t exist. Websites are crucial for increasing discoverability through search engines, plus displaying the products or services your business offers, and giving customers a vibe of who you are and what you’re about. This is important! Platforms like Vista x Wix are a great place to build your website, with simple design solutions to help you build an aesthetic and functional website, quickly.
Utilise Online Design Platforms For Your Branding and Merch
Branding is more than just creating pretty marketing assets, explains Marchant. It also sets the tone for how your customer feels when they engage with your brand and makes the business’s objective clear. Take a dog food brand, for example: If you find them through Google but then land on their website or Instagram and see no photos of happy dogs anywhere, you will probably leave and find another company, that promises big, sloppy doggy smiles.
Marchant also says that researching how particular colours make people feel, and also determining how you want every consumer touchpoint to look and feel, will be crucial when launching your business — it shouldn’t be an afterthought.
But branding can be an expensive process, which is why utilising online design platforms like Vista will be your best friend. Marchant explains that while many people might view Vista as a completely “do-it-yourself” design platform, there is actually a lot of help baked into the website, to save you the headache. Take their partnership with 99designs, for example, where you simply upload a brief of what you want to be designed (like packaging or a T-shirt design) and then wait for the options from professional designers to roll in, for you to then choose from.
Build Brand Awareness From the Outset
In the age of social media, anyone can build an online following, but Marchant warns to not get bogged down in building a huge vanity following online. Instead, focus on creating an engaged audience that’s filled with customers who will actually buy your product. “There’s no use having a following if they wouldn’t actually spend money on your product,” he says.
Marchant also explains that building awareness around your business will look different for different types of businesses, for example, the way a local lawn mowing business builds awareness will be different from a commercial bakery, and different again from a tech start-up. He suggests getting creative with marketing and being careful to not underestimate the power of traditional mediums like pamphlets and flyers.
Finally, “be your business’s biggest cheerleader,” says Marchant. “If you’re selling a product at a market stall, for example, don’t send a casual worker, but go yourself so you can sell your business to people passing by and ask for real-time feedback,” he says.
Stress Test Your Idea
The method you use to stress test your idea will depend on the type of business you’re launching, but there are a few simple ways you can start to stress test your idea to ensure you’re creating a product or service that people will pay good money for.
For physical products, Marchant suggests finding a group of people who you can give the product to try and then ask for honest feedback. The key metric you want to ask is whether they would pay the amount you would like to charge. He also stresses that while asking the opinions of your close friends and family may be helpful in bolstering confidence, the real value will come from people who aren’t biased. Seeking feedback from people outside your immediate circle is imperative.
For specific tactics on stress testing your business ideas, Marchant suggests turning to Silicon Valley powerhouses who’ve been there and done that. One quick Google search will see return plenty of tips and tricks on everything from stress testing your supply chain, to how investing heavyweights spot a winning business in pitch meetings.
How to Build a Team and Scale Your Business
In the world of small businesses, turning your side hustle into a full-time job is, in Marchant’s words, “the million-dollar question”. In short: it will depend on what your business objectives are and what financial situation you’re currently in. “It’s not necessarily logical to expect the same pay for the same hours as you would in your current, full-time job,” cautions Marchant. “Even once your company is booming, you’ll likely be putting in more hours than you would as an employee at a bigger company.”
If your goal is to scale your business, Marchant suggests creating your ideal org chart from the outset, before you even launch your business. Consider the different functions required within your business — for example, finance, marketing, and production — and then work out exactly which of these you can feasibly take on yourself.
Once your business has grown to a stage where one worker (yourself) just isn’t enough, then revisit your org chart and work out exactly what business function you need to recruit for first. Anyone who has worked in a start-up will be familiar with his next piece of advice: “try to hire someone who can perform more than one job successfully, thus cutting down on your number of hires, while still covering the most ground”. Your first hire should always be underpinned by a growth mentality, so you can continue to scale, whether that means hiring someone who frees up more of your valuable time or filling the gaps you have in your expertise.
Marchant’s other tip was to evaluate whether you really need full-time hires at all, or if you can hire casual or part-time staff to carry out the role while scaling, to avoid additional costs associated with full-time staff members.
When scaling, it’s also crucial to keep a leadership mentality to ensure your team is happy working in your company (and, therefore, wants to stick around for a long time) The biggest tip Marchant had for being a great leader is to trust the people you hire to do the job you hired them for. Nobody likes to be micromanaged or have someone breathing down their necks while they work, so ensuring you set clear objectives and KPIs for all hires from the outset, and trust them to work towards those goals day-to-day, will help to foster a healthy and efficient working environment.
If you’re ready to start your own business or explore branding options, head to the Vista website and get cracking.