By Amanda Walters, an experienced freelance writer and regular contributor to Huffington Post.
Building a startup can be exciting but it is also daunting. You wouldn’t start a business if you didn’t think it could be a success and you, of course, hope that it is. But, the reality is that 90% of startups fail and of those that succeed, 71% of businesses fail within 10 years.Working hard is important but it isn’t enough. You need to make sure that you are focusing your efforts in the most effective way.Follow these tips and ensure you are in the 10% that succeed:1. Create a business planYou need a business plan before anything else. This goes far beyond a simple mission statement. It’s about close look at what you are doing and why you are doing it. More importantly, where do you want to be and how are you going to get there? It should include goals and the steps you are going to take to accomplish them. This needs to look at the first three years at least, if not more.2. Keep an eye on fundsFirstly, you need to make sure you have the money you need to get the business started and keep an eye on costs, especially at the beginning when you are getting very little return on investment. This means spending your money wisely and making sure it goes further. For example, rather than sending several people to a meeting on the train and buying individual tickets, why not organise car rental and pay one price for all of them? Likewise, don’t splash the cash on a large, fancy office - this will come in time. Look after every penny and the pounds will, if not look after themselves, at least not be squandered on expenses.3. Think carefully about who you hireThis ties in with the financial side of the business. You don’t want to be paying wages for roles that you don’t really need yet. At the same time, this expense is incredibly worthwhile for the right people. You can’t do everything on your own - and trying to do so will just cause burn out. Think carefully about the roles you need right now, that will help to move the business forward and grow it. Then, as you start to grow, you can look at what other roles you need.4. Marketing is keyIf no one knows who you are, then you have no chance of growing. So, shout about yourself! Start with a website and social media accounts. Build a following and interact with people. Beyond that look at what would be right for you - content marketing, email marketing, print advertising - there are plenty of options and many of them are very cost effective in the digital age. Get your name out there and you’ll start to build a loyal customer base.5. Focus on the customerDid you know, 42% of startups fail because ‘they didn’t solve a market need’? The customer has to be put before the business because, ultimately, they are the people who will ensure it is a success and will provide the market need that you can fulfil. Do you know what your target customers want? If not, speak to them, do your research and ensure you are offering a solution to a problem. A little market research will go a very long way! Don’t be afraid to tweak your initial business idea to make it fit the market need.6. Expect the unexpectedYour carefully thought out plan won’t, unfortunately, always go to plan. This is why it is vital that you expect - and are prepared for - the unexpected. If something gets in the way, take a step back and think about how you are going to overcome it. Rushing into it could be your downfall. Build in flexibility to your budget and your timeline so that you have space, time and resources to be able to react when things don’t go as planned.Follow these tips and help your business become the success you want it to be.