By Andy Chew, Managing Director, Architecture at Cisco UK&I

Many of the 600,000 new businesses set to launch this year are likely to struggle, according to Startup Britain, often as a result of a lack of experience, support and clarity over their vision. However, this doesn’t have to be the case – the key is finding the right mentor and truly understanding your business goals.

Start-ups and entrepreneurs must understand where to focus their time. Prioritisation is crucial and often overlooked by small business focused on securing that next level of funding or developing the next iteration of their solution. More so than ever, larger companies and industry experts are offering their inside knowledge to smaller businesses to aid their growth, as well as support and mentor companies that have the potential to drive their businesses forward.

It doesn’t matter if you are a sportsman, a CEO or an entrepreneur, everyone needs a coach. But, what are the priorities for small businesses, and what are the areas that they should focus on, if they are going to truly succeed in those difficult early business stages?

Be clear on your goal

In today’s competitive market, business must stay focused on what it is that they want to achieve and where they can see the future of their business. All organisations must be clear on their short and long terms goals in order to clearly set expectations and create a road map that is realistic and will lead to business success.

However, without advice and support, start-ups are likely to struggle. Whether it’s legal, communication, admin or branding, it is important that a small business or startup accrue mentors that can lead them, providing honest advice and critical guidance to serve their company goals and ensure that their business message is aligned and woven into every aspect of their organisation.

Present your idea with clarity and determination

An idea alone isn’t enough without a memorable and thought provoking execution. Like Google, a technology start-up which was thought up in a garage in California, the skills of pitching and getting their ideas across in a clear and concise way, can turn the idea from an early concept into a business challenger.

When talking to investors or potential customers, businesses need to highlight their objectives, passion and company vision, and this begins with messaging. While helping to provide clarity on goals, understanding and establishing a clear business message can help startups articulate their value and market differentiation, filtering across audiences, in an integrated and aligned fashion. Particularly in a business environment, where investors, customers or even partners are looking to grasp the structure, ideas and proof points behind a business; having clear messaging and understanding how the product, solution and how the technology fits into the wider ecosystem cannot be underestimated.

A good mentor should act as a sounding board for both new business and fund-raising pitches. Here they can utilise their mentor’s experiences by reflecting on ideas and business goals. By showcasing future thinking strategies and pro-active measures, businesses can show investors that they are anticipating customer and business problems. Having this strong value proposition and being clear on what it is that they are offering is an essential part of any business strategy and demonstrates a strong understanding of the market they work in.

Prioritise your time

Prioritisation is often an area where new businesses struggle. With time, resource and cost a factor for early companies, it is important that they focus on the areas that will meet their business goals, secure the funding they need to grow or establish the customer base they crave. Startups need to ask themselves at each step, if this process is necessary and will benefit the business road map.

This is where a mentor can play a vital role, encouraging entrepreneurs to question themselves and their ideas on a daily basis. In addition, a mentor can help a business to evaluate each opportunity and draw upon their considerable experience to find the right partner, investor or customer that will strengthen the business and allow it to thrive.

Capitalise on the experience and network of your mentor

More and more start-ups are looking to business advisors and industry mentors to provide the insight and business acumen that could give them a competitive advantage.

Mentoring will enable businesses to ensure companies are consistent, that they facilitate and not clone, that they are unique and that they always use feedback to learn and grow from. It is important to bear in mind that mentoring has a beginning, middle and an end, so businesses need to make sure they plan and know where they would like to be at each stage, and empower them to capitalise on the network, experience and insight of their mentor.

For businesses to have a strong relationship with their mentors is crucial. They will encourage and teach the start-up to be clear on their goals, to present their idea with a lasting impression and to prioritise their time to actions which will keep the company momentum, and this will consequently give the business the skills it needs to succeed.