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Posts Tagged ‘entrepreneurship’

I had always thought that the word “entrepreneur” sounded so glamorous. The truth is that you are “it”, from key decision maker and strategist to garlic peeler. When people ask me what my position is in my company I laugh – I’m the CEO and the cleaner.

If you decide to start your own business without your finances completely sorted and you can’t afford staff, you are in for a difficult time trying to do everything. Even if you have a business plan that maps out incomings and outgoings, there is always that extra marketing opportunity that you don’t want to miss, or that packaging that you had to buy etc… spend, spend spend. I left my job early on in the planning of the business to throw myself fully into the project – maybe I should’ve been more patient and kept my salary for a bit longer.

Having said that, somebody said to me at the very beginning of my business journey that I should just go for it and borrow £100k from the bank. Thank goodness I didn’t do that. Yes, life would’ve been so much easier, I’d have a budget for machinery and packaging, maybe one or two part-time staff and a salary, but I wouldn’t have known how to spend it as well as I do now. Now, I have proved a concept, I understand which things worked or didn’t work and I know exactly what I need to do next. The only small detail missing is the cash itself.

So, this week has been about focusing on raising finances and boosting my sales. I’m looking after my key customers and revising my business plan so it reflects what I know now to allow me to get to the next stage. I’m off to the bank today and, hopefully, the bank manager will like it and believe that I can make it work. Hopefully I will be able to raise the finances and afford to pay a member of staff and the machinery I need. Feeling positive. I’m not superstitious.

You can find out more about Marcela on the new interactive business website www.inafishbowl.com

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Market research is an essential part of any business plan, whether a fledgling business or a multinational organisation. Knowing that there is a sustainable market for your product and understanding what your audience expects from you is vital to a successful business launch. Market research can generally be split into two categories; primary and secondary, and during this article I will explain both and discuss their respective merits and appropriate uses.

Secondary Research

Secondary research makes use of existing data from whatever sources are available. There are government censuses, Mintel surveys, and many private market research agencies that allow access to their data; some of it for free. It can be hugely advantageous, especially as a place to begin. Secondary research more often than not, proves to be a solid base on which to develop your own primary research. It plays the same role as research in general does to your product launch, and should be seen as just as vital. Also, this is of course far cheaper and generally quicker than creating your own research from scratch.

The negatives

The other side of that coin is that you have neither picked the panel to suit your exact needs, nor the questions. It is feasible that you can find some research somewhere that corresponds to what you are trying to achieve but it will almost certainly require some tweaking, and will not necessarily be the people you wish to interrogate; the use of qualitative research designed by someone else will almost certainly make the target specialised away from your goals. Another main issue with secondary research is that by the time it reaches you it’s often outdated; markets change so quickly in business that the only way to be truly current is through new research. This is not to rubbish the quality of secondary research.

Primary Research

Primary research is, essentially, the creation of your own research, whether a question that you ask to your friends and family or a survey put together alongside an agency and administered to a wide panel. Primary research will instantly let you feel more in control of your project; and that is the exact position you will find yourself in. You choose the questions and select your panel through qualitative research, allowing you detailed responses from individuals. You decide how, when and where your research is administered. You can ensure that your research is focussed: the number of participants and their backgrounds, the number and nature of the questions, the amount of time that your survey is available. This is the most accurate way to research a market sector that is specific to you and your product.

The down side

It is of course, more expensive, whether financially or on your time. If performing primary research alone it will take a lot of time, refining and will need some experience in producing quality questionnaires. It will also take time for your questionnaire to be completed if you don’t have direct access to a ready panel. Most of this can be avoided by using an agency, but at a cost higher than performing your research alone.

So what’s the best option?

Neither type of research will take you to your goal alone; however, a combination of the two will give you all the information you need. Using primary research alone, without first seeing what has or has not worked for other companies and possibly missing out on important data from research that you couldn’t afford to perform yourself, is likely to lead to irrelevant questions or missed opportunities. At the same time, relying solely on secondary research is likely to leave you with answers that are vague or inappropriate to your specific audience. The two compliment each other well, and when used in conjunction will give you a well rounded and accurate portrayal of the needs and opinions of your market sector.

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The current economic climate is having an impact on businesses large and small.  What is clear is that the uncertainty means that researching a business’ market has never been more important.

Market research determines the feasibility of a project and it’s a way to adapt a business’ strategy (communication, pricing policy, products range…)

A good and precise market research will professionalise your setting-up approach and will give you more value to your business plan.

Doing a quantitative market research is a solution to add a personal touch to your market research as you are testing “your” precise target market about “your” precise project.

It will make your project even more credible and it will help you to convince financial partners and others.

It’s an essential stage in the business start-up process but many entrepreneurs don’t do it – not least because of the supposed cost. Online market research has grown rapidly in recent years as a key form of data collection for primary research activities. Online market research offers both large and small research focussed organisations the chance to eliminate the costs involved with face-to-face, postal and telephone data collection. Organisations have begun to realise also the speed and data reliability offered by the internet.

This kind of primary market research is now affordable for start-ups and not only limited to major groups so let’s test for real your potential clients in order to avoid mistakes.

Starting a business? Launching a new product or service?

Test the market first!

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You know how we are all meant to be downloading MP3 podcasts and time-shifting while going to the gym? Well, I did that today — and was inspired! I listened to a TIMESONLINE podcast of Ronald Cohen, author of The Second Bounce of the Ball, while cycling through the fragrant streets of south Bristol. Mr Cohen set up Apax Partners, the hugely successful private equity firm, so he knows a thing or two about risk, uncertainty and business.

Cohen comes across like your favourite uncle. He’s got an accented, comforting voice that fills you with confidence and makes you hang on every word. His views of what makes an entrepreneur were insightful.

Apparently, the word ‘risk’ means ‘running into danger’ in Italian. No wonder it has negative connotations! But risk masks the value of uncertainty. Mr Cohen comes from a world that I only partially understand, but his belief that you can only make great gains from situations that are uncertain rings true.

He reckons that what marks out entrepreneurs is the fact that they will seek out uncertainty and take advantage of opportunities that others scared of, or cannot see. He calls it “the art of the seemingly impossible”.

Interesting stuff. Mr Cohen is humble and clever enough to know that, for a growing firm to reach its potential, the founder and leader must recruit a talented and entrepreneurial team — and then trust their collective judgement. He has seen his own company grow and also many that he has invested in, so I take his wisdom to heart.

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