Updated: Jul 20
If you are about to start or have already started a new business, kudos to you! It's a scary task but a rewarding one. Creating something from scratch and seeing it taking off is truly amazing. And to all entrepreneurs out there, helping people is always the goal.
The problem is that as a new business, you have to create the business in itself, put the pieces together, create marketing materials, take part in events, make your brand known and respected, do the books, talk to the bank, wow… so many things and so little time!
We hear you! We at Kiwi created our company in less than 2 weeks, made everything work, and signed the contract with our first client on week 3. Also, we have been growing ever since. So, we wanted to share a few tips that have worked for us, so that you can have a wonderful start!
First things first! Mind over matter!
Before talking about tools and systems that have helped us, let’s talk about you (yes, you are the most important piece of your business for sure). Nothing will change or take off if you don’t make it happen. So, we recommend that you start with your mindset. Many will see your business as a foolish enterprise of yours while others will root for you. It’s up to you to choose who you hear. There are many aspects of your business that you cannot control (the earlier you understand that the better!), but you can control one essential thing about it: your focus.
It's not only about choosing who you hear: you should stretch it to the length of “ignoring your competitors.” Small businesses (and even big ones sometimes) tend to focus too much on what’s going on with their competitors. We try to catch up in promotions, stocks, product mix, pricing, among others. Believe me, sometimes, our competitors themselves are not so sure they got everything right, so why should you follow their steps in the first place? So, focus on your customers, your products and services, and exceed your clients' expectations every single day. Your customers (and not your competitors!) must be your "compass".
I started one of my companies in a highly competitive market, with big players, and many of my friends back in the day told me that I was too dummy for pursuing such a dream. Seven years later, I am doing just fine, growing, and my competitors are checking me out often. So, maybe I was so dummy that I couldn’t even listen to the naysayers. ;)
Get things done!
This bit it's also about your mindset: many small businesses fail because they think too much and do too little - yes, they overthink stuff. For instance, sometimes first-time entrepreneurs miss a great networking event for not having the “marketing materials” in place. Just go out there, expose yourself and get things going. You will not harvest it if you don’t sow it first. Do not let excessive perfectionism lead you to procrastination! Let me give you a very specific example, so it makes more sense: podcasts are a trendy thing these days (and they will still be for a while, the paid ones mainly). If you are contemplating going into it, just do it. Don’t worry about getting it perfect the first time. Don’t worry about not having the best script or equipment - you will be just fine! Take a look at the top YouTubers, for instance. OK, maybe you don't follow them, but you surely have kids or nephews or nieces who do. At the beginning of their online presence, everything they had and did was simpler: their equipment, studio, make-up, clothes. Even so, they are millionaires now. That is quite inspirational!
Think carefully about your tools
Often, the entrepreneurs start using a free email such as Gmail or Yahoo. Then, later on, they need to hire a contractor or employee, and then they start using a paid email like ZohoMail. Because of that change, they lose all the email history they had, and sometimes even the contacts. Or even worse, they start with no CRM and a year later they still have not built a qualified email address base. Speaking of email marketing, a lot of entrepreneurs start using MailChimp because it’s free and it looks "good enough." However, when they need to move to a more robust tool (because they've grown, yay!), they have to opt-in all their contacts again and compromise a lot in deliverability of email messages. So, here is what we recommend to anyone starting a business or in their early stages:
Sure, there is Google Apps (G Suite) and Office 365 (Microsoft 365) out there. However, we believe their price tag is not for small businesses. They come with so many features and tools that it gets even more complicated to use their email sometimes. So, ZohoMail is the chosen platform for emails here at Kiwi. All the features we need in an email platform, cheaper and simpler.
Free CRM (Customer Relationship Management) - Hubspot
If you are really on a budget, you can get started with HubSpot for free. It will be forever free, and you can manage your contacts and email lists on it. It works amazingly on the free version. It’s not our preferred option for everyone because it will eventually limit you in some automation actions - and we at Kiwi believe that online marketing automation is where the power really is. But if saving money is your priority now, go for it and upgrade to Active Campaign later on.
CRM and email marketing - Active Campaign
If you have some money to invest, invest in lead magnets and CRM. The lead magnets are the best way to get started with powerful tools such as email marketing and automation. Later on, you can add the CRM feature. No migration necessary, no extra work, just natural growth.
Website builder: WIX.com
We are not doing a review of the tools in this post. But we promise we'll do that in other articles. However, if you are not sure where to build your website, choose WIX. We have used Wordpress, Weebly, Webflow, and others. There is no better platform for entrepreneurs. It saves you time on technical stuff, it's built for growth, and doesn’t depend on plugins. Plugins are sure to slow down your website (and they might even put it at risk) if you don’t have deep technical knowledge.
Enough about tools for now. Back to the other tips:
Manage your time
We get it, this one seems a bit obvious, but it's easier said than done. It's not seldom that entrepreneurs are out of business because they were not great at time management. There are great resources out there to help you get better at managing your time. We at Kiwi are time management aficionados, so we'll mention 3 points that have helped us a lot during all those years creating and running several companies:
Your email is not a priority - at least, not the way you think it is. It can and should wait. If someone sends you an email and expects that you get back to them within a few minutes, it is not an email they should have sent. It’s a call they should have made. We at Kiwi check email twice a day: early morning and late afternoon. Other than that, you know what we are doing? We are working (super) hard to give you (yes, you!) the best services we can. You (and not email messages) are the centre of our Universe!
Any email message that takes more than 1 minute to reply is not an email, it’s a task. It’s the "two-minute rule" from the book. You can find that rule in many books on productivity, for instance, “Getting Things Done - The Art of Stress-Free Productivity”, by Dave Allen. The rule, as you might have guessed, states that if a task takes less than two minutes, it should not be written down in a to-do list; instead, you should do it right away. Powerful and simple, eh? Because we at Kiwi are hardcore, we go with one minute only: if the task takes less than that (and that includes replying to an email message), we do it right away. If not, it's a task, and it gets written down in our Todoist as a task (yay, yet another tool!) so that it's scheduled to be tackled along with our other tasks.
Say "No" at least three times a day. You can say it to yourself, to others, or both. It makes wonders! Does that sound mean? It is not, we promise. We'll give you more context and you'll agree with us: the point is that there are so many ideas, opportunities, and initiatives that we could do in our business. The truth is that not all of those are good for the business, and we just do it "because others do it." We are often invited to do online presentations and new partnerships, among other apparently appealing opportunities. However, we say no to most of them because they are not aligned with our number one goal: excel in customer service. While many focus on leads (potential customers), we focus on conversions of leads to customers. We aim at keeping that conversion as high as possible, so each interaction is meaningful for my business. It’s always better to have fewer leads (potential customers) if that means having more actual, paying, super-satisfied clients in the end. Those satisfied clients thus become what we in the industry call evangelists: they refer more clients to you - nothing better than the power of word of mouth, right?
Choose an accountant early on
Many entrepreneurs postpone that task to the latest time possible because they perceive is as boring and not part of the core business. Big mistake! Think of your accountant as your forever partner. The better they know your company, the better they will perform. Also, if you secure a deal when you are starting up, it’s harder to increase the fees at once, so you will save in the long run even if you incorporate.
As we said, those are simple tips - yet truly powerful if put in motion.