20 Steps to Successfully Start a Business in 2020

20 Steps to Successfully Start a Business in 2020

I recently saw a compelling status update on LinkedIn by the General Manager of Human Capital at a company here in Malaysia. He iterated that in 2020, we are no longer categorised as jobseekers – instead, we are either

a) Employed


b) Turning towards entrepreneurship

While this may seem ideal, we cannot deny that unemployment exists. Malaysia’s unemployment rate is currently at 3.3% and is projected to improve as the year progresses. However, this statement is a great indication of the change in mindset towards the industry in 2020. We’ve seen a boom in the startup industry over the last couple of years, with not everyone coming out unscathed. While the birth of “unicorns” has seen a sizeable increment from just 39 members to 315 in half a decade, they make up a tiny fraction of global start-ups. The other 99% of start-ups are a mixture of mentionable successes, self-sustaining, crowd-funded or ceasing to exist.

If you’re looking to join the top 1% of the Entrepreneurial world, take these 20 steps to heart.

1. Start with a goal, not a target.
Understanding the difference between a “goal” and a “target” is what will set you apart from other business owners. Think of it this way – to get to your dream vacation (let’s say, Indonesia) you will need to sort out your flight, accommodation, tours, transport and then precisely execute everything to enjoy your vacation. That’s what a goal is – the destination. Your plans that you need to set into motion and accomplish are your targets. When you focus on the target without setting a clear goal, you end up going back and forth on your plans because all that data that you’re tirelessly collecting will amount to nothing but a jumble of numbers.

2. Don’t fall back, instead – step up.
Take every initiative you wouldn’t have in 2019. Let’s forget about combating procrastination, this is the year to fight passivity as a whole. If you think you weren’t lucky in 2019, think again – was it really bad luck or was it inactivity? Your luck is simply equivalent to your activity. Meaning, if you did not take the opportunities that cropped up in 2019, it’s your own fault you “were not lucky”. How are you supposed to win the lottery if you don’t buy the ticket?

3. Get out there.
As comfortable as it is to only reach out to those who are already within your circle, you are limiting yourself to the opportunities that lie within that group. What about the opportunities that are bound to crop up should you take a step out of your comfort zone? Networking has come full circle with face-to-face networking making a comeback after a period of virtual communication during the rise of social media. It’s time to utilise social media differently – start setting appointments, meetings over coffee, registering yourself for networking events and then show up to network face to face. In the new era of personalisation and rapport, there is no better bond than the one forged in real life – not virtual.

4. People first.
With that being said, don’t take those within your circle for granted. It is easy to forget that your partners and employees have lives of their own outside your startup. Everyone has issues with healthy work-life balances and you don’t have to make that harder by forgetting to appreciate them for their efforts towards your goal. Make it a shared goal by aligning them with the destination and reward them for the small achievements as well as the big ones. People work better under leaders that they respect, trust and that can motive as well as inspire them.

5. The office desk is not the only place to work.
Now, it is easy to work from anywhere in the world. A copywriter in the Philippines can work for a company based in Germany from the comfort of his/her own home. Sometimes, it is easier to work without chaining yourself to an office desk. Take the time to manage your workload with your personal life by achieving a healthy balance of the two from home. Limiting your work abilities (and that of your employees!) to a rented room will only limit your creativity – you’d be surprised how much more productive you can be at home than in an office.

6. Flatten your organisation.
To speed up the decision-making process, systems can help. Nevertheless, another way is to have less people in between the bottom rung employees and the top rung management. A guide within CRM for employees to follow will also help quicken the process of decision-making, elimination via qualification and training! Imagine if you, who are working in Malaysia, had to wait for approval from your HQ in Japan before going ahead with your plans – you might have to wait weeks, even months. Although this might not be too much of an issue for a newborn startup, it is something to think about when organising the company for future expansion.

7. Get reviews.
How often do you find yourself looking at reviews right after you get through the product description? The option to filter products and services by their “star” ratings is almost worn out by how often people discriminate against lower-rated products. The simple reason is that people do not want to spend money where the value is higher than their perceived returns. And who better to hear about something you are about to buy than the people who have already bought it? As a company, you can toot your own horn as much as you want – but people aren’t going to believe you until you’ve been validated by genuine reviews.

8. Get online.
As daunting as it may seem, starting out online isn’t that difficult. There are thousands of videos on YouTube to guide you through the setup of your own website. Not to mention the billions of “how-to” articles at your disposal. Despite the saturated market, if you don’t go online, you will be missing out immensely. You don’t need anything too complicated to start out with, maybe a page or two. With this, you will see the spike in lead generation that comes from slapping on a “subscribe” or “ask more” button on a webpage.

9. Get on mobile.
After you onboard onto an online platform, make sure that you cover all your bases by going onto ensuring that your website is mobile-friendly and you utilise all the “hot” applications. You can even go as far as to create your own, customised application to extend your reach! Take absolute advantage of the power of mobile phones to send targeted ads and promotional texts. Don’t forget to also leverage mobile payment options so ensure that you‘re giving your customers the easiest purchase experience possible.

10. Don’t hoard experts while shunning fresh candidates.
Many times, people are hired based on their past experience rather than their future potential. Avoid this in 2020 because we’re looking at intense changes in the business environment that is now governed by technology. A persons’ potential cannot be measured by past work experience alone because there are so many ways that even fresh grads can acquire experience – online learning, training courses, personal experience with business using technology and so on. Build the ultimate team of experts and new blood to stay on top of the ever-changing business climate.

11. Stay on top of the changes in law.
Every year, the government will release a revised version of the budget for that year. This means that there will be changes to wages, prices, and policies. If you don’t stay on top of these changes, you are likely to break some laws and receive a penalty. You don’t want to start off your business on the wrong foot – especially not when it comes to the law.

12. Machines and AI…should you let them take over?
This issue has been cropping up more and more as technological advancements continue to surprise and aim to ease our day-to-day lives. There was even a debate on the issue between two business bigwigs – Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba and Elon Musk, revolutionary transportation entrepreneur. They too, seem to have opposing opinions about the matter. However, Jack Ma asks a very interesting question during this debate, “How do we make sure that machines stay toys and tools for humans?” This is interesting because that’s exactly what business owners need to remember: machines don’t have to be enemies, they should instead be effective tools.

13. The more unique you are, the better.
With attention spans diminishing – you need to stand out or step out. In a world where everyone has a place to be and something to sell, you need to be interesting to get people to stop in their tracks. From a completely new, never before soon product/service to interesting marketing tactics (guerrilla marketing!), there are so many ways to stand out. Just having amazing customer service could be all you need! In business, you get to learn from the mistakes and successes of other companies and businesses – but that’s all you should do. You don’t want to be like anyone else.

14. The faster you are, the more you will sell.
It’s not just about differentiation anymore – you need to be fast, too. This could be concerning how fast customers can get information on your products/services or how fast you respond to enquiries. It’s a small window of opportunity for you to capture and retain potential as it only takes minutes of delay for customers to find an alternative on the internet.

15. Get on the socially responsible bandwagon.
The basis of our economy is supply and demand. The way to survive is to supply according to demand. The trend for demand now favours suppliers that are environmentally aware and carbon footprint conscious. In a report released in early 2019 by Gallup, 73% of millennial and Gen Z consumers are more likely to engage a brand if it is sustainable and eco-friendly. Why does this matter? Because they make up USD 1 trillion in consumer spending – and that number is going to steadily increase. While this may seem like a big task, it isn’t when you break it down into smaller tasks. Here are basic examples –

• Non-plastic wrapping (biodegradable options are in abundance!)
• E-vouchers, brochures, pamphlets (save the trees and the planet while cutting down costs!)
• Monthly cleanups (community, beach, park, etc.) 
• Conscious efforts to minimise chemicals and processes that are toxic to the earth

However, be wary of getting too far ahead of yourself and embarking on an eco-warrior journey that does not gel with your brand image – you will only seem phoney and like you’re trying too hard.

16. Use both ears before using your mouth.
People want to feel like you care and with everyone rushing to finish their tasks, this takes a backseat. However, to really put yourself on the proverbial map, you need to listen more than you speak. In doing so, you will kill two birds with one stone –

i. You show that you care and your customers will appreciate that
ii. You find out exactly what they need (it’s up to you to figure out how to deliver on these needs)

Listen more and they will do the speaking for you – in referring you to their friends, family and even online, where reviews are coveted.

17. Know when to keep going and when to back away.
It is a delicate situation when you don’t know if sending that additional message or email would make you seem too pushy or desperate. You don’t want them to disappear as a prospect and potential client because you did not follow up but you also don’t want to flood their communication channels. Find the balance through trial and error – that is the only way. Every industry is different with different needs, solutions, sales cycles and buyer behaviour. Work your market to know how they work.

18. Focus on profit.
It is easy to lump all your earnings together and think that you’ve earned hundreds of thousands that month but this isn’t always realistic. Realistically, you might have only earned RM6,000 of gross profit. This is because a lot of business owners make the mistake of not distinguishing their profit from their revenue. You don’t want to do this because it will throw all your metrics out of whack – how will you know when to restock or when to make budget changes if your profit is unclear?

19. Double up.
If you want results, you work hard. However, if you want to double your results, you need to double your effort and activity. Nothing comes easy – an overused phrase that still holds meaning. You cannot expect to reach success without putting in just as much effort. While it may seem like Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Ma & Bill Gates had it easy, that’s a complete lie. The challenges they put themselves through to get to where they are rarely highlighted. Remember that you can only reap what you sow.

20. Always go back to your core values.
At the end of the day, your business is an extension of you – your dreams, what you believe in, and what you want the world to know. There are no reasons for not making your business a success. However, it is very easy to forget why you are doing what you’re doing in your pursuit of success. Remind yourself of your values on the daily and practice them to remain clear on your mission.

Who else is going to push through the year if not you? Lead the way and you will find your employees and teams taking your lead. Not to mention – no great business is without a great team. Arm yourself with a team that is ready to unify themselves to sell, grow and achieve with you. All it takes? A simple mindset change. Get in touch to find out how.

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