At first sight building, an online business can be viewed as being a bit of a daunting undertaking. Take a second look at the challenge and it becomes apparent that it is no different to creating any new business initiative. To do this you need to embrace three key roles-the Entrepreneur, the Technician, and the Manager.
Entrepreneurs want to change the status quo. They are by nature agents of change. They see things as they could be, not as they are now. Their passion is to create a vision of the future and make it happen because others haven’t seen it and aren’t doing it.
They recognise that revenues, profit, and corporate growth flow from customer demands for products and services that others are not providing. Their talent lies in their ability to see opportunities to do this, and their courage to take calculated risks to achieve success.
If you want to succeed in launching an online business you will first need to think like an entrepreneur. You will at the very least need to:
- Thoroughly research your market
- Accurately identify customers’ needs
- Analyze the competition
- Spot the future trends
- Create the product/service which satisfies changing and growing demands
Expect to have inadequate information, to receive conflicting messages from advisers, and to meet unexpected resistance from those who ’just do not get it!’Your organisation has run on known facts, accurate predictions, and highly developed working practices and processes to optimise both short and longer term returns.
Championing an online business requires challenging every area of historic corporate belief about what will create the best longer term returns. Whilst others around you are working IN the business you are working ON the business, and what’s more working ON the long-term business without any guarantees of success.
You must allow the entrepreneur within you to overrule all the advice you might get to settle for a continuation of what has brought you success to date. You must trust your instinct. Most people and organisations are followers only adopting significant, strategic change when others have proved something can be done. Remember, entrepreneurs are pioneers who choose to create a future of their own choosing rather than become victims of a future of others’ choosing! So press on with your vision!
To do this you need space. You need to be apart from the daily business. You need the time to investigate the potential for an online business. This may mean looking at other market sectors where it has worked and thinking through how it might work for your business. It will certainly mean creating clear objectives and a strategy which you can translate into a feasible business plan, particularly if you need to get financial backing from others.
To do this you will need technical insights.
To launch an online business you need to understand your business as never before. You will quickly need to educate or re-educate yourself in:
- Your organisation’s products/services
- Its manufacturing processes
- Its distribution channels
- Supply chain management / logistics
- Inventory control/management
- Quality controls
- Pricing models
- I.T. systems and their capabilities
- Customer interfaces
- Procurement strategies
- Management of suppliers
Use this fact-find to revisit and understand every aspect of the existing business and why it is successful or has been successful to date.
You are about to launch a very different business. You’d better know where you are starting from!
Your technician role is not just about you understanding your business it is about identifying whom you need to put around you when you scope and implement your online business project.
Use your fact-finding phase not only to learn afresh about the business but also about the people in it! You will need to have people who are technically astute in the area of e-commerce. If you have not got them you will need to acquire them. You will need the right external specialists who can advise you on the best online shopping platforms that are available, the features and benefits of each and the best fit for your business.
Rarely these days is it necessary to build your own bespoke platform but you do need advice on what you need a platform to provide to make an immediate and long term success of your online business. Use tried and tested professionals in this area.
Creating your online platform is one thing but it is only the start.
You need to get traffic to your site, get sales, grow sales through customer retention, expand your presence, and price effectively. For this you will need:
> Search Engine Optimisation specialists (SEO specialists ) who understand both the basics of SEO and the most up to date/best in class methodologies to drive large volumes of customers to your site as quickly as possible.
> Online sales and marketing specialists who can work closely with SEO specialists to achieve sales and repeat business.
> Social Media Marketing specialists who can add their expertise into the mix.
> Technical experts in the area of online shopping/business who can recommend and deliver further applications and advancements to strengthen your site.
Take time to find these people. The best are like gold dust!
The entrepreneur creates the vision; the technician roots it in reality; the manager makes the future happen.
Your first management role is to manage the project required to launch your online business.
This person could be you, a suitable employee or external specialist. The advantage of the external specialist is that they have launched e-businesses before and know exactly what to do. This may be the more costly option but it could well be worth it. Launching a new e-business, from my experience, is not as easy as you might think. You will need all the help you can get from specialists in this area.
At this stage you need, with advice, to decide whether to use an existing tried and tested platform or build your own, the latter being far more expensive. Take advice on the best platform to use.
Next focus on creating a business plan with all the costings, one-off and ongoing, projected sales and timings (difficult, so be very conservative!), and of course an accompanying cash flow forecast. Leave plenty of headroom in determining your cash requirements. As I have said timings and levels of income streams can be hard to forecast.
You have built your site and so now you are ready for the ‘go live’. Do not expect immediate sales. The nature of online businesses is that they take time to gather momentum and kick in. That does not mean that you do not keep modifying and experimenting with your online marketing and sales activities. The beauty of using an existing platform is that you can normally get access to users of the platform for help and advice and shared experiences. This can be extremely valuable.
Once your online business begins to generate large numbers of customers and sales you then need to grow the business. How you do this depends on your long-term strategy for growth. Maybe you focus on an additional geography, a different market sector, or additional products and services. One thing is for sure- the world is your oyster so think global!
To find out more about this topic contact me or join me at Jeremy Francis HR
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