Now that the New Year is well under way, I'm more convinced that there is no better time than now to start a new business.
For instance, if we look at business cycles as seasons, we can see that we are emerging from a deep "economic winter" and are headed into an "economic spring." Almost every market and industry has been cleared of the inefficient or overleveraged businesses, opening up new opportunities that didn't exist just a few years ago. As a result, both human capital and business tools are abundant and inexpensive.
Here are four ways you can leverage the current trends in the marketplace to help ensure a strong launch and thriving future for your startup.
1. Tap the international marketplace. As the U.S. has struggled, countries such as Brazil, Russia, India and China, as well as others in the Asian Pacific region, have been enjoying a long "economic spring" and "economic summer." Wouldn't it be great to tap into those booming markets? You can, and the Internet is your doorway.
But you have to plan and prepare for it. From taking orders, to managing different currencies to drop-ship deliveries, you'll need to make sure that you have the capability to handle international business. Begin examining web hosting options that will enable your site to process international transactions.
You also want to be sure to have enough cash and flexibility to handle any technical issues that will inevitably arise from having an e-commerce website.
2. Accept the new era of "creative credit." In recent years, the stagnant credit market has become one of biggest obstacles for small businesses, especially startups. The lack of available financing has forced entrepreneurs to become more creative in the ways in which they acquire startup money. This has included negotiating better terms with vendors, learning to fast-track cashflow and looking for ways to take advantage of the various types of purchase order or vendor financing.
Business owners this year will have to get used to this atmosphere of creative financing and be assertive in finding mutually beneficial ways to work with both suppliers and customers. Pre-paid contracts and flexible terms have a place in your credit and cash-flow arsenal depending on your company, your category and the relationships you may (or may not have) with your suppliers and customers.
3. Consider social media as an interactive database. Small businesses should have a presence on Facebook and Twitter, and if you are in any business-to-business category, LinkedIn as well. If you're still resistant, I suggest viewing your social media channels as interactive databases. You can use them to build an identity and persona around your company, your products and even your clients.
The more you can offer and build value, be it in terms of information, insight into your process or products, or even why and how you are owning and running your business, the faster (and more organically) your networks will grow. The people in these networks make up the contacts in your databases.
As with any marketing strategy, it's important to test and measure the return on your social media investment. Done right, your interactive databases will be as valuable and profitable as your conventional ones.
4. Adapt, don't just adopt. Instead of jumping on each new trend you hear about, evaluate how your business model can benefit from it in a low-cost way. For instance, the Baby Boomer generation is retiring in greater numbers. What can this mean for, say, your travel business? Depending on your type of business, perhaps you could offer retirement-themed travel packages for new retirees, or adventure-oriented packages for more active Boomers.
Likewise, Gen-Y is emerging as a buying, spending and cultural force all its own. If you have a unique twist on a conventional eatery or restaurant, maybe your strategy for attracting Gen-Yers includes coupons for after-hours specials delivered via mobile devices.
The key is to use your current business model to tap into trends rather than reorient your entire model. When you do that, your business will be able to ride the waves of change to become a more profitable startup this year.