Miscellaneous

Starting or growing a business in 2015? Consider these few things first

Ahmad Aggour
Ahmad Aggour

The very first thing you need to think about is the "why." Why will your business be accepted by the market? When Nutshell was founded in 2009, it was preparing to enter a market that was competitive, saturated, and already relatively mature: CRM software. We took a chance by entering this market because we strongly believed that there remained a gap that was in need of being filled.

Consider the market

Understanding the "why" isn’t enough, however. You must also determine whether your market is growing, stagnant, or shrinking. The long-term sustainability of your business is largely dependent on the market’s health, so you’ll probably want to avoid starting a company that prints phonebooks, for instance. At Nutshell, we knew that even though the CRM market was already mature, it was—and is—still growing. We took a calculated risk, sure, but the need for an intuitive, clean, and cost-effective CRM solution was clearly there.

Build a strong foundation

Maybe you’ve recently started a business and you’re beginning to think about expansion. Be sure that your foundation is strong before you build up. Is your product or service ready for primetime? There is no definitive approach to this, but for us, we spent our first four years focused solely on the product. We kept building, improving, and refining until we felt that we were in a good place.

That’s not to say that we didn’t acquire customers during that time, because we did—in fact, we gained more than 10,000 users without a real focus on our marketing efforts. To us, this was a testament to the quality of the product. It wasn’t until this time that we decided to light fires and start focusing on growth.

Tell a story

Tell your story and stay true to your purpose. Your story and your purpose are most likely tied together somehow. Communicate it! This is what sets you apart from everyone else. In a time when most products are commoditized, your brand purpose, personality, and customer experience are the only thing that differentiates you from your competitors.

Everything we do as a company, whether it’s product development or business operations, always maps back to our purpose—bringing intuitive, thoughtful design to small business software. We’re building beautiful, powerful tools that bring together consumer-level design polish with business-scale utility.

Work smarter

Finally, take advantage of technology; don’t let technology take advantage of you. What I mean by this is that technology can sometimes be a double-edged sword—it can make life a bit easier and allow you to work smarter, but it can also consume time and cause headaches. Technology has leveled the playing field significantly, allowing smaller businesses to compete with their larger counterparts. If utilized, you’ll be working smarter in no time.

At Nutshell, we’re big on analytics. We use tools like Google Analytics, KISSmetrics, MailChimp, Hootsuite and other tools to help us understand what’s working and what’s not. We also use Nutshell to nurture all our leads and existing customers. Technology is ingrained in our culture and it’s a big part of our growth strategy. The biggest piece of advice I would offer small businesses is to not be afraid to try new technology. You never know what you might be missing out on.

What lessons have your learned from running your business? What products do you use? What advice would you offer to others starting out. Let us know on Twitter, Facebook, or email!

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