26May

Starting your own Business

Starting your own businessStarting a business is something many people dream about, yet few take the plunge and get their idea off the ground. Opening your own business doesn’t have to be intimidating; indeed there are many resources that those wishing to open a business can avail themselves of. These, along with a few tips to avoid common pitfalls can get you along your way to success in no time.

In our 30+ years helping businesses succeed, we’ve come to understand start-ups and the challenges faced by many entrepreneurs.

In this short article we cover some tips along with ideas from where you can get professional resources and help. Whether it’s the start-up you have always dreamed of opening, or a business in need of a push, these pointers will help you run your business smoother.

  1. Know your Market

The main reason startups fail is due to them creating a product or service for which there is an insufficient market. A study carried out by CB Insights revealed that 42% of start-ups failed because they created something nobody wanted. (http://fortune.com/2014/09/25/why-startups-fail-according-to-their-founders)

Market research should be carried out early in the development process as adjustments or complete revamps might follow unfavourable results. Market research doesn’t have to be complicated and there is a lot you can do from the comfort of your home or office.

Google Trends is a free tool by Google that allows you see how search engine queries are trending; giving you an idea of how much people are looking for your product/service category as well as a forecast for the near future. (https://www.google.com/trends)

The Amazon best-sellers list indexes the most sought items on Amazon, which allows you to view what the (arguably) world’s largest retailer is selling most. Ensure you check localized Amazon versions for a better understanding of markets that are closer to home. (http://www.amazon.com/Best-Sellers/zgbs)

  1. Marketing

As well as knowing your market you also need to determine how to access your market. Your choices will vary according to the type of product, your sectoral, geographic focus, and more.  Products or services which address a niche market are interesting in that you can normally reach them through specific conferences and exhibitions, trade magazines or websites following that market.  This makes marketing less expensive than in a sector where you have to reach a massive audience to be successful.

  1. Strategize

Building a strategy is one of the key exercises any budding entrepreneur would do well to look into. Developing a strategy ensures all key components and stakeholders have been accounted and catered for ensuring you don’t miss anything. If you are not quite sure on how to get started, check out Osterwalder’s Business Model Canvas which can easily be downloaded and printed from here.

  1. Funding

Depending on the nature of the business, funding is an essential component or at least an important catalyst for growth. When looking for funding, ensure a working prototype or an operational service is already available. Many investors would find it very difficult to invest in an idea without seeing or experiencing what they are investing in. It is also a good idea to be generating some sort of revenue before approaching an investor, showing you have what it takes to get a business off the ground and generate returns. Here are some options you may consider for funding:

  • Angel Investors are individual investors that invest early on in the business development process.
  • Venture Capitalists are large firms with larger funds available for investments. Venture Capitalists usually enter into the foray at different stages with the later stages requiring you to give away less equity as the business matures and stabilizes.
  • Crowd Funding is a rather new concept that allows the general public to donate much smaller sums. By collecting from the masses you can expect funding that is smaller in size but bigger in volume. Typically, limited editions or early versions are shipped to those individuals that invest larger sums. ZAAR is a local platform that Maltese entrepreneurs can use to tap into the crowd-funding market. Internationally, Kickstarter and Indiegogo are two well-known platforms that have funded some well-known projects across the globe.
  • Government Entities such as Malta Enterprise may also offer support and funding opportunities to help start-ups and businesses achieve success.
  1. Financial Planning

Financial planning might not be the easiest of tasks, especially in the early stages. However, planning out your finances, and adjusting as you go along ensures you can stay operational and is pivotal to success. Financial planning is not a one-time exercise but requires continuous adjustments as the business shifts and grows.

Typically, a start-up will take some time to break even – the point at which revenue covers the costs incurred by the company. Before break-even, the start-up will need cash to pay for its expenses making financial planning not only important but indeed paramount.

Cash Flow is another important aspect to consider when planning your finances. The Death Valley Curve is the initial period until which the business can generate enough income to sustain itself. The point at which income covers all costs is called the break-even point after which the company will hopefully move to profit. As an entrepreneur you need to ensure there are enough cash reserves to cover all expenses until you reach break-even point. Cash flow is more critical in the short term than profit

  1. Writing up a Business Plan

Business Plans are the manifestos by which startups operate their business. Business Plans cover everything a business requires from marketing and operations to ICT and budgeting. Whilst many entrepreneurs seem to think that a business plan is something you write once and then relegate to the back of a shelf, a business plan serves its true purpose when it is kept updated as the business and challenges it faces progress and develop.

There is not one official format in which to write a business plan and this can typically put off those looking at starting a new business. Business Plans should indeed be customized according to your needs and market whilst including everything that needs to be planned.

Business First is a Malta Enterprise service that offers a number of resources to businesses in Malta. You can find the Business Plan format they suggest here.

  1. Community

Malta offers a great entrepreneurship community where like-minded individuals meet to discuss ideas and challenges together in an environment that promotes creativity and growth. A number of centres and events across Malta are designed with the local entrepreneur in mind, offering advice and services that can help get a business off the ground.

Visit the sites below to learn more about communities and events that offer opportunities and resources to those looking to start a business.


Opening a new business requires research and effort. Whilst the points covered here are not all-inclusive, they do offer a general idea of what an entrepreneur typically looks at. If you are thinking about starting up a business, we do encourage you to do your research and use the resources mentioned throughout the article.

You can also get in touch with our business team who have helped hundreds of small businesses in developing the software infrastructure to drive their business forward. Our modular business solutions will enable you to invest in those modules you require, and later plug the rest in as your business grows. Talk to us today.

02Jul

The Shireburn Business Masterclass 2: PESTEL

To view the Shireburn Business Masterclass Session 1 – SWOT, click here.

In this second business masterclass session, we will look at another business tool used in boardrooms across the world. PESTEL is a strategic management tool allowing us to assess the macro-environment factors in which we do business by looking at the individual components that make up our environment.

PESTEL stands for Political, Economic, Social, Technological, Environmental and Legal. Together, these 6 constituents make up the macro-environment. We can use PESTEL to examine each of the factors as an assessment of the opportunities and threats our organisation is facing. PESTEL is a useful exercise to carry out in both the market we operate in and any market we are looking to penetrate when expanding operations as an initial assessment tool. Here we will look at each factor in more detail and what it means in relation to the bigger picture.

Political

Political refers to the degree of control the local government tends to exercise over the business sphere. Is it an open market or is it heavily regulated? Is there political stability or is there turmoil? What policies are in place that could hinder or perhaps help operations? (Think tax, trade, labour and environmental laws). Are there any incentives that could facilitate the go-to-market / growth strategy? Entities like Business First and Take Off Business Incubator help businesses during growth phases and can offer advice and incentives to succeed.

Economic

The economic situation plays an incredibly vast role in the market and our go-to-market strategy. The economic segment of the exercise includes a number of factors including disposable income, employment rate, inflation and interest rates.

The economic temperature of a market will dictate what can and cannot work, making it important to know what is going on now and what is likely to happen in the near future. Looking at local bonds and stocks can help you understand the market sentiment whether bearish or bullish as an indicator of the economic outlook.

Social

Social dynamics play an important role in business, more so as customers expect to deal with people instead of business entities. Social factors determine the accessibility of the target market looking at age distribution, demographics and trends. The NSO in Malta carries out valuable surveys which can help you understand many of the social factors that dictate the market.

Technological

Technology can be a great business enabler, facilitating anything from research and production to marketing and after-sales. Each market might have a different uptake when it comes to technological innovation and its use can facilitate or hinder entering the market. The Malta Communications Authority (MCA) carry out frequent surveys on internet and communications users, helping you understand technology uptake among the populace.

Environmental

Whilst environmental factors are a fairly recent inclusion, they are an important addition with regulations ensuring little to no impact on the environment. From disposal and energy consumption regulations to environment protection laws, an environment impact assessment goes a long way with non-compliance resulting in hefty fines.

Legal

In any given market, there are laws and directives that control certain aspects of the market. These legal requirements can vary from market to market and jurisdiction to jurisdiction. All of Malta’s laws are available online in a searchable format on the Justice Services website. It is always advisable to confirm your findings with a lawyer, but the research will help you understand potential issues before investing further in your ideas.

And finally if you’re looking to improve your processes and take your business up a notch, have a look at what we offer, or contact us with your requirements.