13 years ago I registered a domain name and incorporated a company. It cost just over £100. Yellow Circle was born. Back then my plan was simple – make £1400 per month, which was enough to cover the wages I had been earning in my previous employment. Plans change, the business has changed and now, the team at YC have a new plan.

If you don’t have a plan, you have a job, not a business

I had been told this by many people during the time we have been in business. Sometimes, it’s important to be reminded of things that you may lose focus on.

It’s always been in my mind, but sometimes, with day-to-day tasks, it can get lost in other thoughts; thoughts of – lets sign that one client who will make a difference this month, or how can I reduce outgoings, or I need to hire a new member of staff. All of these things can form part of a plan, but without an overall goal and target, a business is like a ship with no-one steering it.

Without a plan, you can’t guide the business to where you want to get to. You’re turning up each day, doing work and going home. Like an employee, not like a business owner.

Key plans that should be your focus.

As the team and my business grew, things changed within the work environment, as well as with customers. New factors had to be considered. Being responsible for the livelihood of employees is a big responsibility. I wanted to share some of the things we have had to plan for, adapt and change over the last 13 years, to give people starting in business a solid idea of factors they should consider.

Customer avatars

Define your customer: write a customer profile of who you want to work with, ask yourself questions like, are you dealing with individuals or companies? A good exercise is to create a customer avatar for each of the different types of customers you want your business to engage with.

Planning your message

Have a clear idea of what problem your business will solve for your customers, how you are going to tell them about you and how you are going to get other customers to tell people about you. Your website is very important here. It’s your way of promoting your business and it’s products and services to your chosen target market 24/7. There is no other form of promotion or advertising like a website. Websites can generate millions of £££s in revenue, just ask Amazon, Netflix or Google.

Planning your marketing activities

About 18 months ago it dawned on us that we had been so busy working with our customers, helping them generate and promote their business that we had neglected our own. We planned to spend 12 months rebranding our business, transforming it from a web design company to a full-service creative agency, offering not only website design, but also graphic design and digital marketing services. The task was harder than anything we had previously done because you’re always your own biggest critic. The whole team worked together to pull together all the elements for the expansion and we eventually arrived at our brand. We now have marketing and promotion as a key metric in the success of growing our business and have begun a campaign to expand nationally. Marketing requires investment, not cost. It’s important to choose the right marketing activities to focus on, plan your campaign and then test and measure the results. This is EXTREMELY important. If you’re not testing whether your marketing activities are working, you’re firing an arrow blindly and hoping it will hit its target. Identify what works, and amend what doesn’t work.

Hiring the right staff

Of all of the business activities that happen every day, managing a team is the one I find the most challenging – and that’s not because I have bad staff. Quite the opposite, they’re all fantastically talented people, hard-working and thoroughly nice to boot. But, managing the different personalities, requirements, levels of knowledge (you can’t know everything, we all learn from each other every day) and bringing a team of individuals together to work as a well-oiled machine is no mean feat. That’s why it is so important to hire the right people. I’m extremely proud to say that Jordan, our lead technical developer was our first employee and he’s still with us today and still enjoys his work. We have a very low rate of staff turnaround at Yellow Circle and that’s because we took the time to hire the right people for the job the first time. Having good people working for you is essential if your business is to grow and develop beyond a certain level.

With all of the above in mind, I would ask you to consider what your plans have been like. Are you still focused on your plan, or has it gotten lost in the shuffle? Leave a comment and let me know, I would be very interested to hear others opinions.

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