By Hanniz Lam
The year 2020 was a rollercoaster ride for me and my event production company. We produced our last trade show, the Global Drone Conference & Hackathon before the lockdown and had one retainer project that sustained the business as chaos engulfed the world around us.
However, despite the chaos and uncertainty, despite the misery, fear and tension, there were businesses that thrived and a whole new world opened its doors to us; 2020 and 2021 may have been a bad year for health and wellbeing in general (a good year for the pharma companies that profited exponentially, of course), but it was a great year for learning what businesses to go into.
According to the Straits Times nearly 280,000 new businesses were registered in Malaysia between March and September 2020. This figure far outpaced the number of businesses that had shuttered since March – at 32,469, according to the Companies Commission – when the country introduced drastic movement curbs to contain the outbreak.
A majority of these new businesses operated in the food and beverage sector, followed closely by online retail shopping businesses.
New entrepreneurs have pressed ahead with their business plans, all while pivoting on short notice when circumstances change.
Ms Dhashene Letchumanan, a former marketing executive, had been planning to sell her Skin Start beauty products at physical stores before the pandemic hit. By the time she launched her skincare line, movement controls were in place, forcing her to switch to online retail.
Consumer habits are driving new trends as more customers shop online and use retail therapy as a way of escaping lockdown fatigue.
As a result, there has never been a better time to launch a new business. Here are five tips that will help you join this growing trend and start a business of your own.
1. Use your experience or skills
Passion is one thing but starting a successful business isn’t just about doing what you like or about finding a popular trend.
You need to know what you’re doing. You must have some experience in that field. If you want to open a food business, you need to know how to cook, how to order the raw ingredients, the health and cleanliness regulations and how to manage your operations costs and of course how to market your business. Yes, you can hire staff but you need to prepare yourself for the high turnover rate.
Look for ways to use your experience, connections or skills.
Do you write or design for a living? Build a business around those skills. Do you have experience in programming or developing? Create an app, widget or website.
There are two benefits to this.
Firstly, you can do most of the work yourself, so you don’t need to hire contractors and agencies to do it for you.
Secondly, there’s less chance you’ll make an expensive mistake. You know what you’re doing and how the industry works, so your route to success is more direct.
Once you’ve got the basics covered and a stable income, you can start hiring more staff so you can then be a true business owner and plan towards scaling the business.
2. Establish a personal brand
A personal brand isn’t essential for the success of your business, but it’ll make things a lot easier.
When I started my events business, I diligently updated the event blog, went to networking meetings, both free and paid events (you need to know where your potential clients hang out), and got active on LinkedIn. Now there are so many options to help you build your online presence.
Sign up for multiple social-media accounts, post videos, write content and put yourself out there. You don’t have to become the next Kim Kardashian or Janna Nick. It’s all about making connections with people and establishing yourself as an expert in your field.
The more you grow your personal brand, the more trusted you will become. It will connect you with potential buyers, collaborators and brand ambassadors. It will also give you a platform through which you can organically market your business.
If you’re not comfortable in front of the camera, just write blogs and get yourself a LinkedIn account. No one expects you to post mirror selfies and frequent TikToks and Instagram Reels. It’s just about giving yourself a presence.
3. Set clear and achievable goals
Where do you want to be in a year? What about five years and ten years?
Successful business owners are very organized and goal-oriented individuals. They give themselves targets to meet every day, week, month and year. They know exactly what they want to achieve in the future and what they have achieved in the past. They will put in the hard work to make things happen.
You may find yourself attracted to the next bright and shiny object. After all, entrepreneurs make opportunities happen but you’ll need to restrain yourself and focus on 3-4 projects at one time to make sure you’re on track.
Avoid being an aspiring entrepreneur who wants to do everything. He or she will typically jump from one idea to another, rarely committing to any of them and giving up on the ones that he or she does take on.
A successful entrepreneur is someone who has clear and defined goals. He or she knows where he or she is going and how to get there.
You need that clarity if you want to succeed in business.
4. Build a team you can rely on
It’s not “me against the world” when it comes to business. It doesn’t matter what you’ve seen on Instagram or what a business book claimed — entrepreneurs don’t make it entirely on their own.
You need a strong team to run a successful company, and once you have that team, you should take them with you everywhere you go.
Reliability is the most important trait, as well as the rarest. Look for people who will always be there when you need them, people who will work hard for your success and never let you down.
5. Don’t be afraid to take calculated risks
Successful entrepreneurs take calculated risks. They put their savings into projects they believe in, and they believe in them because they’ve done their research and know they will give it their all.
It’s risky to throw money at a business idea that’s completely new to you and one that you won’t work at.
It’s much less risky to throw money at a project you’re familiar with and will benefit from your experience and tireless work ethic.
Are you ready to start a successful business?