Starting up a business today could not be easier, for many all you need is motivation, a laptop and the guts to go out there and “do it”. However, there are some key steps to make sure that your endeavour will hit the ground running and not smash to pieces, taking your confidence and bravery with it!
Having worked with more than 1000 businesses in my more than three decades as an accountant – I can say that there are some crucial success definers which, if not considered, can badly hamper an intrepid new entrepreneur.
Step 1: Self Evaluation – Strengths and Weaknesses
What kind of entrepreneur are you? It takes all kinds of people to start up a business, and they do it for a multitude of reasons. They all have different strengths and weaknesses. At the start, you should identify what are yours. By being honest about where you are weak – you have a better chance of avoiding any pitfalls early on.
For example: if you are purely a numbers person, and don’t understand how to do things like product testing, or marketing – then you need to make sure you have someone working with you who does (a freelancer or virtual assistance can work). As a business owner – you will know it’s important, but you have no idea how to approach it. Get help.
Step 2: What’s the market’s burning need?
Many people who are ‘pushed’ from employment (being unhappy or made redundant) will decide to start up a business because they like something specific and think they can make it into a business.
While you do need to like what you do or sell as a business owner – this “like” may not translate into a burning market need. Therefore, you should research and find out if a significant population in your market place wants what you like. You have a better chance at success if what you are selling satisfies a need ….and you are not trying to “create” a need (if you know what I mean).
Resource: here is a slideshow from Entrepreneur.com that gives you 8 Ways to Come Up With a Business Idea. It may help spur your idea further.
Step 3: Put together a broad business plan
This doesn’t have to be as tedious as it sounds – but I promise you, if you can clearly document just a few points in a plan, it will help to move you forward.
Even if it’s just you in the business note down the following:
- What you are selling (list specific products and services with price points)
- Who you sell it to (and how/where you will reach this audience)
- What makes your offer truly different to your competitors (Unique Selling Points – USPs)
- What are you aiming to achieve in 6,12 and 24 months (list turnover, but also some milestones you’d like to get through – keep them practical and motivational)
This document will grow with you as your business develops, it will help you to recognise where you have come from, how far you have come and that progress has been made. (Being an entrepreneur can be lonely from a ‘pat-on-the-back’ perspective – so having something you can come back to to track how you are doing – will give you a big boost in the future).
Step 4: Marketing and Sales Plan
While a broad business plan which gives you a purpose for being the business you are and stating what you sell and to whom – you also need an action plan to achieve what you say you want to achieve. This will come in the form of two other mini-plans:
1.How you are going to find these magical customers or clients?
This is your marketing plan. Firstly, work out what your message is, about you and your products, and your benefits – then decide which channels are the best routes to getting in front of the right prospective customers. The channels may be a mix of:
- Strategic partners
- Print (if relevant)
- Radio or TV (online, local or national)
- Social Media channels
- Referral partners, etc
Once you have the channels identified you can create the collateral or content to entice those prospects to contact you.
2. How you are going to entice them to buy from you?
This is your next step, your sales tactics/plan – where you focus on how to convert those interested prospects who visit your website, book a call, download a freebie or meet you at a networking function into sales. Have a few good tactics and resources you can pull together to help you convert that interest into a sale or a solid prospect over time.
Step 5: Plan your Finances
The all-important: “how are you going to pay the bills?” In your start-up period of 0 to 3 years, there will be a lot of activity and investment (time and cost) in getting you going. Try and put together a little cashflow plan to just keep you sane.
Keep it simple in the meantime, just so that you are aware of your numbers. A quick websearch will offer you a multitude of free cash flow spreadsheets you could use. (Try Business Accounting Basics – they also explain the difference between a Profit &Loss and a Cashflow Statement.)
Step 6: Decide on business structure
You will need to decide (as part of your business planning) what your legal structure will be. You may choose from:
- Sole trader (Self-employed)
- Limited Company
- Partnership (Self-employed)
This all depends on what you are doing, your market and of course who (if any) are involved in your business. If you’d like to chat about this – just drop me an email.
Step 7: Name and brand
This will be linked to your marketing plan and of course your company structure, but you will need to come up with a brand that will work for your audience and/or product/service. Remember to ensure that you do some research first to ensure that you are not encroaching on Trademarks or registered company names. Do not pick a name that is overused (it will not help you to stand out in searches).
Check out trademarks here: https://www.gov.uk/search-for-trademark
Check out company names here: https://beta.companieshouse.gov.uk/search/companies?q
Check domain URL’s here: https://namechk.com/
Step 8: Promotion launch or plan
This will be a part of your marketing plan, but I thought I would highlight it – it’s important to be looking at a lot of awareness activity in your first year. You will want to try and get as many people as possible to know about you and your business. Put together a plan for concentrated effort to ensure that you don’t end up just in “sell” mode to get products/services sold – but you are also doing a variety of activities to get known and be consistently visible.
This momentum will help you in years 4 through to 7 – I promise you!
Step 9: Business buddies
Owning and running a business can be a lonely and thankless task (as well as being completely freeing and exciting at the same time!) Make sure you actively look for some like-minded business colleagues who you can connect with and share your journey.
You will need the emotional support for sure – but it will also help you when you need other kinds of support (like suppliers, freelancers, etc). Building connections is really important.
Step 10: Feedback and review
In your first 3 years, you are really testing your idea, your products and verifying who your ideal clients or customers are. Make sure you are building in points during your year to check in with your customers/clients to see if want to are delivering is helping them, and get direct feedback. Use the feedback to keep tweaking your offer until it is properly hitting the spot.
This doesn’t mean you keep refashioning your offer – I mean tweak (and this could be more about how you communicate your benefits, what you perceive as the benefits, the design of packaging, information on a product, etc).
Good luck! This is an exciting time in your business career – grab it with both hands and enjoy it. If you could do with some help or advice along the way in terms of finance or business planning – please do reach out and give me a call or drop me an email. Here are my contact details:
Stony Stratford Office: 01908 564701
Rugby Office: 01788 577613