Running a business is the ultimate dream, isn’t it? You become your own boss. You work with the clients you want to work with. You make the decisions, and you’re in charge of your destiny. Most importantly, you get to work for something you’re passionate about. That’s the real bonus of starting a business. Pursuing your dreams and working for that one thing that makes you happy. Unfortunately, starting a business is no walk in the park. There’s a reason why such a large number of businesses fail in their early days.
There’s no clear-cut reason why many businesses don’t make it past their two-year birthday. But, you can almost always put it down to a lack of planning. Entrepreneurs rush into their first business, and get carried away with their creative thoughts and ideas. It’s completely understandable. As entrepreneurs, we’re encouraged to seize the day and move quickly to capitalise on market trends. But, before you dive in, take an extra week to tick off these following essentials.
Step 1 – Decide on your format
There are countless different ways to start a business. It really helps to narrow it down right at the start, rather than finding your feet along the way. Set out a clear path and trajectory for the future. You wouldn’t set out on a road-trip without a map. So, why embark on a journey this important without doing the same? Are you planning to launch a new store? Will you start online or rent a retail space in the local area? Perhaps you should think about taking on a franchise first. You could buy into the CertaPro franchise, and open a shop at a fraction of the cost (and risk!) Or, is your business idea more freelance in nature? Could you offer consulting services instead? Take the time at this stage to map out your trajectory.
Step 2 – Test and research your business ideas
When you’ve had a wonderful creative idea, the last thing you want to do is research! We feel your pain, entrepreneurs, we really do. We know you want to act fast and hit the market quickly. But, trust us, you’ll thank yourself for slowing down and testing it thoroughly. If you’re selling a product, make prototypes. Test it with your target market and get critical feedback. If you’re offer a B2B service, reach out to contacts in the industry. Ask if you’re offering a comprehensive solution, and see what you could do better. You only get one chance at a first impression. Make it count.
Step 3 – Choose a business structure
Every self-employed worker and business owner must register with the taxman. That means setting up a business structure that complies with legal requirements. There are a few different options here. They include ‘sole trader’, ‘partnership’, and ‘limited company’. Each have their unique tax rates and legal requirements. It’s often worth getting an accountant and a lawyer in the same room to discuss the best option. You can always change things later on, but try to settle on a structure you’re happy with.
Step 4 – Calculate your startup costs
The Excel spreadsheet is a giant-killer of the tallest order! Even the biggest companies struggle to make ends meet sometimes. And, it’s even tougher on the smaller startups. As a small business, it’s vital that you stick to a strict budget in the first few years. It all begins with your startup costs. These are the essential bills and payments that you need to get started. Where possible, try to get hard quotes for every aspect so you can plan ahead. Calculate the cost of your assets (physical tools and equipment) and your expenses (rent, wages, energy bills etc).
Step 5 – Write a comprehensive business plan
This is perhaps the single most important thing you can do for you company. Firstly, your business plan is a complete roadmap to your future. It outlines your goals, ambitions, and mission statement. It gives you something to work towards, and helps you break things down into smaller objectives. Secondly, it shows investors and money lenders that you are serious about the business. It proves to them that you have a plan for turning a profit and a timeline to do so. You simply won’t get a loan or investment without one.
Step 6 – Build a team around you
As an entrepreneur, you have two big choices. First of all, you can take on the whole company yourself. You make all the decisions, and set sail alone. This approach works for a small number of business owners. For the vast majority, however, you need a strong support team around you. Perhaps you even need a business partner. As a startup founder, you might have lots of creative ideas and blue-sky thinking. But, who’s looking after the numbers? Who’s your business manager? Who’s taking care of the marketing? Smart entrepreneurs know their limitations. They understand their weaknesses, and they bring in people to fill the gaps.
Step 7 – Intellectual property and trademarks
If you’re not already familiar with the legal side of business and ownership, it’s time to take notice! You might think it’s useless hiring a lawyer at this early stage. After all, who’s going to sue a small startup or steal their ideas? Well, you’d be surprised. Most people aren’t out to maliciously steal your new concept. But, through process of networking, meetings, and ideas, your idea can suddenly find itself in the wrong hands. Protect it early with patents, trademarks, and copyrights.
Step 8 – Find your first clients and customers
Finally, it’s time to put yourself out there. It might seem like a long journey, but you’ll thank yourself for building these strong foundations. Now it’s time to leverage your existing contacts to land the first few clients. It’s time to implement a powerful marketing strategy, build a website, and get your business out there. This is the most exciting part of a new company. Enjoy it, and never stop reaching for the stars!
Starting a business is liberating. Just remember to take your time to get it right before you launch. Good luck fellow entrepreneurs!