Starting a Business
Your first challenge with starting a business, is coming up with a good business idea. You’ll want to make sure you identify a gap in the market, which meets a need. Most importantly, one that makes good business sense for the future and can generate sustained profitability. If you’re ready with a good business idea, read on for some startup business advice, including a checklist to help you with starting a business. It’s important to be prepared, so utilise this checklist to create your own to do list.
Starting a business can be daunting and it’s certainly not for the faint-hearted. Bringing your business idea to life takes time and dedication. From the outset, it involves hard work, and depending on your experience and skill set, a varying degree of challenge. For instance, as a startup business owner, you’ll be juggling several different functions. For example, all aspects of your business’s operations and financial management. In addition, strategic planning and organisation, marketing, sales and IT. Then, when you’re ready to hire, add recruitment, management and training to the mix.
In addition, depending on whether you provide a product or service and can operate from home or not, at some point, you’ll need to consider renting an office space. With this, add facilities and health and safety to the designer hats you’re already wearing. Throw all these hats into the air, juggle them around and keep the plates spinning. It’s not easy, but as long as you remain focused on planning and organisation, you’ll be on the right track to starting a business.
Pre-Planning your Startups Success
When you’re starting a business, planning and organisation is critical. It remains an important and ongoing success factor. It’s not just about a robust business plan. It’s also about the pre-planning stage, since the work you do upfront, supports everything you do from that day forward. Starting a business involves lots of tasks, choices and decisions. For example, one of your first tasks involves understanding your target market and competition. You also need to make a decision about your business name and website domain name(s), which then involves additional tasks. You’ll want to make informed decisions about the different types of insurances you need in place. It doesn’t stop there either, but with a checklist, you can create a prioritised to do list to make sure you stay on track.
Checklist for Starting a Business
The below checklist provides you with the foundations for starting a business. Depending on the type of startup, some of your to do’s may vary slightly. Most importantly, make sure your business idea is viable. Complete thorough research, including your target market and the competition. Be aware of existing competition as well as any potential newcomers. A good introductory book about market research is “Market Research in Practice”, 2016, 3rd edition and published by Kogan Page.
- Research your target market and the competition
- Decide on a business structure
- Decide on a business name
- Register domain name(s)
- Design a logo for your business
- Create a business plan and forecast cash flow
- Build your website and create social media accounts
- Purchase relevant insurances
- Put Terms of Business/Terms & Conditions, Privacy and Cookie Policies in place
Before Starting a Business – Decide on the Structure
Before starting a business, it’s important to weigh up the pros and cons for each of the different types of business structure. The different types include; sole trader, partnership, LLP and limited company. Setting up a limited company reduces your financial exposure, but does mean your annual accounts are public. Ultimately, you need to evaluate the different types with what you want to achieve and what makes you feel most comfortable. Read this blog about how to choose a business structure, which provides you with the pros/cons.
How to Start a Business – With a Good Business & Domain Name
Starting a business means thinking of a good name. Your business and domain names go hand-in-hand. Firstly, it’s important to choose a business name, which mitigates confusion with other businesses. By doing so, you also avoid losing sales and possible legal action. Search online and see if other businesses come up with the same or similar names. If they do, check to see if they also trade in your country location.
In addition, choose a business name that works domain-wise. Check that the name isn’t already taken by another business. In addition, consider any available domain name variations. For instance, you may decide to purchase more than one domain name to prevent someone else from purchasing a domain name that’s similar or the same, but with different domain name extensions.
You can easily check the status of domain names online. For example; Domain Check, Go Daddy as well as others. Most importantly, shop around before making a purchase. Consider add-ons carefully, including the duration of ownership and auto-renewal to mitigate losing domain names in the future. Typically, it’s possible to add private protection, so your personal details aren’t in the public domain.
It’s a good idea to consider whether you want the same domain name provider to also host your website, once it’s built. It’s not a necessity and you can easily keep these separate. This is why it’s important to select your provider carefully by thinking ahead. With web hosting, there are also other considerations. For example, mail hosting, SSL certificates and enhanced security and other web hosting features.
Your business logo is one of the first things your target market will see. Over time, it’s what people will hopefully associate with your business and the product(s) or service(s) you provide. It conveys a message about your business and forms part of your branding.
There are several ways you can go about creating a logo. For instance, create your own logo via a web tool like Wix Logo Maker or Logo Makr. Alternatively, hire an external design specialist or creative agency. There’s no right or wrong route, but external service providers can be costly. Most importantly, your project brief will be key for anyone else capturing your business idea and what you want to achieve. Research your options carefully and before making a decision on which route to go down, narrow down your options and look at the pros and cons of each.
How to Start a Business – With a Business Plan
A good business plan details your business objectives, your target customers and the market and competition. Most importantly, sub-plans for marketing and sales, business operations, financial and a back-up plan. After all, a building developer wouldn’t start building without firstly having a plan in place. Therefore, starting a business also needs a robust business plan and cash flow forecast. These will help you stay on track and meet your short, medium and long-term goals.
Read this free business advice for startups blog, which includes some tips for writing your own business plan. Alternatively, read this writing a business plan service blog, if you’re considering a professional consultancy service.
From time to time, cash flow can be a problem for any business. Therefore, it’s crucial that you stay on top of financials. You can either do this via a web-tool or manually in Excel. With web tools, you can also download csv files, which you can then manipulate anyway. Do what works for you, although using a web tool also facilitates other functions, including invoicing and expense tracking. For example, take a look at QuickBooks and FreeAgent. Please make sure you weigh up the pros and cons for your needs before making a decision.
Start by creating a 12-month forecast, which details your planned sales and all your anticipated and committed/contracted costs. Once you have, maintain it. At the very least, at month end, reconcile your forecast with actual sales and costs. Ideally, as and when things change. Make sure you create a separate monthly Profit & Loss (P&L) for updating your actual figures.
Accounting tools also allow you to run P&L and balance sheet reports, but they may not drill down to the same level of detail. Do what works for you and your startup. Watch the short YouTube video on Tips to Ensure Good Cash Flow for more information.
Website & Social Media Accounts
Building a website and creating social media accounts is the next step in starting a business. With these, you can either design and build your own website and social media accounts or hire a specialist web designer. The latter can run into several thousand pounds and so it’s important to complete research and consider your options carefully.
Before embarking on either option, draft a plan and map out what you want to include. Search online and see what similar business’ websites and social media accounts look like. What do they include/exclude? What’s important to you and your target audience?
Take a look at the Top 10 Best Website Builders before making a start with your website. Most importantly, more and more users are using mobile devices. With this in mind, it’s important to build a mobile-friendly version of your website. For example, one that’s optimised to load quickly, with readable text and visible call to action buttons. Forbes published a helpful article, which gives you some tips for a friendly mobile website.
In addition, keep in mind that you’ll want your website to be optimised for search engines. This means good on-page Search Engine Optimisation (SEO). Don’t be put off by this because a little upfront research could save you a lot of money and heartache. SEO isn’t as difficult as you may think. Most importantly, don’t get caught in a digital marketing trap. It’s not necessary to spend thousands of pounds on getting on-page SEO right. The key is deciding on a keyword/phrase for each web page. Then, follow some simple SEO rules, including use of the keyword/phrase in certain headings and within the body of the text/web page. Moz has put together a Beginners Guide to SEO, which is a useful starting point.
Certainly, there’s a bit more to it than that and you’ll also want to build a backlinking strategy to link to and from other quality/relevant websites. This, together with writing quality blog posts will support and increase your domain authority and search engine ranking.
Make sure you obtain the right insurance cover for your business. At a minimum, obtain Public Liability, Professional Indemnity and Product Liability Insurance. If you have staff, you’ll also need Employers Liability Insurance. In addition, depending on the type of business, other insurance options may also be needed or important.
Hiscox is a small business insurance specialist, but shop around. Check the different insurance providers’ Terms & Conditions. The cheapest option may seem appealing, but does it meet all your requirements? Compare the Market and MoneySupermarket are good tools to compare providers, prices and benefits.
Contracts and Policies
Certainly, it’s better to pay for a professional legal service. They’re best placed to create legally binding documents, which limit your exposure and protect both parties in the event of a dispute. Make sure the agreement/contract includes clauses like; “Charges and Payment”, “Intellectual Property Rights” and “Data Protection”. In addition, “Limitation of Liability”, “Termination” and “Confidentiality”.
Research legal firms carefully and contact at least 3 to discuss your requirements and obtain quotes. Like with everything else, shop around and weigh up the pros and cons. Prices range from a few hundred pounds upwards and depend on the complexities, requirements and time involved. Maximum Solutions Consulting Ltd used Buckworth Solicitors, who specialise in supporting startups and small businesses.
If you’d like further business advice on how to start a business, contact Maximum Solutions Consulting Ltd. In addition, visit the Business Advisory Services London and Business Coaching London pages for details about services.