Business First | Step-by-step guide to starting your own business |…

Starting your own business

21 Apr 2017 –– Tips & Advice
Starting your own business

Starting your own business is a process of vigilant planning, in-depth market research and proper groundwork.

So, we put together this step-by-step guide to help you put the foundations in place when starting your own business.

Write a business plan

First things first, develop a business plan.

Your business plan should define your product or service, how you propose to market it and who your audience and competitors are. It will enable you to forecast your cash flow by illustrating your finances efficiently - and it should show potential investors the strength of your business.

There are a handful of useful websites that can aid in preparing your business plan, Startup Donut and Prince’s Trust, are good places to start.

Test your idea

Prior to launching your business, we would recommend you spend a significant amount of time conducting market research – is there space in the current market for your business? If so, who is your target audience? More importantly, who are going to be your main competitors in your field?

The greatest form of market research is to find people who would buy into your product and have them test it for themselves. The key things you should note about your desirable audience (and these are the people who are categorically interested in your product or service) are:

  • What is their age?
  • What do they do for a living?
  • Are they male or female?
  • Do they already buy this product or a similar variation via a competitor?
  • What hobbies do they have?
  • By what means will they learn about your business? (Social media, email, post…)

Not only do we have access to first hand audience insights, you can now gain instantaneous access to a wide array of secondary published data that gives you the ability to not only quantify the size of the market you are entering into, but also enables you to target niche demographics that will aid in building buyer personas that are so targeted to your businesses’ branding it’s unbelievable.

Name your business

The name of your business is, generally, the first point of contact for a potential customer. So, make it easy to pronounce, simple to write, and most of all, memorable.

Once you have a number of desirable names shortlisted, run them through Companies House web server, doing so will allow you to check the names haven’t already been acquired by another business.

Companies House have also uploaded a convenient list of restricted name types - it would be valuable for you to look over these at some point.

Finally, run your shortlisted names through a domain checker.

Register a domain name and set up a website

Registering your domain name can be a daunting experience, especially with the vast array of hosting providers out there. But, if there’s one thing you should take on board from this guide, let it be this - don’t be swayed by promotional deals. Certain hosting providers will offer free domain name registration – ever heard the saying “you get what you pay for”, well, it’s never been more relevant.

You’ll find, more often than not, it’s in your best interest to pay extra to get a domain name with a reputable and reliable host.

Providing the domain name you’re after hasn’t already been snapped up by somebody else – you can register it here.

If your business is UK-based use www/yourname/.co.uk as a priority.

Finally, one thing you mustn’t forget – keep on top of your domain name renewal date. Dependent on how long you chose to initially host your domain name for, you will go through a renewal process at some point. You will more than likely get an email from your host, ahead of your renewal date, to tell you of this happening, it then becomes a simple process of going back through a payment procedure and entering into another contract for a further defined time.

Create a logo

A well designed and thought-through logo can not only make your business look professional, it can also convey exactly what your business is about and clearly show which industry you are a part of - making it simple and easy for customers to recognise you and build an emotional attachment.

The most effective way to communicate to potential customers through your logo design is simply by placing your company name in the logo. This may seem obvious, but a surprising number of businesses lose sight of their business objective while trying to design the most state-of-the-art logo.

Remember, you want to make it as easy as possible for potential customers to understand who you are and what you do.

Finance for your business

Possibly the most daunting aspect of starting your own business is financing it.

First and foremost, have a budget in place based on your business plan. This will enable you to work out how much finance you will need and at what stage you will need it.

Remember, a start-up business generally spends more than it earns in its first two years, so be conscious of this when planning your budget.

There are a number of financing options available, and it’s completely up to you, and your business structure, which forms of financial aid you chose to obtain.

Banks offer a wide array of financial support for start-up businesses. From business loans, business credit and overdrafts, cash flow finance and borrowing against assets. Not only are they able to give you the direct funds you need to get your business off the ground, they also offer expert financial advice.

If you struggle to get finance from your bank, you can apply for an unsecured government-backed start-up loan of between £500 - £25,000. This government-backed scheme not only provides you with the funds you need to get your business started, it also provides 12 months free mentoring and exclusive business offers.

Hiring staff

Before hiring staff, make sure you are up to date with the latest employment laws. There are a few key points to take into consideration before taking someone on.

First and foremost register your business with HMRC. You must tell HMRC when you start your business, take on an employee for the first time, or if you need to register for VAT.

Before you take on an employee you must make sure they have the legal right to work in the UK. You can find out more about the protocol for assessing an individual’s status to work in the UK here.

A more delicate matter to consider when hiring staff is deciding on how much you are going to pay them. It is a legal obligation to pay your staff the National Minimum Wage. We would recommend you have a thorough read of the NMW guidelines prior to hiring a new employee.

If you would like further advice on employment law in the workplace you can find it by visiting ACAS.

Getting an office space

The type of office space your business needs will vary considerably, depending on the business you run and how much space, and what type of space, each person needs to conduct their job successfully.

Explore the options available to you carefully when looking for your first office space. There are shared offices, sub-leases, co-working spaces, direct and serviced offices available.

Most offices will place a contractual term time upon you for a specified number of months, (or years) in which you must rent the space. Make sure you conduct a thorough investigation into the terms and conditions before signing on the dotted line.

Ask yourself, how much space do my employees and I need to conduct our jobs to the best of our abilities? The general rule of thumb is that each staff member will need 100 sq. ft. However, this will vary considerably depending upon the type of business you run and the role that your staff play within the space they are given.

Another thing to take into consideration when obtaining office space is whether or not the premises is serviced. Does your business need access to fully furnished and equipped meeting or conference rooms? Do you need a receptionist to handle and sign for bulk post? How about free parking for yourself, staff and visitors? You can find out more about the facilities that a fully serviced office provides here.

Marketing

Once you’re up and running (or before, along with your business plan, if you can – being able to demonstrate how you will market your business and attract sales will help you to gain funding from external sources), it’s time to put a marketing strategy in place. When crafting your marketing strategy, decide on a tone of voice and an emotional aesthetic that will capture your target audience.

Set up a Facebook and Twitter account and start to engage with your customers. Ask them what they love about your product or service, and take criticism constructively. Use this to build your business into a more successful and customer-focused entity.

If you’re selling something or offer a service where you can produce visual content, then do it! Studies show that video content will make up 74% of all internet traffic by the end of 2017. Not only that, but 4x as many customers would prefer to watch video content and not read about it.

Your marketing strategy will vary depending on your business and the products or services you provide, not to mention your budget – but one thing’s for certain if you don’t have a solid plan in place your business will never flourish.