Thinking of starting a business?
Follow our step-by-step guide below and avoid the common mistakes many small business make when starting up.
Part 1. Getting Started
1. Define your unique selling point
You need a unique selling point (USP). It’s important that you define what makes your business different to the competition. Try to sum it up in two sentences – and memorise it. You’ll use it every time you pitch to investors and potential customers.
2. Find a business mentor
Whether it’s a business advisor or a financial guru, find someone who will give you honest feedback about your business. Contact Small Business Associations or Small Business Development Centres.
3. Create a business plan
When you create a business plan, you’ll need to summarise your business as it is now, and map your vision for how it will be in the future.
4. Register web domains and trademarks
You’ll need a website, so check for suitable domain names and register them. Think about trademarks too – talk to your lawyer about this.
Part 2. Business Essentials
5. Set up your business structure
Choose a legal structure that works best for you. An accountant can help you here.
6. Ensure that your business will eventually be profitable
Can you make a profit from your business? Use accounting software to run profit and loss forecasts. Ask an accountant or financial advisor for their opinion.
7. Set up a business bank account
Don’t use your personal account, even if you’re just starting out. It’s always wise to keep your business finances separate. A credit card and PayPal account could be useful too.
8. Arrange business insurance
Even the smallest companies need insurance. Talk to a broker to find the best package for you.
Part 3. Setting Up
9. Register for taxes
You’ll need to register with HMRC for Corporation Tax or Self Assessment. And if you’re employing staff you’ll need to register for VAT and PAYE
10. List the items that can be tax deductible expenses
Office rent, equipment costs, internet costs – all of these may be offset against tax so make sure you talk to your accountant.
11. Create your website
Use the website domain name you’ve already registered if possible. Services like Squarespace, WordPress, Moonfruit and Onepager will get you online quickly. You can always refresh and improve your site at a later date.
12. Create social network accounts
Different businesses have different social media needs. You might need a Facebook page and a LinkedIn profile – or you may only need a Twitter account. Do some research on competitors or ask your mentor to see what will work for your business. Look at companies that you aspire to be like for inspiration.
Part 4. People
13. Ask people to promote you online
Contact members of your social networks. Tell them about your new business and ask them to share the link to your website with the people in their networks.
14. Find the right employees
Hiring the right employees is important. While you may only be able to hire one or two employees to start with, it’s still vital that you hire well and choose the right ones.
15. Think about how you’ll use technology
Nearly all companies use technology. Think about whether you need laptops, tablets, smartphones – or all of these. Talk to local IT firms if you’re not sure.
16. Choose your business applications
Software is getting more powerful and intuitive. If possible, choose online applications for your work. These include Google Docs and Microsoft Office 365. That way you can access your valuable data online from anywhere at any time.
17. Keep your data safe
Companies that lose data also lose business. Use cloud-based software for peace of mind.
Your brand is your way of saying who you are without saying anything at all.
Keep challenging yourself
Successful entrepreneurs keep going when other people would give up. That inner drive is what defines a successful business owner. Your attitude will help determine whether your business succeeds or fails. So keep going and the hard work will pay off.
The steps in this starting a business checklist are all important. But they won’t guarantee success. Only you can do that with hard work, intelligent decisions and great employees. Stay nimble, be prepared for challenges – and go for it!