Starting a new business is exciting, but can also be daunting.
You have so many details to worry about and it's easy to forget something important. This checklist will help you make sure you don't forget a thing when starting your own company.
The small business startup process is challenging but with these tips and tricks, you can overcome the anxiety and fear that comes with starting your own business. With our help, you can make the most of your opportunity to start a small business.
Perform market research
Before you start your small business, you need to do some research and planning. You can't just jump in and hope for the best. Here are some steps to take before starting a small business:
- Use market research to find out about your competitors. Look at their websites and social media profiles. See what they’re saying about themselves and their products or services. Don’t forget to check out what their customers are saying, find out how you can improve upon their service.
- Find a USP (unique selling proposition) for your business that makes you original and stands out – for example, if you're opening an ice cream parlour, it might be unique flavours or unusual toppings on the cones or sundaes that make people want to come back again and again.
- Look at other businesses in your industry for guidance on pricing and packaging strategies – there’s no point in pricing your products and services way above the competition.
- Talk to your potential customers – find out what they want from your product or service.
- Be realistic in your research and make sure there is a clear demand and customer base for your business – don’t just assume people will flock through the doors!
You will find out so much about the business you are about to build from your market research. Don’t be afraid to adapt your idea and business model to what your potential customers desire – this will help you build your business bigger and better.
Decide on a business name
The next step in starting any business is choosing a name. This is a big decision, so you want to make sure you choose something that is memorable, not already taken and represents the brand you want to build.
Here are some tips on how to choose the best name for your small business:
- Make sure it’s original. Avoid using common words that could be confused with other businesses or brands. You can use the Companies House name checker to make sure the name you want is available - you’ll need to know this for the next step.
- Choose words that describe what you do. If you sell organic food, for example, naming your company “Organic Food Ltd.” will help people know what they can expect from your business before they visit or contact you.
- Don’t use numbers in your business name unless it’s part of an acronym or acronym-based name (like IBM). Numbers are hard for people to remember and can be confusing if there are two businesses with similar names but located in different cities or states.
- Don’t use punctuation marks (except hyphens) in the middle of your name — even if they are part of another word.
- Consider how others may perceive your brand name before making a final decision.
Register your Business
Registering your new business can be complicated; the main considerations are trademarks and patents. You will also need to register your business with companies house, we can help you do this to protect your business name.
Register a website domain and social media accounts
Protect your brand by registering the website domain name, and social media handles. Make sure the names you choose are memorable and represent your brand. Don't choose something too long or difficult to spell — customers will abandon you if they can't find you online! If someone else has already registered those names, consider changing your business name if you can, or try using an alternative that still represents your brand well.
Use these tips to choose the best domain name for your business:
- Choose a relevant top domain – for example, if you are trading in the UK then use '.co.uk' or '.com'.
- Think about registering a few website names, to protect your brand well into the future.
- Choose a reputable provider, make sure you can trust the people registering your domain.
- Set up auto-renew so you don’t lose your name by missing a payment. And lock your domain to prevent it from being taken.
Write a business plan
Your market research is complete. You know your target audience, the product or service you want to offer, and how much it will cost to get started. You’ve protected your brand by registering your name and website. Now it’s time to make a plan.
Use your market research to write a business plan designed for your business. Create a timeline of steps you need to take and any required permits or licenses you will need. Outline a budget of how much money you'll need and when you expect your business will be profitable. The more detailed your business plan, the better — especially if you're applying for funding from investors or a bank. It should also include information about how often customers will visit (and where) as well as how much inventory you'll need for each type of product or service that you offer.
Decide a business legal structure
There are four basic types of business structures: sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability partnership, and limited company. Each type of structure offers certain benefits and risks, depending on the type of business you want to start. The following questions will help you decide which structure is right for you:
- Do I want to be an owner or an employee? If you want to be an owner, then a limited company may be the best option because it gives you the most liability protection and control over your business. But if you want to work for yourself but don't want all the responsibilities that come with owning a business, then consider starting as either a sole proprietorship or partnership.
- Do I have enough money to start my own business? If not, consider starting part-time while working another job until you have enough capital to leave your current employer and go full-time with your new venture.
- How much risk am I willing to take in order to earn profits from my new venture? If you're willing to put up a lot of cash upfront in exchange for higher profits later on down the road, then choosing a sole proprietorship or partnership rather than a limited company may be right for you.
Most people will be making a choice between being a sole trader or forming a limited company, this is something you can get expert advice on, to help you make the right decision.
Decide how to fund your new business
Starting a business is a big step, and it’s important to plan properly - especially financially. You can use different types: investors, business grants, business loans, and crowdfunding. You will need to forecast your profitability with a realistic profit and loss analysis (P&L). Financers and investors will want to see your profitability projections, so they can have the confidence to invest.
Be realistic about the amount of time you think it will take to get your business off the ground - don't set yourself up for failure by setting unrealistic goals or deadlines! Work out how much time it will take to achieve these goals and make sure you have saved up or have secured enough funding before starting out.
Are you prepared for failure? Many small businesses fail within the first few years, so don't invest too much in something that might not work out.
You will also need to invest your own time and energy, make sure you’re prepared to do what it takes.
Sort out the technical operations of your small business
By this point you have the basics sorted. You have achieved so much! Take the time to congratulate yourself for all your hard work. Now, let’s get into the nitty-gritty:
- Location — Do you need a brick-and-mortar store/office? If so, choose a location that’s easily accessible and has good transport links. You’ll also need to consider whether you can afford the rent and maintenance of a shop?
- Employees — If you decide to employ staff, they'll be responsible for carrying out tasks on your behalf - from making deliveries to answering customer queries. So make sure you pick the right team. They’ll be saving you time, so you can focus on running the business. But you will have a lot of legal responsibilities when it comes to hiring staff, including PAYE as well as health and safety.
- Bank Accounts — You’ll need to find the bank that offers the support you need as a new business owner. You’ll also need to decide whether you need a credit card for your business.
- Accounts — Keeping up with bookkeeping and payroll can be an arduous task. One best suited to the professionals, make sure you get the right support from an accountant and they help you to implement a cloud accounts software to help increase your productivity.
- Equipment — Depending on your industry you may have high equipment costs, whether it be tools, vehicles, software or hardware this is an investment you need to get right.
- Delivery — Consider the way you will deliver your product/service and customer service. Will it be online, over the phone, in person or via post? Whatever you choose you’ll need to ensure reliability at every level.
- Data Protection — With the introduction of GDPR many years ago now - data protection can be easy to forget. Don’t be caught out! Ensure you are capturing data in a legal way with the consent or legitimate interest of your users. Importantly, you will need to make sure it is being stored securely with the best interest of your customers in mind.
- KPIs, Risk Assessments, and Standard Operating Procedures — Will help you to monitor performance and track your goals; but they will also allow scalability as your business grows and you employ more staff.
Build a brand you can be proud of
Embarking on your brand building journey may be daunting, our tips are here to help.
Your logo should be simple and instantly recognisable so customers know what brand they’re buying from when they see it on packaging or advertising materials. Your colours should be easy on the eye but still reflect your brand personality. And your typefaces should be consistent across all platforms (such as social media profiles or websites) so that customers recognise them easily wherever they see them online or in print media.
Plan your marketing strategy — what will work best for you?
There are tons of ways to market your business online — both paid ads and free ones – like Facebook Ads, Instagram influencers and Google AdWords campaigns. You can also hire consultants or a dedicated marketing agency to help you bring your vision to life.
Creating a website and getting online — how do you do it?
The internet has made it easier than ever to start a business, but it's still not as simple as it looks. Getting online is a must for any small business. If you don't have a website, how will customers find you? The internet provides instant access to information, so if they're not able to find your business on Google or another search engine then they'll probably go elsewhere.
A well-designed website can help you:
- Advertise your products or services online.
- Build trust among potential customers by demonstrating your professionalism and expertise.
- Generate leads from enquiries from potential customers.
Here are some quick tips on building a website:
- Make sure your site is mobile-friendly.
- Make sure it looks good on all devices and browsers.
- Optimise your content for search engines (SEO).
- Use social media buttons on your site so people can share your content.
A poorly designed and performing website will do your brand more damage than good. Make sure you invest the resources into getting it right.
Launching your new business
The day of Launching a new business is one of the most exciting days in your life. It has been a long journey and you have worked tirelessly to get to this point. You may be feeling excited, nervous, or even both!
You now have to get your business out to the world in every way possible. You should utilise all of the following methods for the best chance of success:
- Word of mouth — as old school as it may be, it works! Tell your friends and family and get them to spread the word.
- Social media — the ever-evolving world of social media is key to spreading the word. Don’t forget to keep your social media up to date as your business develops.
- SEO — search engines like Google are the way for people to find new businesses. Make sure your website can perform well by using search engine optimisation.
- Ads —gone are the days where advertising cost a fortune. Using social media ads you can invest as much or as little as you want to promote your business.
- Content — this is the hard part. You will need to produce content that your audience will not only enjoy but want to read. It is also the place to display your expertise in the industry and build an image of authority.
Keep everything in order
Finally! You’ve done it, after all, you’re hard work your business has finally been launched. You may think your work is over, but your journey has only just begun.
Over the lifetime of your business, you will need to keep up with your legal obligations as well as plan for a successful future. Set yourself up to succeed for many years to come with these key points:
- Update your business plan — your business plan is not a one-time thing, you must keep it updated as your business adapts to changes in clients, resources and your own growth.
- Adapt marketing — find out what works and repeat it, don’t be afraid to experiment.
- Refine your target market — don’t get stuck on the idea of one type of customer. As time goes on your customers will change, and new customer bases will form.
- HMRC returns and Confirmation Statements — we all hate paying taxes and boring paperwork, but it’s necessary if you want to stay in business.
Get started with your new business today
Starting a new business can be scary. There are also some legal aspects to making sure your business is set up properly for financial and tax purposes, as well as many other steps to set your business up for success. But with some research and planning, you can have yourself a brand-new small business started in no time. Good luck!
If you’re looking to start your own business and need some help along the way, contact us for a free consultation with one of our expert team members. Quote promo code 'STARTUP22' and we'll:
- Register your new business
- Help you write your business plan
- Provide you with your new accounting software.