Today we are going to show you 14 steps to get your business idea off the ground.
Steps that our company itself has followed to get to where it is today.
So lets go back to the very beginning.
There are so many reasons why you would want to start your own business. One is, you’d like to earn more money! Another is that you’d like the freedom to spend more time with family and friends, go on more vacations, and just well, be your own boss. No matter what the reason is, there are a few steps that can help you to get on the right path and we’re here to nudge you in the right direction.
So where to start?
1. Where to start with starting-up your own business?
This is probably one of the most important steps as depending on what you decide here can greatly affect your futures outcome. Starting off with some good old fashion market research is what we’d consider the first, crucial step to take. Look into the different types of businesses out there at this present time, think about what is working and where you think there could be room for improvement. Think about what your skills are, what’s your area of expertise? Do you have a certain subject you have a true passion for? If you can find an area that you are both knowledgeable about and have a true passion for, then great! If not, don’t worry, all that means is you’ll have to put a bit more time in.
2. Conduct market research for your business
Once you’ve got an idea of what it is you’re going to be doing, start keeping an eye on your competition. Look at what areas they’re thriving in and areas that maybe they lack something in. If you are able to find the areas that aren’t working so well, ask yourself how can you improve it? Do online research as well as face-to-face research. Put a survey together of the areas you’ve discovered that may not be working so well and ask locals if they agree and what would they do to improve it? Asking the public questions like this is a great way to get a deeper understanding of what works for them. Try to not rely solely on this type of research though as the information you collect here is only a representation of the time the research was collected. Use this data alongside your other research means such as your online research or even from focus groups.
3. Get your prototype out there
No matter what your idea is, whether it be a physical product or a service, get it out there to a small selection of people early on to see how they take to it. We recommend doing this at this stage, before you’ve put too much money in setting your company up. This will give you a chance to find out first-hand from customers what they think of your product, if they’re happy with it and if not, what can be improved. Create a table for each area such as the price (too expensive, too cheap), product itself (good quality, cheap, tacky, bulky), packaging (bright, appealing, unwelcoming), delivery (was it delivered in good time, was it damaged during transport), and execution (how was the service from beginning to end; Happy, rushed, aggressive)? This will help you to get an average of the key areas that need improving or even discover areas you had thought were not working but in actual fact, are!
4. Respond to feedback
When receiving feedback on your product or service, it’s hard to not take offence, especially when you’ve put day and night into it and your hard-earned money. Just take a breath and remember to always smile and say thank you, even to the negative reviewers. After all, that is the whole point of this technique, to find out what can be improved. Receiving positive feedback is great, hold onto that feeling as you’ll probably be really excited but be carful to not get ahead of yourself as this can lead to making rushed, uncalculated decisions.
It’s important to remember that all feedback is a vital step at success. Keeping a log of comments will help you to find the pattern of areas to improve and can make a nice souvenir to look back on in years to come.
5. Deciding on your business structure
Now it’s time to do some research into what type of business you want. You’ll need to decide what legal structure is best for you and your business. The four main ones are Sole Trader, Partnership, Limited Company and Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).
- A Sole Trader is the exclusive owner of the business, they are entitled to keep all profits earnt but at the same time, they are liable for all losses. This method is low cost and fairly easy to set-up however, could mean you pay more in tax and have a lot of debt to pay if things don’t go to plan.
- A Partnership works in a way of shared management and profits between two or more individuals. There is more potential to raise finance here with the same advantages as a Sole Trader (low cost, easy to set-up) however, it can become very messy to settle things and you can also be paying more tax and be liable for debts.
- A Limited Company is a private company whose owners are responsible for its debt however, only to the extent of the amount of capital they have invested. There is a less personal financial exposure with a more favourable tax regime however, the administrative demands are much greater requiring annuals accounts and financial reports which also need to be placed in the public domain.
- A Limited Liability Partnership (LLP) allows all or some of its partners to have limited liabilities and exhibits elements of partnerships and corporations.
If you’re not too sure what would be best for you and your company, don’t be afraid to get some legal advice.
6. Deciding on a business name
Deciding on what name you want to be recognised for can be very daunting and add pressure to picking one! To get started, it may be helpful to create a sticky note wall full of words, quotes and ideas that you like. Even looking at what certain words are in Latin can help you to be a bit more creative. Once you’ve got a list of the ones you like, try to filter these into a list of names that really stand out to you. Remember that whatever you decide on is going to be the first thing people notice about your company. First impressions are everything and the more attractive your business looks and sounds, the more you’ll stand out from your competitors. Choosing a name that is memorable and easy to pronounce is also key. If you’re stuck on a few names, try asking family and friends their opinion. Get feedback on what they like the sound of and which ones they find easy to say and remember. If you can get across what the business is with just the company name (just like Whoever You Need) then you’re on to a winner!
7. Buy that domain!
Once you’re fixed on what business name you want, check the domain is available and then buy it. You can use GoDaddy, 123Reg, Namesco and more to register your domain. There’s no right or wrong on which one to choose; If however, your planning on building your website yourself using WordPress, our sources have found in the past that GoDaddy is a great way to get your domain, emails and website all in one easy step. We recommend buying both the .com and .co.uk for your chosen name (example.com + example.co.uk) as this will avoid someone purchasing the other one in years to come and maybe even causing a problem with copyright in the future. It is also good practice to purchase similar domains to cover possible spelling errors (which is also good for SEO). These could be for example; exsmple.co.uk or even examole.co.uk as these are keys next to the correct letter which are common mistakes people make when searching online.
8. Where to start with getting a logo
Making sure your logo represents your business properly is another important factor. Trying to look professional yet letting customers know what your business is about all in one image can be difficult, but not impossible. Your brands personality should be communicated through your logo, and this can help customers to become emotionally invested in your business. Know yourself that when you’re looking around for a company to use, the company name and logo tends to be the deciding factor of whether or not you’ll click through to see what they’ve got to offer.
If your lucky enough to know someone who can help to create your logo then great! If not, then a great resource we’ve found is LogoGuru. Here you can select what colours you like and the different types of logos you like such as McDonalds or Pepsi, Google or Puma; You can choose if you want more of an image logo, like the apple in Apple’s logo or more of a text based logo like Facebook. From there you’ll receive anything from 50 to more than a hundred different logo designs; You can then like your favourites which helps designers within the project to know what you like and help them to design something more along those lines. Then all you’ve got to do is choose your winning design!
9. Writing your business plan
Putting together a business plan doesn’t have to be complicated; It’s recommended that 20 to 30 pages should be enough to describe how your business will evolve, complete with monthly predictions, management attributes and so on. Look at your business plan as a future resource to regularly revise and help you to grow your business. Remember this will become a vital tool for managing yourself, operating your business and can even help with recruiting staff in the future.
- There are three main points you should consider for your business plan, the first one should be your business concept. Here you should discuss the industry your business is in, what your product or service is, your business structure, and your future plans of making this a success.
- Your next point should be where you discuss the current marketplace for your product, the type of customers you’re targeting, what your competition is like, what makes your customers choose you and so on.
- The third point should be all about your financials. Here you should include what cash flow you have, your income, balance sheets and other financial factors for your business. You may want to speak with your accountant for this part. B Plans has a great article on how to write your own business plan.
10. Choosing which accounting software to use
For small businesses, picking an accounting software might be daunting but it doesn’t have to be. We suggest going with a cloud-based software as they can save you hours of time compared to manually handling your books. This type of accounting software has been designed with small business owners in mind, allowing individuals who have very little to no accounting background at all to be able to use their software.
It’s a good idea to shop around before committing to a software too and many offer free trials nowadays so you can even test products out before purchasing. Prices vary depending on which features you require but they can start from as little as £9.99 a month and some software’s are even completely free. Have a think about what features you will need for example, payroll, as this can affect your monthly costs. It is also a good idea to check if products allow room for upgrades for such features as this may not be something you require to begin with but may do in years to come.
11. Product development
Whether you have a physical product or a service, it’s a good idea to always strive to better it. With today’s technology, things are evolving at an alarming rate, ‘new’ doesn’t stay new for very long. In fact, when you purchase a brand-new computer in store, manufactures have already created the next best thing which is already starting its product lifecycle to get that out on shop floors. Regularly hold product reviews with family, friends, and customers. If you have a selection of loyal customers that enjoy what you’re doing, ask them to be testers for new product concepts. Do regular surveys to a selected few and ask them what they’d like to see in Future releases from you.
Remember that cheap isn’t always best. Although keeping manufacturing costs down is brilliant, cheap materials is not; Customers will be able to tell the difference if you change everything from what was once a quality product to a cheap, tacky material. When looking to develop your products and even outsource some tasks to allow you more time to focus on other business areas, make sure to hire a few specialists. These people have worked in this industry a lot longer than you and they have a wealth of knowledge to bring to the table. Running a business is all about learning and progressing so don’t be scared to bring in people that you can learn from. Try to not rely solely on one person or contract though; If they decide to leave or you lose your only big contract, you don’t want to find yourself stuck, try and always keep in mind a fall-back plan.
12. Choosing the right office space
Starting off your business may have meant working evenings in your garage at the computer but as time goes by and your company grows, so should the workspace. If you’ve taken on some staff and are now looking for some office space, or you need a shop to operate from now as you grow, there are some things you should consider.
- Who are your customers? Are you selling a physical product and if so, what’s your demographic? This can greatly affect your choice of location as what may be popular in one town, may not be so in another. You should already have your research from the previous steps to know where best to operate from.
- Accessibility. Are the locations your looking at easy to find? Can it be accessed easily and is there good parking for your customers?
- Research the area. Have you looked into the previous shop owners, what companies they were, how long were they there for? See if you can find out if any previous companies have failed there and if so, what might have been the reason for that; Will that same factor affect your business?
- But what if you have an online business? If it’s not a shop your looking for but more for staff to operate from, think about how many staff you plan to have in the next couple of years. If you have 5 employees now but hope to grow to double that in the next coming years, it may be an idea to plan for this now, saving money and a whole lot of trouble in the future. If your planning for an average amount of desk space per employee with a small break room and possibly one conference or meeting room, for 5 people you should be aiming at around 1,100 square foot of space altogether.
- Building infrastructure. As you probably know, when buying or renting a house, you should take into consideration the health of the building; This is also true when choosing office space or a shop. Get a professional to come and inspect the building before you decide to purchase it. Keep in mind your staff’s day-to-day needs; what high-tech they may require, and can the building accommodate this?
13. Where to start when hiring Staff
Now the time has come to hire staff, so where should you start? Think about the positions you need to fill, a salesperson, office administrator or an accounts administrator/manager? What areas are you struggling with or could just use the extra help with? Write these down and start to form your job proposals, listing the key areas they are needed in along with the desired attributes and skills. To get your job listing seen you can use job sites such as Indeed, CV Library, Reed or even post them on local Facebook groups.
Maybe you’d like to hire a freelancer who isn’t required fulltime in the office, but rather to outsource certain tasks as and when you need them completed. You could think about using Fiverr for services such as digital marketing, content writing, graphic design, product research and even data entry. Alternatively, you can outsource work to independent contractors however, this may require a written contract agreement which you may want to get drawn up from your lawyer. Check out Forbes 6 tips for hiring the right employees for a more in-depth guide. U.S. Small Business Administration also have a great article on hiring and managing employees for when you need to consider payroll for your new employees.
14. Promote your business
There are so many ways you can promote your business, from leaflets, magazines, social medias, paid adverts on search engines and so on. But what if your strapped for cash and still want to promote your business? A great place to start is family and friends; Create yourself a business page on Facebook and share it on your private page asking family and friends to help support you by liking and sharing your page. This will help to raise awareness of your business as their friends share it, and their friends, friends share it and so on. If you have a Twitter account or any other social media site that allows sharing, do the same here; If you have Google analytics set up or any other website analytic recording software installed, you should start to see a rise in website visitors from this alone. Another cost-effective way to promote your business is by becoming a member here at Whoever You Need for just £10 a month - Find out how to get more customers with us.
Keeping an up-to-date blog is also a great way to promote your business as this gives your followers and customers content to like and share which in turn, will provide free advertising. This is also a great way to advance your websites SEO, check out our Dummies guide to SEO for more information on how you can improve yours.
In conclusion, starting up your own business does take a bit of work but if you follow our essential business start-up guide, and put the hard work in, you have every chance at growing a successful business! Remember it takes time to get your business well-established so enjoy the journey as you go. Try to learn new things that will benefit you and your company and don’t be afraid to ask for help.