Every business starts somewhere. Whether you’re just starting out, or have already jumped in, you need to know the essentials of setting up your business. You’re not going to use all of these essentials at once, but you’ll want to keep them all in the back of your head. The first step in success is making sure you have a plan for that success!
Step 1: What is your business going to look like?
When you’re starting a business, you need to consider what form it is going to take.
- What’s your idea?
Before investing you time and money in your business, make sure that you have a good idea. What seems like a great idea to you might not appeal to everyone. Ask people around you for input on the idea, and accept their feedback.
So what are the steps to take in order to make sure your idea is strong?
- Look at the current state of the business. You should be familiar with the area surrounding your business. Is there a demand for your product or service?
- Look at your area. Who are your competitors going to be? Are you going to be fighting for customers? Make sure that you’re able to find customers, and target the ones you’re looking for.
- What’s your plan?
Don’t get so excited by your great idea that you let this step fall to the side. If you don’t have a plan for your business, then you’ll find yourself scrambling to figure out what to do down the line.
Your great idea for the business was a good first step, but you need to sit down and plan out your future. When bringing in potential partners or investors, you’ll want to show them what you intend for the future of the business.
What’s your marketing plan?
So you know your plan for the future of the business, but how about your plan for reaching customers? As a new business, you have to make yourself known to your new base of customers. This will be a continuous process; you want everyone to know of your existence. Include some marketing ideas in your business plan, and make sure to give thought to how you’ll spread the word of your arrival.
- What’s your name?
Here’s the fun one that you have probably already been mulling over: your business needs a name! The name is very first thing that customers will hear or see; it represents your business to the world. When brainstorming, be sure to consider how your business will be viewed based on the name. Does it fit the tone and feeling you intend for your business? You can source ideas from others for this step, you never know who might come up with the perfect idea!
When considering ideas, make sure that you don’t get too attached to any one name. Write down a list of potential ideas that you like. Once you’re narrowed these down to a handful, be sure to do your research. Search online for existing company names via a company formation site, and make sure it isn’t already registered to another company. You’ll need to be sure that it isn’t already trademarked, or you could run into all kinds of trouble in your future.
- What’s your logo?
Just like the name, the business logo is representing you to your entire base of potential customers. Give some thought to the design and appearance you want. Just like the name, make sure that the logo matches the feeling you want customers to receive from your business.
When it comes to designing the logo, don’t be afraid to get your hands dirty! If you’re an artist, or handy with online art editors, try your hand at creating your own! There are many DIY logo sites online that can help you design the face of your business. If you have friends or relatives that are artists, consider enlisting their services. Make sure that you don’t use an image you don’t own! Don’t pull random logos from the internet, as the copyright already belongs to someone else.
Other options include hiring graphic designers and artists, but expect to pay more for their artwork. Do your research, and be sure to select a well reputable artist. Often you’ll be able to view their portfolio, and make sure their art style is suitable for you.
- Do you have an online presence?
In today’s age, almost all businesses will have a website or social media account. It’s important to consider what you want your business’ digital footprint to be, and how you plan to make it happen.
If you plan on having a website, make sure it’s well designed. You can build the site yourself, or hire a web designer. If a website isn’t for you, then consider social media. Use social media to your advantage when reaching new customers, as well as posting engaging content for your existing customers.
Step 2: How will your business run?
So far so good! You know what shape your business will take. Now you need to decide how your business will function.
- How do you handle finances and banking?
Your business is going to be spending (and hopefully making!) money. You’ll need to plan out how that money is going to be handled. Some things to consider:
- Set up a bank account for your business. Don’t trust yourself to keep all the figures straight within your personal account.
- Be careful when financing your business. Starting the business alone will be expensive, even before the costs of keeping it running. Decide now if you plan to self-fund, raise money from people around you, or apply for a loan. Whichever idea you choose, be sure to include it in your business plan.
- Where is your business?
Many startups begin running out of home. Consider if this is an option for you. If possible, it will drastically cut costs for you when starting your business.
Your business addresses will be important when it comes to shipping or receiving products.
If you cannot run from home, then you’ll need to obtain a location for your business. Some things to consider about locations:
- How much is the location? Can you afford it? Decide if you should lease or purchase the building or location, and make sure it realistically fits within your budget.
- Visit the location before designing anything. Property that looks great online or on paper might have issue that become apparent when you visit. Work with brokers or property managers to ensure that you find the right fit for your business.
- Who are your employees?
When hiring employees, you’ll take on certain responsibilities as their employer. Consider how you will pay them, follow health and safety requirements, and acquire employer’s insurance.
Additionally, you’ll need to consider the kind of people you want working for you. Be sure to interview candidates before hiring them. You want to hire a team that is a good fit for you and your business.
Be sure to look into the different types of business insurance policies you might need.
- How are delivering your product or service?
If your business involves shipping products, consider how you will be doing so. Think about how you will send your products. Will you charge? Offer different delivery options and speeds?
Do your research to find out the regulations when it comes to packaging and shipping. If you are selling a food or drink item, there are special regulations from the Food Standards Agency that you must follow.
How will you handle customer returns? As a business, you must offer a refund if a product is faulty, not as described or does not do what it is supposed to do. If customers return the product within 14 days they are entitled to a refund. Decide if you plan to extend this to 30 days or more.
If your product doesn’t need to be shipped, consider any other communications you might need: Stationary, letterheads, business cards, etc.
Step 3: How will you protect your business?
So now your business is up and running! You’re off to a great start, but don’t forget to check these most important items off your checklist. Company registration is essential for new businesses.
- What is your legal structure?
You’ll need to decide what legal structure you plan to use to run your business. Research the different structures online, and see which one fits your business first. Chances are you already have a structure in mind, and just don’t know they name of it. Some of the most common structures are:
- Sole trader.
- Private company limited by shares.
- Private company limited by guarantee.
- Limited Liability Partnership (LLP).
- Do you need any additional permits?
When running your business, you need to do your research. Find out if there are any licenses or permits that you need to obtain in order to ship or trade your products. If you know any friends of family within similar business, use them as a resource.
- Are you keeping information secure?
As a business, you will be collecting information from customers, employees, and even suppliers. You’re responsible for keeping that information secure.
If your business if creating ideas or any other content, you’ll want to protect them! Patents and copyright rights can help ensure that you don’t see another company using your intellectual property (IP).
- Are you paying your taxes?
As with any business, you will need to register your business with the HMRC for taxes. Your legal structure will determine what taxes you pay, so pay special care when looking into structures. You may need to consult an accountant when it comes to running your business, and ensuring that you’re following all your financial responsibilities.
Use this checklist as a launching point, and hopefully have success in starting your new business!