You have decided to start your own business, but you are unsure of how to make your ideas a reality. Starting and developing your business will be a lengthy process, but one that will be worth it when done correctly. Follow our simple checklist to help you develop and track your progress whilst you start your new business venture. We have split the list up into two parts, developing your ideas and advice for once you have formed your business.
Developing your ideas
The first step is one very few enjoy, but it is vital for the development of a successful business. Start by looking into the viability of your business idea, has it been done before? Are you entering a popular market? Explore whether there is space in the market for your products or services and whether they are needed. Next figure out who your customers are, this includes age group, demographics and who you are looking to target. Research potential competitors and find out what makes your idea different to theirs.
Come up with a business name
Maybe you already had a name in mind, or maybe you are still struggling to come up with a suitable title. If so, here are some tips that will help you come up with a strong and effective business name:
- Think of your business idea and products/services – do you want your business name to reflect what you are going to be selling?
- Consider your target customers – will the name appeal to your customers? Do you want them to know instantly what you are selling?
- Keep it short – shorter names are more easily remembered.
- Be creative – short and creative company names do well. Think of your favourite business’s names for inspiration. Try not to choose something too similar to your competitors, you want to stand out.
- Web friendly – how will it appear as a web address? Is the web address available?
- Availability – check if the name is available and not being used by another company.
Having a good business name is so important as it is one of the first things your business will be judged on. Make sure you are creating a strong first impression whilst also providing consumers with enough information to understand what you will be offering.
Secure a domain name
Once you have decided on a name for your business you will need to purchase a domain name. Securing a domain name is important because you will need an address for your business’ website. Domain names are fairly cheap and can be purchased on sites such as GoDaddy.
Form a business plan
The next step you take should be to form a business plan. This is essentially an action plan that contains goals and targets for your business and a list of ideas and steps of how you will achieve them.
A strong business plan includes:
- Market research
- Customer profiling
- Competitor profiling
- Branding ideas
- Financial information
- Product/service information
Weigh up financial costs
Starting a business can be expensive. Take some time to work out how much your business will cost to start up. Use your business plan to help you calculate any costs. Funding options include using your personal savings, loans, crowdfunding or finding investors. Each has pros and cons. Figure out which option best suits your business’ needs.
Define roles and responsibilities within your business
If you are starting this business alone and choosing to work alone this step does not apply to you as you will have sole responsibility of your business. If you are working with a team talk amongst yourselves and determine each of your roles, for example there needs to be a managing director. Other roles include content creator, marketing director and product designer.
Evaluate your strengths and weaknesses
Evaluate any strengths and weaknesses and create a plan on how you are going to improve. For example, you lack the knowledge to build a website so make a plan to learn about the process of creating a good website for your business. Mastering as many skills as you can will give your business the best chance at success.
Define your business structure
Defining your business structure is very important for tax purposes. There are three main options: sole trader, partnership and limited company, and vary in scale, liability and investors. Take some time to research all three to decide which is the correct title for your business.
Once you have formed your business
Open a business bank account
If you are a limited company this is essential as your finances must be kept separate to your personal ones. Measure the perks and benefits of potential banks to help make an informed decision.
Develop a brand
A brand is essentially your business’ identity, it needs to distinguish your business against its competitors. It is an opportunity to convey your business’ values and demonstrate what it has to offer. Elements to consider while branding:
- Business cards
- Marketing and advertising materials
- Staff uniforms
- Customer service
Create a website and social media presence
Build or hire someone to build a website for your business. Online shopping is becoming increasingly popular and offers extended exposure of your business to the rest of the world. Not only is it a place to sell and showcase any of your products or services, it is also great for communicating what your business is about and why you started it. It would be a good idea to include customer reviews with your products as consumers will take the time to read them and positive ones go a long way to sway them into buying. Create social media accounts on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, both are great places to release information, content and advertising.
Form a marketing plan
Similar process to your business plan, create a plan made up of marketing strategies you would like to use to increase awareness of your business. Strategies include:
- Social networking
- Digital and print advertising
- SEO blog content
Find your premises
If you have decided to work your business from home, great, but be aware that your address will on the Companies House public register for anyone to see. If you are uncomfortable with that you may want to look at buying or renting appropriate premises for your business. Consider what type of premises your business requires, for example do you require office space? Next consider its proximity to your target market, transport links, licence requirements, insurance and of course the price.
Purchase insurance for your business
Insurance for your business is critical and can support you if things go wrong. Seek professional advice on what policies you will need as they can vary from industry to industry and it is important you choose the policies that will best protect your business. For example, if you purchase public liability insurance, most will cover claims by the public, compensation for claimant’s injury, cost of damage or loss to claimant’s property and legal expenses. It is also worth purchasing insurance for any property and contents in case of theft or business interruption.
Purchase the equipment you need for the business
Do you need specialist equipment to produce your products? If yes, make sure you have purchased everything you will need before making your business public, otherwise there will be delays in production. This will not reflect well on your business. Make sure you are fully prepared before opening your business to consumers.
Continuously re-evaluate elements of your business
Make a habit of re-evaluating elements of your business to ensure its success. If something has not been effective change or update it. Your business goals and plans should constantly be evolving to fit in with current demand and changes in the market.