So, you want to start a business? You have an idea, the drive and ambition, and you’re willing to carve out the time to hit the ground running. Firstly, good for you! Secondly, it will come as no surprise that starting a business is a long slog and incredibly hard work.
While there is no denying the complexities of the process and the fact you’ll never stop learning more about business, this guide will serve as your starter checklist. The simple step-by-step structure will help you navigate challenges, avoid pitfalls, and celebrate tribulations that might occur when you start a business.
How to Start a Business: A Clear Business Idea
You might already have an amazing business idea, but those with a business plan are much more likely to succeed. Your business plan should include a business description — what you’ll sell, why, how, and to whom — as well as a financial plan, market analysis, marketing strategy, and business structure (these aspects will be covered in later steps) covering up to five years. A long term business plan can look ahead as far as 15 years into the future. While other entrepreneurs may have to carve out some time to think about the location of their business at this stage, the beauty of online is that you can almost always work from wherever you like!
Conducting a SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) and a PEST Analysis (Political, Economic, Social and Technological factors) will help you understand these areas of your business. Remember: don’t be daunted by this stage. A business plan will only help you succeed if you construct it in a way that suits you and it will flux and develop as you learn more and come up with new ideas.
Speaking of ideas; now we can move onto the creative section. After constructing the bones of a business plan — your blueprint, if you like — you should be well placed to lay out your business name, mission statement, and unique selling point in black and white. These must be unique, relevant, and easy to understand for your market. Armed with this, you will always have direction for your future business decisions.
How to Start a Business: A Legal Grounding
Congratulations: Your next step is to register your business! The process and requirements differ depending on where you live and work, so make sure to follow the guidelines and rules recommended by your government. These will not only protect your product and your brand, but your customers and anyone you plan to work with.
At this stage, you’ll have to decide on the structure of your business and that will impact your liability, taxes and what regulations you must adhere to. For example, in the UK, this means deciding whether you want to operate as a sole trader, partnership, limited liability partnership (LLP), or limited liability company (Ltd), among others.
It’s now time to consider the legal costs of running a business; these might include taxes, registering a trademark and your domain name online to protect your business from copycats, as well as acquiring any potential licences or permits to allow you to sell your products or services.
How to Start a Business: An Effective Financial Plan
Step one is to open a business bank account to help your credit-raising capital, open you up to business services offered by banks and track your accounts easily.
Now you have somewhere for the funds to go, you’ll need to find them to start a business. Sources can vary from your own savings, friends and family, a loan or capital investors, crowdsourcing, or government funding.
Having a watertight financial plan will help you acquire external funds, as will upskilling in accounting and bookkeeping. Passion aside, most people go into business with the hope of making money, so it’s important that you’re able to balance the costs with the potential profits. You’ll also have to consider other costs, such as insurance, internet service providers, software for an e-commerce platform and any other additional technological hardware required to provide your product or service.
How to Start a Business: A Marketing and PR Strategy
You should, by now, have a business with an incredible USP and the funding and systems to bring your product or service to market. The best way to do so is to make your brand recognisable, visible and appealing to your markets and potential customers through marketing and PR.
You’ll benefit from doing extensive market research into your competitors, gaps in the market, and your unique business appeal. Refer to your business plan to demonstrate how you will serve your customers and construct personas, so you know who you’re talking to.
Firstly, you need to create or commission someone to create the aesthetic of your brand, including your logo and online presence. Social media and email marketing, as well as content creation and video, are absolutely imperative in a successful online business. Luckily, there are tools available to track, analyse and optimise these conversations with your customers.
How to Start a Business: A Customer Care Quest
They say content is king — but many businesspeople believe the customer is key to your success. Providing great customer care is vital to the day-to-day logistics of running your online business and internet marketing strategies, as well as being instrumental in generating revenue. If you’re on hand to direct your customers to the right product or service, you could convert them to make a purchase and encourage their return custom. It’s also vital to listen to your customers’ needs and pivot to them where necessary.
Figure out how you’ll deal with customer queries, whether via email, social media, a website form, a phone line, or all of the above and make those channels and the parameters clear to the consumer. Prepare a code of business ethics when helping customers and make sure you adhere to them or train all customer-facing staff members to do so.
How to Start a Business: A Happy Workplace Culture
Likewise, preparing a code of conduct and ethics within your business will help you create a healthy workplace culture if you plan on hiring a team of staff. The great thing about online businesses is that there are plenty of resources for you to become an expert in all areas of your business. But if it feels like a lot to take on, don’t worry. You don’t have to be an expert in everything. You can surround yourself with an incredible team, instead!
Should you become a leader, here are some tips to keep your team on board:
- Manage the administration
- Delegate and offer opportunities to extend capabilities
- Lead by example
- Communicate openly and hold reviews
- Offer socials and encouragement
So, whether you’re looking to make your passion for interior design, crafting or baking a business or helping others on their fitness journey as a PT, there is help and support out there — and the drive and determination within you — to start a business successfully and effectively, allowing you to live the life and do the work you want.