Starting a business

I’ve been lucky enough to have worked as a business relationship manager in banking for the past 7 years and have looked after businesses from start up right through to large corporates and want to use this blog to pass on atleast some of the knowledge I have acquired.

Today I want to look at start up businesses and 5 key considerations or actions. There are obviously more, but these are a great start.

1. What will the business be
This may seem like an obvious question but you’d be surprised at how many people when questioned, don’t actually know it can’t articulate it.
Are you selling a service or product?
What is/are the service/s or product/s?

Once you have a basic idea, you can move on to the next stage.

2. Plan and prepare
This is quite a meaty chunk and I’d imagine, this is where the majority of your “pre-start” time will be spent. A lot of people straight away think, “Right! This is the part where I write my business plan!” Wrong! Put down the business plan and research.

Research
Whenever I wanted to do anything, they’d say, “Give us all the information and facts so we can make an informed decision.” The same applies here. Before you make any more decisions on what shape the business will take, get some information. Below is by no means an exhaustive list, but use they’re basic “joggers” to help point you in the right direction.

– what legal structure will I be? (I.e Limited, sole trader, Limited Liability Partnership, Charity)
– who else does what I want to do?
– how well do they do it
– why do they/don’t they do it so well
– what can I replicate?
– what would I do differently?
– what will my USP (unique selling point) be?
– who will my customers be? (Demographics)
– what demand is there for what I am selling?
– how will they pay me?
– when will they pay me? (In advance or credit)
– how much will it cost me to source goods?
– do I have enough money?
– will I need to deal internationally?
– will I need to trade in different currencies and what effect might this have on my profits?
– what legislation is applicable to my industry?
– will I need a license to trade?
– what is the market like at the moment for my industry and are any changes coming?
– do I need any qualifications and if so, what and how can I achieve them?
– will I have a physical high street presence or be virtual?
– where?
– how much will it cost
– will I need to take on staff?
– what legislation applies?

As I said, this is just to get you started. Start with a basic question and “funnel” down so you can make your research detailed. Once you have all of this information, writing your business plan will be a lot easier.

Business plan
This is in effect your blueprint for your business. I think a good business plan is specific, sets clear objectives but more importantly, it is a working document. As a start up, you should be reviewing your business plan regularly to check progress and to also see if you are still on the same course. If not, why? Regular reviews will allow you to either alter your business so that you are back in line with your plan, or may even demonstrate that actually, the business plan needs amending to reflect a new direction the business is moving in.
Find a good template as this will help you cover off the necessary considerations.
I quite like http://www.bplans.co.uk but you may find you want a simpler or even more detailed one so have a good look around.
Barclays offers a simpler template on their site

http://www.barclays.co.uk/Startupsupport/Writingasmallbusinessplan/P1242559649359

3. Build you support network
A lot of people wait until they need something before they start looking for advisors. As a new start up, you could save yourself a lot of time and money in the long run by seeking out good advisors early on. You may not necessarily to their help straight away but it’s definitely good practise. A lot of smaller businesses can quite easily look after the bookkeeping and accounting themselves but it’s definitely worth having everything finalised by a professional. Above I mentioned deciding what legal status to take and often an introductory chat with a solicitor can support this decision. There are pros and cons to the different structures but it’s also worth getting some advice from an accountant, as there may be tax advantages to one more than the other due to your nature of business or turnover.
Friends and family can often be a great support, but make sure you gauge the level of support they can and are willing to provide from the absolute get-go. Personally, unless you are setting up a family business, try to keep this to a minimum.

4. Stay organised
Setting up a business can be very time-consuming and stressful but remember to keep a balance, especially if you have a family. Set realistic goals and allocate yourself time to work on them but also give yourself some down time. The last thing you want is to put every living hour into the business and then come to resent it.
Anya Hindmarch says “I have a phrase that was quoted to me which is “as you leave the office at night, fire yourself mentally and come back the next day as you successor”
In order to stay productive, know when to take a break and come back to it. (Especially when writing your business plan!)

5. Keep up to date with industry news and legislation
This is pretty self-explanatory but definitely worth doing. Find out if there are any reputable news feeds you can sign up to and keep up to date with relevant news via newspapers and websites. You may find you watch the news a lot more than before!

Finally, whilst starting a business is not without its challenges, it can be extremely rewarding. With the right mindset and discipline, you can make this work.

Good luck x

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