Deciding to start your own business is a big step, but it is only the beginning of your journey
Although you might feel confused by the sheer number of paths in front of you, there are some essential questions you can ask yourself to help you find your way:
1. Part-time or full-time business?
Are you ready to commit full-time to your venture? Or perhaps you’d prefer the less risky option of starting smaller in your spare time while still maintaining your current work commitments.
2. Online or physical presence?
To a large extent, whether you concentrate your efforts on a physical presence (such as a shop or selling in person) or an online business will depend on the industry and type of venture you choose. But whether you’re a tech startup or a more traditional retail or service business, you need to strike a balance. A web and social media presence is invaluable for marketing alone, so research relevant domain names.
3. Is franchising an option?
For certain industries and businesses, it might be an option to take up a franchise. This can be advantageous because you have the backing of a big-name brand when it comes to training, marketing, wholesale and supply.
4. Start from scratch or buy an existing business?
Although starting a completely new business gives you a blank canvas to work with, buying an existing business in the right circumstances could save you some of the time, effort and resources it takes to start from scratch.
5. What’s the appropriate business structure?
There are a number of options depending on the size and nature of your company. You could choose to operate as a sole trader, a partnership or a limited company. Decide which is appropriate for you.
6. Is your business plan strong enough?
You might think you have a great business idea but you need solid evidence. Analysis of the relevant business environment and reliable market research will enable you to decide whether your idea is viable or not. Do your homework and draw up a comprehensive business plan to convince potential investors and stakeholders there is value in your idea.
7. What do you need for your business setup?
Things to consider include the kind of premises you will need, the location of your operations and the equipment required. Thanks to the digital revolution, it’s easier than ever to run a business from home, which could reduce costs significantly.
Also consider whether you need to recruit employees and, if so, how many. Think about what you will need to do to attract the right people. Research employment agencies and draw up job descriptions.
There might be other business relationships essential to your operations, such as suppliers, wholesalers, manufacturers and logistics firms.
Recommendations and referrals might help with sourcing these, as well as trade fairs. And it always helps to have a ‘plan B’ in place in case your regular choices let you down.
There are also your banking and accountancy plans to consider. Regardless of the size of your business, a good accountant can be well worth the investment, saving you time and worry.
8. How will you market the business?
You need to reach your potential clients and customers, so think about the kind of media presence you need, whether online or traditional.
9. What’s your budget?
You don’t necessarily need a large outlay, but be realistic about the budget required for the kind of business you have in mind and work out the costs carefully.
10. How will you fund the business?
There are a number of ways you can seek to raise finances. It might be a simple case of using your personal assets or enlisting the help of friends and family. Other options include government schemes, small business grants, bank loans, angel investors, invoice financing and crowdfunding.
11. What are your legal requirements?
Regardless of the nature of your business or set-up, there will be regulations and legal obligations to adhere to, as well as your own interests to protect. Make sure you familiarise yourself with tax law, health and safety, the regulations of your industry and intellectual property law. And don’t forget to contact HMRC to inform them of your new situation.