Setting up your own business can be one of the most exciting and daunting, things you’ll do in your working life and there are many reasons for taking on the challenge. Maybe you’re escaping from the 9-5 (be warned start-ups are often more of a 5-9), exploring your creativity, or realising a dream.
Yes, turning your dream into a live business will be hard work but inevitable stress can be countered by the satisfaction that you are working – and succeeding – for yourself. Before you launch, here is some sound advice to get you thinking.
Start With a Business Plan
In your excitement to get started, don’t overlook the importance of good foundations. A business plan is not about tying you down but giving you the freedom to look ahead, to see where you want your business to go and plot the best course to get there. The first draft can be on the back of an envelope but keep it clear and realistic, this will become the foundation document of your business – helping you to stay focussed on goals and review progress
The first thing you should do as a prospective small business owner is to create an entire plan for your nascent company. Business plans are, at their core, simple and straightforward documents that explain the goals of a specific company, the strategies used for achieving those goals, and then a timeline for each goal. There is plenty of help available and even templates if you’re not sure where to start. Include a ‘Value Proposition’, that is a clear statement setting out the benefits of your product, how it solves problems for the consumer and your unique selling point or USP.
Writing your business plan will help to organise your thoughts, create a framework for your ideas, identify hurdles you'll have to overcome and provide a starting point for marketing campaigns. It, can also be used as an important document if you are seeking investment.
When you have written the first draft, bring in the team – production, marketing, accounting. And if all of these roles are currently filled by you, perhaps this is a trusted friend or advisor. Your business plan discussion will provoke ideas and clarify your direction. If you do have a team, their involvement will bring depth to the plan and ensure you all share the vision.
You’ll need to set a realistic budget. Open a free business account with your bank to use for all company transactions, this keeps the finances separate from your personal accounts and will make things much easier managing your budget, and when it’s time for tax returns.
Consider the specific infrastructure needs of your company. If you're going to have a storefront, you need to identify the space and location you need, what kind of facilities will be required to do business?
Online businesses have infrastructure needs too, creating and maintaining a website, complete with ecommerce functionality, can involve hiring experienced web developers although it is quite possible to operate basic sites yourself through providers at reasonable cost.
TIP: Every business needs a website today so secure your URL right away.
Test Your Business and Your Market
Your product needs a market and you need to be sure you know what your market wants. If your business is product based get out to the local farmer's market or other outlet and make sure that you can connect with your customers. If you are starting a service based business use local resources such as the chamber of commerce and get online to contact your target market, testing viability with minimal expense.
Plan, test, execute, then do it again. Not everything will work first time but the lessons we learn from our mistakes can be the most valuable.
The plan you wrote at the beginning is a living document. You can probably never put the final full stop on it. Your plan shouldn’t be written and then left in a drawer. Put a recurring time slot on your calendar to revisit your objectives and look at your financials. It may be that your direction changes in the ever-changing world we operate in, but you will be driving that not reacting to it.