The way to get started is to quit talking and begin doing.Walt Disney
Starting a new business is a big decision with many different aspects to consider, and – particularly if this is your first venture – you may well need some practical support and assistance to get things up and running.
At BusinessLinc we’re committed to helping new businesses get off the ground by providing a variety of cost-effective services that can be accessed on a flexible basis depending on your requirements.
We support new businesses throughout the evaluation, planning, inception, and early operational stages, working in the background to take away some of the headaches, giving you more time to focus on frontline activities and making it easier for you to succeed.
Not all of the following will apply to every start-up business, but here’s what we hope will be a useful [non-exhaustive] guide to some of the areas that you’ll probably need to consider…
1 | Researching your Business Idea
BusinessLinc can help you to make sure that your business start-up idea is viable before investing too much time and money.
Examine the market and industry you will be entering:
- Is it sustainable or dwindling, saturated or under-served?
- Is there significant demand or a real need for your product?
Analyse the competition:
- What do they do well?
- Where are they failing?
- Can you compete with them?
- Use your findings to your advantage.
Research your potential customers.
- Where are they located?
- How will you reach them?
- Analyse their demographics to obtain useful insight.
We can help to test out your idea by conducting surveys, questionnaires and/or focus groups. This will give you a better understanding of whether or not your business could be successful, and you will receive critical feedback that could help to improve your product or service.
2 | Writing a Business Plan
You will need a business plan if you intend to approach investors, banks, lenders or specialist advisors, as you’ll be expected to demonstrate the viability and sustainability of your idea. They will want to see a detailed outline of what you plan to do and how you plan to achieve it. They may well ask for financial projections for start-up and running costs to be included in the business plan.
If you’re setting up on your own and don’t intend to approach third parties for financial assistance, it’s still a good idea to write a business plan as it will help you to stay organised and monitor your progress.
Preparing a business plan can be an onerous task – particularly if you’ve never done it before – and quite time-consuming. If you’d prefer to focus your efforts on other aspects of business preparation and planning, we can work closely with you to produce a business plan that will be accepted by third parties that may request it.
In some cases, a separate, more detailed, marketing plan may also be required to supplement the business plan.
3 | Choosing a Legal Structure
There are numerous options available, but the three most popular structures are:
- Sole trader [or Partnership].
- Private company limited by shares.
- Limited Liability Partnership [LLP].
If you’re unsure which would be best for your business it is important to seek professional advice from an accountant and/or solicitor. Once a decision has been made, we can help you to register your business with the appropriate agencies and ensure that nothing is overlooked.
4 | Choosing and registering a Business Name
The name of your business can, in many cases, be very important, and it’s worthwhile dedicating sufficient effort to this task. If you intend to operate in a sector where a significant amount of marketing and trading will be undertaken online, it’s particularly important to choose a business name that not only properly represents the aspirations [sometimes called the ‘brand values’] you have for your new business, but also one where a corresponding website domain name is also available. This is getting increasingly difficult as more and more domains are being registered.
When you have a shortlist of proposed business names [and if you have decided to form a limited company], we can help you to check these against the register of companies at Companies House. This will confirm if a name is available to register, or if it has been registered by an existing company. In some cases, it’s also important to ensure that your proposed business name is not the same as a registered trade mark, and further checks can be done to establish this.
5 | Choosing and opening a Business Bank Account
Once your business has been registered, you can set up a business bank account. A dedicated business bank account is the only option if you have decided to trade as a limited company, but – even as a sole trader – it’s highly preferable to keep your personal and business finances separate.
Some banks offer attractive packages for new business customers, and we can help you to identify the best deals available and complete the application forms, etc.
6 | Financing your business
It’s crucial to give serious thought to how you will finance your business [indeed this is a key element of the Business Plan that you may wish – or need – to produce]. Considerations includes start-up costs and expenses, as well as running costs and personal income management. Many small businesses are self-funded, whilst others require external financial input.
There are many ways to finance a start-up business, including:
- Personal savings.
- Borrowing from friends and family.
- Small business loans.
- Overdrafts or 0% credit cards.
- Investors or business angels.
- Government loans or grants.
We can advise on the pros and cons of each option, and – where external funding is required – assist with sourcing, etc.
7 | Business Premises
Running your new business from home is the best way to keep costs down, especially in the early days when you’re just starting out and not making much [if any] profit. However, for many new business ventures that’s not always an option.
If you need dedicated business premises, you’ll need to think about the size, type and location of premises you require [and the budget available], and whether the best option is to license, lease [or even purchase] the premises?
We have contacts with a number of commercial property agents and can assist with the search for your ideal business premises.
8 | Evaluation of Suppliers and Manufacturers
It’s important to spend time and effort researching potential suppliers and manufacturers, and negotiating the best possible prices and terms.
Getting the right suppliers on board can be critical to the success of your new business, and we can assist by researching the vendor marketplace [UK and worldwide] and negotiating favourable terms on your behalf.
9 | Business Logo
Together with your business name, your company logo will create and reinforce your brand identity, and needs to be appropriate and memorable as it is likely be used everywhere from business stationery to branded workwear to company vehicles, etc.
If you’re stuck for ideas and need something special that will make your business really stand out from the crowd, we work with a number of graphic designers in the area who specialise in this type of work and from whom our clients receive preferential rates.
10 | Business Stationery
You will most likely need various types of stationery to run your business effectively. Ideally, it should be customised with your business name, logo and contact details. Companies and LLPs are legally required to state their full business name, registration number and registered office details on certain items of stationery.
Types of stationery you may require include:
- Letterheads | Compliment slips | Printed Envelopes and Labels
- Business Cards | Invoices | Purchase Orders | Receipts
- Returns Documents and Labels | Discount and Gift Vouchers
- Brochures | Leaflets and Flyers
We work closely with several leading graphic designers and printers, and can provide a full design/print service at very competitive rates.
11 | Website and Social Media
Take a look at competitors’ websites for inspiration. Are they visually pleasing, easy to use, responsive, informative? Based on your findings, you can think about how you would like your website to look and behave. If your website is unappealing, confusing, or difficult to use, people will leave within a few seconds. It’s important to get it right or you’ll lose potential customers.
As well as design considerations, the written content of a website is very important too. Not only is content key to effectively marketing your products or services, what you say [or, sometimes, what you don’t say] can have serious consequences. You’ll need to prepare terms and conditions for visitors to your website, privacy and ‘cookie’ policies, and other legal information, and ensure that these are clearly visible via the site navigation. ‘Behind the scenes’ too, keywords and search engine optimisation [SEO] needs to be fully understood and properly implemented, otherwise the website will not be easily found by Google and other search engines.
You may also be looking to incorporate a ‘web shop’ or similar online transactional facility and associated payment gateways/merchant services, which can be quite complex to integrate and configure.
Before website creation can commence, you’ll need to find a reliable hosting provider and register your domain name [registering a domain name also enables the corresponding email address to be used for your business].
At BusinessLinc we work with our in-house hosting company [LincNet] to provide domain registration and hosting services, together with several talented web designers, copywriters and SEO specialists who are highly experienced in producing websites of all types, across many different business sectors.
For smaller businesses requiring a basic web presence and associated email, this can cost as little as £500 plus a small ongoing maintenance charge [+ VAT].
For many businesses social media is a key consideration, and can be one of the most effective and affordable ways to promote your business and connect with your target market. Platforms such as Facebook and Twitter enable you to engage directly with customers and build trust, confidence and strong relationships.
Building and maintaining an effective and commercially worthwhile business social media presence requires an investment in both time and effort [setup and ongoing], and requires detailed knowledge of each platform’s increasingly sophisticated marketing features in order to gain the most from using them.
We have considerable in-house experience of creating and maintaining effective social media pages, and can provide detailed hands-on assistance in this area if required.
12 | Data Protection and Information Rights
Data protection and information rights are often overlooked, but these are things that most businesses need to be aware of. If you will be holding information on any individuals, including customers, employees or suppliers, the Data Protection Act requires you to protect that information.
We can assist in deciding whether or not your business falls within the scope of the Data Protection Act, and ensure that the corrected registrations are applied for.
13 | Intellectual Property [IP] Protection
Intellectual Property relates to trade marks, patents, copyright and design rights. You may wish to protect an idea, product designs or other similar rights. You can even protect your company logo to prevent others from stealing, copying, using and selling it without your permission.
We have connections with several leading legal firms with specialist IP lawyers, and will be pleased to put you in touch with one of these to discuss your requirements further.
14 | Bookkeeping, Accounting and Taxation
Once you have set up your business, you will need to register with HMRC for certain taxes. Depending on the legal structure you have selected, this may include Corporation Tax, VAT, PAYE and Self-Assessment.
As soon as the business commences trading it will need to maintain proper records of all transactions, which will be used to produce both the internal monthly/quarterly management accounts [so that you can see how your business is doing compared to the plans/forecasts], and also the annual accounts required for HMRC purposes. If your business is registered for VAT [which is compulsory once turnover reaches a certain threshold], VAT Returns will also need to be submitted on a quarterly basis.
For most businesses – particularly those trading through a limited company – engaging a qualified accountant is strongly advised. An accountant can provide important advice and recommendations on many areas of your business [not just pure finance matters], and can help ensure that you remain fully compliant with appropriate legislation, etc.
We have close relationships with a number of leading accountancy firms [both large and small], and will be happy to arrange introductions if you do not already have one in mind.
Although able to offer advice and guidance, most accountants do not provide a day-to-day bookkeeping service for their clients; this function is either handled in-house by someone employed by the business, or – increasingly commonly – is outsourced to a provider specialising in this work. With the growing dominance of ‘cloud-based’ accounting software, which allows real-time access by the business owner, accountant and bookkeeper all working from different locations, it makes it very easy to ensure that financial records are regularly maintained and an accurate snapshot of the business is available at all times.
BusinessLinc has significant practical experience of working with leading cloud-based accounting software Xero [which is recommended by many accountants], and is able to provide an offsite bookkeeping service and associated sales/purchase ledger function if required.
Starting a new business can be a stressful and very demanding time, with many ‘behind the scenes’ tasks to attend to in a short space of time – some of which may seem quite daunting.
If your new business project would benefit from experienced, professional, hands-on assistance with any of the above tasks – or with any other aspect of setting-up your business – please contact us today.
We’re enthusiastic, deadline-oriented, cost-effective, highly flexible [available 24/7 if necessary] – and committed to helping you get your business off to the best possible start..!