So, you’ve started up a new business and now you’re ready to spread your wings and get this venture flying! What are the next steps on your path to success and how do you transform from a small gig to a ‘proper business’?
Unit Management has put together an easy guide of things to consider when taking your start-up to the next level:
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1. Formal Foundations
As boring as this part might seem, one thing to ensure before you start engaging with potential customers is that your business is in full working order from a legal and financial point of view.
Regardless of what your payment terms might be, make sure you’ve considered what format your business is best suited to, i.e sole trader, self-employed, limited company etc. Understand the tax benefits (and implications) of each, depending on how you intend on trading.
On the subject of tax, make sure you know what you’re doing with your money and where taxes might be due. Although it might be hard to tell from the start, if you think your turnover will exceed £85,000 each year, you may need to become VAT registered. Speaking to an accountant early on can be prudent. A good accountant could actually help your business save more money than you pay them as they’ll make sure you claim all the tax relief possible, especially when purchasing equipment or goods. Making sure your accounts are in good health can also help you avoid costly surprises later down the line if the tax man comes knocking.
Next up, find a business bank that suits your needs and, if required, offers reasonable business support in the form of credit / overdraft facilities or funding. The market is flooded with challenger banks taking on the bigger more established banks and many of these offer free banking and slick mobile apps to manage your money. Just make sure whoever you sign up with is regulated by the FCA. Take a look at some of the most popular business bank accounts here.
Lastly, make sure you’ve thought about whether you might need commercial insurance, particularly if you expect clients to visit your place of work or you go out to visit them. Indemnity insurance is a wise choice if you’re dealing with larger sums of money that could have a detrimental impact on your business should something go wrong on the job.
2. Strengths & Weaknesses
Regular reviewing of your business’ strengths and weaknesses is paramount to success. Take time to look at your competitors. See what they do well, and how you differ. What are your USPs (Unique Selling Points)? What makes your product or service better or worse than your competitors?
Present your current offering to friends, family or peers and make it your mission to get feedback from your customers. Customer feedback is a powerful tool and don’t be afraid of criticism, so long as it’s constructive! By asking your customers how their experience was, they will know that you care!
Getting the right people or systems in place to address weaknesses and maximise strengths will ultimately alleviate worry, improve your service and give your business a good foundation to build on.
3. Superman Syndrome
You know you’re good at what you do. Business is ticking over. You have everything in hand. You are Superman/Superwoman! Your abilities are limitless… or are they?
One of the biggest mistakes new business owners and entrepreneurs make is thinking they can do it all. Superman Syndrome can not only stunt company growth, but it’ is’ll likely cause stress and burnout.
Delegation is key to growth…
4. Finding Talent
Whatever business you choose to go into, you’ll likely discover a ceiling in the shape of you. There’s only so much one person can do and the time will likely come where there is a need for talent and a set of skills that compliment your own.
Whilst you may be great with accounts, a master of marketing and super at sales, it’s unlikely your business will grow without some help. Take time to work out what skills will take some pressure off your shoulders. Just having someone to handle admin and accounts can free up time to either work with clients or market your business.
If you have a specialised business, it might be worth considering employing or contracting someone with similar skills to yourself. For example, if you’re running a design company, an additional designer can double your work capabilities. Speak with recruitment companies who will be able to advise and assist in finding the right personnel that would be beneficial to your business. Recruiters will also make sure you get only interview suitable applicants, saving valuable time looking sifting through CV’s and conducting underwhelming interviews.
With all this said, don’t rush into hiring staff if you’re not 100% sure they will earn you money. Any employee you take on should, directly or indirectly, earn your business more money – their wages shouldn’t reduce your profit, at least not in the medium to long term. If you’re not ready for employees, consider ways of building productive relationships with key suppliers or using freelancers and virtual assistants to take care of some of the more menial tasks.
5. Office Needs
Many entrepreneurs start up from home. This can work for some businesses but not all. More often than not, moving a business out of the home and into an office or workshop gives that business greater credibility from a customer/client point of view. Having an address that is not a domestic property can boost confidence both in the business owners and those they work with.
A place of work is also proven to increase concentration and allows for better structuring of work. It provides somewhere for your clients to visit and don’t underestimate the benefits of being able to shut the door at the end of the day – it can greatly improve time management during the work day and not to mention work/life balance.
Some small businesses might be put off by the lengthy contracts that many of the larger serviced office providers insist upon but just because they’re well known doesn’t mean they provide the best value or service. There are office providers out there, Unit Management included, who will offer flexible terms on workspace meaning they will work with you to find a suitable solution for your business and offer tenancy that doesn’t tie you in for years at a time, especially in workspace that may no longer be suitable in the near future. Find somewhere that can scale up and down with your business needs.
6. Learn from Mistakes
Making mistakes along the way is inevitable and accepting that is a must. Any decisions you make early on in your business tend to be your decision alone and you may not always get it right. Find us a successful business that hasn’t made a few mistakes along the way!
It’s important you don’t go too hard on yourself. Learn from mistakes and move on. Worrying about the past will only shroud your vision of the future.
Strive to rectify mistakes as soon as possible and be prepared to admit your mistake to your client or customer, if necessary. You’ll often find the fallout is never as bad as you first thought and most clients will appreciate your honesty.
It doesn’t matter how good you think your business is, if you’re the only one that knows about it, it’s no good at all!
That might sound abrupt but it’s amazing how many talented individuals fail in businesses because they didn’t let anyone know about their talents! Word of mouth referrals here and there alongside the odd job from friends and family will only take you so far… to succeed, you’ll need to infiltrate your wider audiences’ thought process.
For the more introvert of us, marketing might seem like a scary concept but it really is essential to business growth and it might not be as scary as you think. There are literally hundreds of ways to ‘market’ your business with social media being one of the easiest (and cheapest) places to start.
Create engaging content on platforms like Instagram and Facebook and show the people what you do and why your business is great. This will create awareness of your expertise or product amidst your follower base and best of all it’s free. Gaining followers can be tricky at first so you might want to consider paid adverts if you’re looking to target those outside your initial following. You can start with paid ads from as little as £20 per month (just don’t expect much of a response on lower budgets – £200 a month is a good place to start and test what works)
A business website is also imperative in a world where over 90% of all purchasing decisions start on Google. It’s never been easier to set up a business website thanks to platforms such as Wix or Shopify. If, however, you’re looking for an extra boost with your marketing, engaging with a web developer or digital marketing agency might give you back the time you’d have spent on making your own website whilst also benefitting from their marketing expertise.
Attending local networking events, armed with a pocket full of business cards, is also a great way to tell people you’re in business. You never know, you might just meet someone that can help with your business operations.
All of these things come under the category of marketing and it’s the one business expense that can directly add to your business’ bottom line.
8. (Bonus Tip!) Be kind to yourself!
Building a business is both exhilarating and exhausting. Give yourself realistic goals, be prepared to move those goals when necessary. Most of what you do is a learning curve. You might not always get it right but as long as you’re objective and rational in your decision making you’ll make progress. Most of all, celebrate your achievements, no matter how big or small – achieving that end goal takes time and patience but nothing stops you enjoying the journey and having fun along the way!