Around 15% of the UK working population is now self-employed which represents about 1 in 7 workers. With more of us setting up our own businesses than ever before, taking the right first steps can make the difference between success and failure. Here’s 5 steps you can follow to get your business idea off to a good start:
It’s vital that you have clarity about your business. You need to be very clear about your product or service, your customer and your business strategy. This will involve researching the market and understanding where your business fits in that market. While it’s inevitable (and often necessary) that your business will evolve over time, it’s important you set some key goals, aims and objectives.
Whatever your product or service, you need to identify the market you will serve and niche you fill. If you don’t have a niche, can you tweak your offering to deliver something unique? Some segments of the market can be very competitive and over saturated. That doesn’t necessarily mean there is no room for your product or service, but it does mean you will need to really understand how your business will compete.
2. Planning – a business plan will go a long way towards helping you gain the clarity mentioned in step one. Even if you don’t require outside funding or to attract a business partner, a business plan is an essential part of envisaging and planning the success of your business. I can’t stress enough how important this step is and it’s one of the steps failed business often skip in their haste to launch their business.
An important part of your business plan is your SWOT Analysis which identifies your businesses Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats. There are many example business plans and free templates available online to help you put together a plan that will guide your business through its launch and development.
3. Legal – having a great business idea is one thing. Successfully launching and maintaining a legal and successful business is another. There are number of areas you need to consider before you unleash your business including:
- Is your planned business activity legal?
- What business regime should you be under? (e.g sole trader, limited liability company etc)
- Have you registered with tax authorities? (e.g. HMRC)
- Do you require a licence to trade? (some professions are regulated)
- Will you trademark your business name or patent your product?
- Have you arranged necessary insurances?
4. Commitment – this might seem like an obvious one, but in an age where launching a business is so easy and accessible, many fall into the trap of rushing a business idea in a momentary burst of enthusiasm only to drop the ball weeks or months down the line.
Take your time and consider if a) you have a viable business idea, and b) you have what it takes to commit and follow through until you reach your goals. For some, it might be more achievable to launch and grow a business over time alongside a ‘day job’. Others might be ready to take the leap and commit 100% of their time, money and effort into making their new business a success.
5. Improve – once you’ve launched your business there are bound to be improvements you can make to ensure your business thrives. Reflect on your success and failures regularly so that you can keep refining your business to continue meeting the needs of your clients and the market. Do this on a weekly and monthly basis to keep your finger on the pulse of your business. Every 6 and 12 months undertake a new SWOT analysis to assess any new strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to your business.
Providing a consistently high level of customer service is key to a thriving business. So pay attention to how well you are delivering on this and what if, anything, you can do to improve. An easy way to monitor how well you are delivering in key areas of your business (e.g quality, customer service etc) is through customer satisfaction surveys. Simple but effective tools like Survey Monkey are a great way to discover how well you’re doing.
For more information on setting up your own business, I’ve put together a list of some useful, free resources:
Start Up Donut – Set up a business
Startups UK – 10 steps to starting a new business
To learn more about the rise of self-employment, you might find the following articles and reports of interest:
Growth in the self-employment sector – Business West
If you have any questions about the above, I’d be happy to answer in the comments below. Also keen to hear your thoughts on launching a business! Do you have any tips or advice to share?