What’s Better Than Working For Somebody Else? Running Your Own Business!

Are you thinking of starting your own business? If so there are a few things you should be considering.
Are you the only person in the whole world who’s come up with this kind of business idea? Chances are, there are several – if not many – people who’ve had the same idea and who’ve taken it to the market. Don’t be discouraged, though, because that’s not a bad thing in itself. It proves your idea is viable, and you can learn from those companies so you won’t make the startup mistakes they probably made. Obviously online is the place to find out more, but there’s also Companies House, where companies are required by law to register their directors and their accounts, and that’s well worth investigating. You could also pick up the phone and actually talk to similar businesses, who are usually happy to send you sales literature and other printed information about themselves.
Other aspects to starting your own business to consider are:
Is there actually a viable market for what you’re planning on offering? If there isn’t, don’t make the mistake of assuming that with a bit of publicity you’ll create your own market – things seldom work like that.
But if there is a viable market, then you’ve got to check out the competition very carefully. Again, there’s Companies House, online searches and the good old phone to use as research tools. You’ll want to find out all you can about them, including and especially their annual profits, to see how fast they’ve been able to grow… and in amongst all that information, you’ll probably find some clues about how best to make yourself stand out from them all, so customer will come to you instead of them.
What kind of business entity should you be? A sole trader? A partnership? A limited company? You’ll need an accountant anyway, once you’re up and running, so talk to a few local ones about what you’re planning. They should be able to tell you the best way to go about things, and one of them might just be the one you choose to balance the books for your new business.
So much of starting a new business is research. It has to be. Guesswork won’t cut it, so the more you can research everything about your business and the competition, the better.
But what to do with all that research afterwards? It needs to be collated and put into your business plan – so you know exactly what kind of staff you’ll need, what kind of marketing strategies to put in place, sales forecasts and growth projections, operational issues, the competition and, perhaps most important of all, your key customers.
Your business plan is also the document you’ll be showing potential backers, bank managers and advisors to confirm you really have done your homework and prove that your business really does have the best chance of success.
Even if you’re the most creative person on the planet, you’ll still need a solid business plan. So many creative businesses have failed because their founders have assumed that because the business was so creative, nothing would stop it being a complete success. Not so – you need more than just creativity; you also need excellent sales and marketing strategies as well.
Opinions matter. Get them – as many as you can. Family members for others may make encouraging noises, but unless they’re running their own business it’s unlikely they’ll know enough to be able to give any concrete help. Encouragement is always good, but the voice of experience is better. And listen carefully to all those opinions. You might discover a common thread running through them all, and if there is, you’d better do something about it.
For a really objective opinion – and perhaps some very good advice – try your local Business Link, where you might even find a source for a business grant.
As for promotion: where do the press and PR come into things? Answer – right from the very beginning. Local and national news reporters are always on the lookout for a good story, so to create a buzz about your new business, give them one. If you can find a way of tying in the launch of your company to something that gives reporters the story they’re looking for, that’s worth more than you’d ever be able to pay for an advertising campaign.
Is there any organisation or company nearby who could specifically benefit from the goods or services you’re offering? Maybe you both could come to some sort of agreement where they’d back you while you were getting up and running in return for those goods or services, or even come to some sort of ongoing barter arrangement.
You may find it uncomfortable talking about your new business with people you hardly know. After all, what if they took all the work you’ve done for your idea and used it to start their own business? This is where a non-disclosure agreement comes into its own. When somebody’s signed it, they’ve agreed to keep what they’ve learned about your business to themselves. It’s a legally binding document, and if you Google non disclosure agreement, you’ll find lots of templates you can alter and use for your own purposes.
On the subject of legally binding documents, it’s a very rare business indeed that doesn’t need or have business insurance. Most companies have to have a Public Liability policy in place to start with, and then, depending on the line of business, more specific policies in addition. Talk to your local insurance broker – they’ll be able to help you decide the kind of policies you need, and negotiate the best premiums for you as well.
While we’re talking about paperwork, let’s not forget that you’re going to need somewhere to stash all that money you’ll soon be making. It takes a while to set up bank accounts – you might be in a rush, but the bank certainly isn’t – so it’s best to start shopping round your local banks to find the business account that’s best for you, and then start the application process as early as you can.
All this paperwork and legally binding documentation assumes you’ve already got a business name, which will appear on anything you have to sign. So if you haven’t got a trading name in mind, best to put your thinking cap on and come up with one. Don’t assume nobody else in the world has had the same idea for a company name, though – you’ll have to make sure you’re not copying someone else’s name, especially if they’re in the same business as you.
One you’ve decided on the name you’re happy with, even if you’re not planning on going online for a while yet, register that name – or a suitable equivalent – as a domain name. It’s best to register as many of the main suffixes as possible, like dot com, dot co dot UK, dot co and so on to prevent anybody else using your trading name online… or anything else they can think of to do in your name.
Starting a business is never going to be easy – there will be good times ahead of you, but there will also be bad and frustrating times. You’ll probably be living on next to nothing for a while and you’re going to be running around in what’s going to feel like ever-decreasing circles. You’ll be tempted to jack it all in and work in a burger bar instead, probably at regular intervals, but stick with it. It will be worth it.