The figures speak for themselves: more than one in three would-be entrepreneurs thinks about starting a business every day, but 78% say they are afraid they’ll fail.
Starting up takes every bit of drive and determination to make it happen. I always say that success is a journey, not a destination and failure .....well, that's just part of the journey. If you’re planning to start a business, there a few things you should know.
It’s only natural to want to devote your time to growing your customer base or getting your product out into the market. But if you don’t get your legal, accounting and tax ducks in a row, they can end up taking an inordinate amount of time and sapping your cash, just when you need it most.
Take time to choose the legal entity you will operate your business through.
Understand the personal legal liability aspects and the filing and tax requirements of your company vehicle.
The annual tax return has been abolished, hurrah! Spend some of the saved time thinking about whether you need to register for VAT. Take care not to miss registration or filing deadlines and payment dates. Penalties can quickly mount up into unexpected and damaging cash outflows.
If you are employing staff, understand your legal responsibilities as an employer and any PAYE requirements. While these can be a little tedious, they are critical to running and growing a successful business.
Research is your best friend. It is essential you spend a considerable time sizing up your competition, establishing your unique selling proposition (USP) and defining your target audience.
Ask yourself: who are your competitors? How successful are they? The more you know, the better position you’ll be in. Understanding what your competitors do well will give you a good idea about what your customers are looking for in a service or product.
Lots of aspiring entrepreneurs I meet are obsessed with inventing something new. Instead, why not take something and make it better.
To do this, you need to establish your USP. List your business attributes and evaluate how well you meet those needs on a scale of one to five.
Remember, just because someone currently has a position in a market doesn’t mean they’re delivering on it. If you can do it better, make it known. Perhaps excellent customer service is your USP – you place particular pride on engaging with your customers. Whatever it is, be sure to communicate it through all your portals.
Think about your target audience and develop the business around them. Consulting your customers will make them feel they have a voice, will breed loyalty and, if you’re lucky, will increase the likelihood of them recommending you to others.
Starting a business is very expensive. Before you even think about paying for marketing materials, you need to consider simple infrastructure costs.
Luckily, the proliferation of funding options has rocketed in the last couple of years. It’s important to shop around rather than taking the first thing you find, because having no money and running a business does not work.
You need to find something that works for you. Perhaps you would benefit from the mentoring possibilities of angel investment? Maybe crowdfunding is the answer, or applying for funding through the government-funded Start Up Loans?
I’m sure everyone wishes there was a secret formula to successful marketing. The truth is, the more effort you put into developing marketing campaigns, using social media and networking, the more successful you will eventually be.
Nothing comes easy – and marketing is no exception. It’s been great to witness a shift in entrepreneurship this year. People want to know the names, faces and personalities behind their favourite products, brands and services, so from the beginning make it clear who you are and what you do. You really need to take time to think about the face, name and personality of your brand – will the company tell its own corporate story, or will you tell it directly? Once you have decided, you need to increase your social media presence.
Become a thought leader in your industry by sharing interesting content with your followers and encouraging them to engage. I find blogs extremely useful.
It is people who breathe life into business. The best way to scale your business is to surround yourself with the best people. This concept can be applied to potential new staff, customers and business partners.
It’s important that you’re not alone. Owning your own business can be lonely if it’s just you, the yellow pages and an office (I know). You should already have an idea about the kind of people you want to bring into your business and be thinking about the long-term advances.
Even if you are a one-man-band now, the minute you start becoming successful you will need to find a finance person, a marketing person, an admin assistant … the list goes on. Factor this in to your business planning, especially if you are looking to pitch for funding.