Starting a business is a big step. Before you set out on the road to entrepreneurial wonders, here’s a few tips to get your head around.
1. Go all in and accept your choices
Either you’re in or you’re out. A small business is a bit like a child, only quieter. It requires constant attention and wherever you are you’ll find yourself checking its pulse constantly, making sure it’s been fed, watered and nurtured and not run over by a bus. It also has irregular waking hours; your personal life will take a back seat but it will pay off, and usually much quicker than it takes for an infant to get to university and out the house.
Take a hard look at what you prioritise and try your best to fit outside engagements around that. It doesn’t have to consume your life, so it’s definitely worth honestly assessing how to balance what you need to function as a sane individual, and stick to those assessments. There’s no point spending valuable time on the clock lamenting the fact you had to do emails over a birthday party or a morning swim.
2. Don’t leave finances to the last minute
Thankfully, finances aren’t anything like children. They’re boring, made out of paper and require careful preparation to function, keeping your business steady.
Thankfully being studious about finances saves huge amounts of time, stress and money down the line. Record every receipt, file every return on time, date your folders and keep everything in one place, not scattered throughout the office. It will save you from the mysterious vacuum that is bureaucracy in the future.
Start-ups have to comply with a lot of rules and regulations, there’s no getting away from it. But there are companies (like ours) that can do it for you. Things like VAT registration and Company Formations are tricky and time consuming. Sometimes it’s better to ask the experts.
3. Don’t forget THE BRAND!
‘Your Brand’ may be marketing speak but it exists to outline the emotional reason for your companies existence. What defines you and your approach that’s manifest in the organisation? Why should people choose your products over others? The answer is your message: the body of ideas associated with you and your business.
What’s in a name? A lot. And that extends to your conceptual associations. Donate proceeds to bunny sanctuaries in your spare time? Interested in space exploration/Nigella Lawson/Michel Foucault? Whatever you’re interested in says something about you, so marshal that sentiment, incorporate it and tell people, but quick.
However, don’t get too carried away: make sure it’s relevant to your customers and their aspirations. Which brings us to…
4. Do you know your customers from their heads to their toes?
The best way to do that is by talking to them. Not just market research – avoid forms at all costs – but actually getting to know your customers as people as well as consumers. What do they do on weekends? Take one of them for a coffee and find out.
When dealing with customers face to face there are no cardinal rules, nor are there any great mysteries. Think of something nice and approachable, and just ask. The worst thing they’ll do is say no. And burn your house down. Actually, they won’t if you have a Director’s Service Address because your address won’t be on the public record.
Finally, talk to your friends about the business. Ask for advice, and find some mentors. It isn’t hard to make friends with other entrepreneurs – the UK is chock full of startups all searching for and sharing advice with each other.
5. Seeking funding, where art thou funding?
Seeking investors, researching bank loans and asking any friends or family members if they’d be interested in helping out is a good place to start. Business grants are a very useful option because they often come with mentorship and advice schemes; though they’re hard to get, they are well worth the due diligence.
Don’t assume you won’t be able to secure one; explore the possibility first and then if you cannot get the grant, you need to put together a plan to secure an investor or a bank loan. If nothing else, pitching for it will help you externalise and formalise what’s important to you about the business and why that should matter to the world; that will make things easier next time.
And if you're strapped for cash, get yourself a Virtual Office. It'll help you save money on overheads and lend the business credibility and a stable profile.
In conclusion, the most important advice to a budding entrepreneur is to just do it. Make a start, your dreams can often be far more daunting than the reality.