More than than 99% of UK businesses are SMEs (small and medium-enterprises), according to data published by the House of Commons Library. And entrepreneurs are major players in the country’s economy: 96% of companies are microbusinesses that have fewer than 10 employees.
Could 2019 be the year you join the ranks?
While passion and drive are important, starting a business takes more than just a strong work ethic. You need to plan diligently if you want your company to become a success. We’ve outlined how to start a business in 10 steps, so you can launch yourself onto the right track quickly and smoothly.
Develop a sound idea
If you’re reading this, you probably already have an idea of the kind of business you want to start. But before you dive in, pick apart your concept to ensure it’s viable. Your business should solve a problem, meet a need, or fill a gap in the market.
Learn everything you possibly can about the sector you plan to enter and be honest with yourself about whether your idea will work. If there’s a strong chance it won’t, think about how you can realistically change that outcome. Need some inspiration? Have a look at Europe’s most popular startup industries.
Write a business plan
Once you’re confident your business could be a success, it’s time to put in the work and write a business plan.
A business plan can act as the master manual to your entire company. Use it as an opportunity to look at your business from all angles: confront the financials, plot out the logistics, analyse the competition, and refine your idea.
Check out our how to write a business plan guide for in-depth advice.
Register your business
If you haven’t already decided what structure your business will be, writing your business plan might help you figure out whether to launch as a sole trader, partnership, limited company, or limited liability partnership. Then, you can officially register your business.
The best route for you will depend on the nature of your business and your individual circumstances. Find out more about choosing between registering as a limited company or sole trader.
Seek and sort funding
Once you’ve written a solid business plan and have officially registered your business, you’ll be in a strong position to approach investors. There are many ways to seek funding for your business, such as applying for loans or grants, appealing for crowdfunding, or entering competitions.
This is also a good time to begin organising and tracking your finances (if you haven’t already done so). You might have a simple spreadsheet or an entire range of software, but keeping up-to-date records of your incomings and outgoings is vital to keeping costs under control so you can succeed in the long-term.
Create your brand
Your brand is the core of your business, and it’s important to develop an identity that will make customers notice and remember you. The steps you need to take to develop your brand will vary, depending on your business.
Beyond the creative aspects of branding, there are some official steps you’ll also need to do:
- If you are a limited company, you’ll need to register your name with Companies House.
- If your business has a website, you’ll need to register your domain.
- If your brand has a logo, you might want to register a trade mark.
Do the paperwork
After researching the industry and writing your business plan, you should be aware of any licenses, permits, or specific kinds of insurance you need to ensure your business complies with laws and regulations.
Depending on the industry that you work in, it can be confusing to figure out exactly what you might need. If in doubt, ask someone who has experience in the field or consult a professional.
Get your systems in place
You’re probably an expert when it comes to what your business does or produces, but running a company requires a whole host of systems and processes that you might not be as confident about.
Whether you plan to outsource or learn the specifics yourself, make sure you have the bases covered when it comes to things like payroll, accounting, and IT.
Prep your space
Whether you’re opening a café or launching a company from your home office, set up a professional workspace where you’ll be comfortable and productive. Exactly what you need will depend on the nature of your business, but now’s the time to make sure you have the necessary supplies and equipment to do things efficiently and effectively.
When it comes to taking payments, choose a card machine that suits the structure and pace of your business. Alternatively, a virtual terminal allows you to take payments over the phone, or you can accept payments online.
Hire and train staff
If you plan on hiring people to help get your business off the ground, make sure they’re on board with your vision and are clear about where they fit in. Successful small businesses work because of the people involved, and so it’s important to hire employees who can bring skills, enthusiasm, and creativity to the table.
And you need to treat them right. Provide proper training, show your appreciation, and maintain open communication, so you can grow and develop as a team.
Promote your business
Having all the right pieces in place doesn’t mean anything if nobody knows your business exists. Developing and maintaining a vigilant advertising and marketing strategy is key to growth, and it’s especially important to get exposure in the early days.
Explore both traditional and digital advertising, work on your social media presence, and offer promotions and discounts to build a loyal customer base. Learn more with our in-depth guide about digital marketing for small businesses.
Research, planning, and dedication are the main ingredients for starting a successful business. If you’re prepared to put in the work, you can follow these steps and join the hardworking entrepreneurs who make up the backbone of the UK’s business landscape.
Check out our guide to the 15 best cities to start a business for inspiration about where to lay down your roots!