How to start your own business in six steps
Being a successful business owner is something many of us dream about. There’s no magic wand to instantly turn that dream into reality, but here are steps you can take to build a framework for success.
The journey of starting your own business will be challenging – financially, mentally, emotionally, physically. You’ll need to prepare yourself for a massive undertaking and have the right attitude to follow through. There will likely be critics and setbacks that might make you reconsider everything. Keep your head on straight and push through the obstacles. Build a trustworthy team who rally for your success and don’t let anyone – or anything – get in the way of you and your dream.
That’s all for the pep talk. Now let’s get down to how to start a business in six steps:
1. Identify your “why”
Everyone has a reason why they want to start a business. What’s yours? Yes, it’s a simple question, but people often lose sight of their mission. The answer will not only impact your drive, but it will make you evaluate (and re-evaluate) the strategies and tactics to get you to where you want to be. Regularly ask yourself why you’re doing this and what purpose your business is meant to serve.
For example, do you want to:
- Make a positive impact in the world?
- Make life easier for others?
- Change the way things are done?
- Be financially independent?
Knowing what motivates you will provide clarity. It’s also important to have a sense of flexibility, as your “why” may change and develop as your business gets more sophisticated.
2. Realise that there will never be a “right time”
We think about it, we wish for it, we tell ourselves we’re going to do it. What we really need is to say less and do more. There won’t be a perfect time for starting your own business, so why wait?
Yes, there are businesses that take off with current trends, and it may seem like time is of the essence to get a piece of the pie while it’s still hot. But in order to transcend trends and stay relevant, your business needs to be agile to maintain longevity.
3. Write it down
Some of the greatest business plans started on scraps of paper. Grab a pen, go to a coffee shop and just start writing it all down. Think big and think different.
If you get stuck, use these questions to begin:
- What is my business’ purpose?
- Who will be my customers?
- Who are my competitors?
- Why will customers come to me instead of my competitors?
- What products or services will I offer?
- How will I decide what to charge for my products or services?
- How will my customers feel when doing business with me?
- How will I decide who to hire and when?
- What type of culture will my business have?
- Where will my business be three years from now?
When you’re swimming in your thoughts, it can be difficult to determine priorities and define your business direction. But when you start jotting down your ideas on paper, things will start to feel more tangible.
4. Hook up with your heroes
You might be surprised to learn how many successful entrepreneurs are willing to share their expertise and business-building experiences. Though you may not know them personally, don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and request mentorship from someone you admire. Build a network of experts and trusted advisers, as they can make a world of difference when starting your own business.
Call upon entrepreneurial mentors and see if they can spare a quick chat. But first:
Do your research: Decide on the topics you want to cover, be prepared to ask tough questions and keep an open mind.
Outline what you want out of the meeting: Know the people you are talking to and their strengths. That way, you’ll know which way to steer your questions and maximise your time with them.
Be considerate: Understand that whomever you reached out to values time. Meet when and where is convenient for them – and always cover the bill. What you’ll be getting in return is worth a lot more.
These days, there are several ways to connect with business mentors. It doesn’t have to be a cold call. Look at the opportunities online and find a program or method that works best for you.
5. Work out the numbers
Accounting may or may not be your strong suit. But when starting your own business in the UK, it’s necessary to have a solid grasp on the financials. To make sure you’re set up for success, you could:
- Hire an accountant or bookkeeper to manage your figures, submit your VAT returns and deal with your tax requirements and with HMRC for you (tip: check out our guide on when you should hire an accountant).
- Speak with business advisors, chambers of commerce and other business resources that provide guidance.
- Dive into your accounts and figure out the numbers yourself.
Diving into your accounts yourself may sound intimidating. But with good accounting software, checking financials can be easy. Take a look online and see what software solution best fits your needs.
Whatever route you take, be sure that your accounting is properly set up from the start. The last thing you want to do is recover missing information or crawl through old receipts and invoices.
6. Get going, and start with this checklist
Now that you’re getting close to launching your business, it’s time to get the details sorted – if you haven’t done so already. Here are some core things you’ll need to consider:
- Register your business – Decide whether you want to set up your business as a sole trader, limited company or partnership. This structure will define your legal responsibilities. Sole traders and partnerships must register with HMRC, limited companies with Companies House (and let HMRC know when the company starts business activities).
- Set up payroll – Take care of your staff with timely payments. Be aware that you may need to establish payroll even when not employing staff (see our payroll guides).
- Develop your brand and logo – You can start with online resources such as Fiverr or 99designs. Or you can go with a professional graphic designer or creative agency and collaborate with them to achieve what you’re after with your brand.
- Build your website. Take this very seriously, because your website is essentially the face of your company and will be a huge factor in how your business is perceived. Resources like Squarespace, Shopify and Wordpress allow you to build great websites that’ll help you stand shoulder-to-shoulder with the big guns. Or you can hire a web developer or creative agency to build a site for you.
- Market your product or services. Think about what makes you unique and how people will learn about your business. Marketing is a vital component in attracting and retaining customers. Gather testimonials, research alternatives to paid marketing or take classes to get your business on the radar.
Never stop learning
Remind yourself of what’s motivating you and take advantage of all the available resources. There will always be things to learn, skills to master and relationships to build.
The launch of your business is just the beginning. Make sure you have a rigid launch date and be sure to celebrate each milestone. Once you’re up and running, keep growing as an entrepreneur through classes, seminars, conferences, podcasts, books and more.