Sometimes people start businesses on a whim; more often they start one only after years of planning.
Whatever your method, once you actually get down to the nitty-gritty of getting the business going, enthusiasm might fade quickly due to all the complexities and legalities you begin to encounter.
The solution to this is to lay out a clear plan of what is essential to get your business going.
Company Startup Checklist
1. Write a Business Plan
Rare is a business that does not require an initial investment or a bank loan to get started. To get either of these things, you need a business plan.
The plan must serve two purposes:
- It must answer critical questions — to your own satisfaction — of how you are going to get the business off the ground and into a steady level of profitability. To do this will require an analysis of your “objectives, strategies, sales, marketing and financial forecasts.” (source)
- It must answer these same questions — as well as inspire confidence — in any potential investor or bank you may be applying to for a loan.
To impress investors, presentation is key, and it would be well worth your while to invest some time into making that presentation look top-notch.
2. Get help and training
In the early stages of a business, your time is often less valuable than your money.
Even if you have secured seed funding or a bank loan, the less you have to dig into that reserve, the easier it will be to pay it back later.
The pivotal question is what kind of help and training do you need? There are so many courses (many of which simply want to take your money) that it becomes difficult to choose.
Try not to sign up for every single course or seminar that exists out there. Pick resources that are:
- Affordable (based on your budget)
- Valuable (in your field)
There are also plenty of free resources online.
Try and dedicate some time each day to learning more about your field, about marketing, and about business in general.
3. Choose the location of your business
You don’t necessarily need an address that begins with “One Canada Square”.
Then again, maybe you do.
Your location depends on what you do and who your market is.
You need to strike a balance between monthly costs versus potential business. A shoe-selling business that is not located on the main thoroughfare is unlikely to receive many customs off the street.
After the COVID-19 crisis, there is less of a stigma for businesses that operate entirely from home.
4. Learn about your financing options
Too many people rush into business with the idea that they’re going to invest as much as possible and then reap in millions in rewards.
It is vital to keep a clear and level head. Even if your business plan and concept is solid, crises such as the COVID-19 pandemic can come along and dash all your hopes in a fortnight.
A few workable rules of thumb when starting out are:
- Start slow
- Focus on earning, and borrow only what you need to earn even more
Still, finance is often necessary, but bank loans are not the only option.
Depending on the nature of your business, a GoFundMe page might even be appropriate.
Look at your options, and don’t jump into extreme debt unless you absolutely must.
5. Define your business structure
You have to know the type of business you’re going to create.
Are you going to operate as a sole trader and be personally liable for any business debts?
Will you form a limited company or a limited partnership?
There are pros and cons to operating as a sole trader versus a limited company. Investigate each option to know which one is right for you.
If you’re starting a non-profit business, a “Limited by Guarantee” is probably the type you’ll need to open.
6. Register your business name
There are some restrictions to the company name you’re allowed to register in the UK, such as:
- The name cannot be the same as another company’s
- Offensive names are not allowed
- And other restrictions covered in the link above
Aside from the legal restrictions, some rules of thumb for great company names are:
- Communicates what the company does or sells
- Has something “catchy” to it, a play on words
- Shorter is better
Think about your company name carefully. Ask your friends. Get feedback. The more people you ask, the more likely your name will become a hit.
7. Set up your branding
Along with your name, your branding must stick out and be memorable.
This step is best done in conjunction with choosing the name.
It’s best to do this step with a professional. Branding encompasses many things, not just “colour scheme”. So, you’ll need someone expert at all aspects of creating a brand, including:
- A professional logo
- A slick website
- Colour schemes
- Letterheads, email signatures, social media accounts, etc.
It’s not a good idea to change branding drastically later on as it might cause confusion for your customers.
So think about this point of branding long and hard before finally settling on it.
8. Register your business with Companies House
If you register your company with Companies House using the UK Government’s website, it will also automatically register you for Corporation Tax, saving you a step in the process.
9. Set up an email list and start getting subscribers
No matter what other promotional/marketing tools you will be using, your email list will always be your mainstay.
You can start getting subscribers even before you’ve registered your company.
The trick is to offer something for free — an incentive — and then get potential future buyers to sign up.
Once they’ve signed up, your job is to provide useful and helpful content to them via email, which keeps them anticipating your later emails.
There are myriad tools you can use to set this up quickly on the internet. A lot of those tools also offer easy templates to help you create professional emails that sell.
10. Work out a budget
You likely touched on this when you wrote your business plan.
But a budget is so vital to the day-to-day running of your business that it is something you must continually go back to and look at.
In a sense, this could come under the heading of “Do your accounting”, but it’s not quite the same thing.
Create a budget and keep going back to it, modifying it according to the amount of cash you have on hand.
All the best businesses have worked out how to be prudent and frugal while still turning out a regular profit.