So you want to start a business?
We share our top 10 for creating a firm that will succeed
If Napoleon saw us as a nation of shopkeepers, there’s little doubt that these days we’re a country of small business owners.
The only fly in the ointment is the sad fact that over half of start-ups fail within five years, with owners citing the tax system and problems securing bank loans as the main reasons.
At THP we’ve seen businesses both fail and thrive, so if you’re thinking of starting up a new enterprise we’d like to share our top 10 tips for success. And if you’d like to discuss them further, just give us a call – we’d be happy to talk through your plans.
1. Do your research
Whether you have existing knowledge and experience of a particular industry sector, or you think you’ve spotted a gap in the market, make sure you do your research and that your products and services really will be in demand. Talk to companies and people who don’t know you – friends and family will usually tell you what you want to hear!
2. Don’t fail to plan
Put together your business plan, even if you are the only one who will ever see it. If you don’t have a map of where you want to go, supported by methods of achieving the journey, you’re simply planning to fail.
3. Choose the right environment
Don’t work from home unless you can cope with feeling distracted or isolated. Check out affordable office or workspaces, and if the budget won’t stretch to that, at least look into hiring a virtual reception service.
4. Get the name right
Choose a straightforward name you won’t grow out of that gives a good reflection of what you do. If at all possible, avoid clichés or jargon that make you indistinguishable from your competitors. And when you’ve got your name, make sure you can get an appropriate domain name and think carefully whether your brand or strap lines need to be trademarked. It’s best to choose a shorter domain name that’s easy to remember, especially if you are using that domain name for your email addresses.
5. Choose the right structure
This is essential, especially given upcoming changes to the amount of money you can pay yourself tax free from a limited company. Talk to THP about whether you should start your business as a sole trader, limited company or partnership – there are advantages and drawbacks to all three, and different types of regulations you must comply with.
6. Stay legal
Tell HMRC you have started a business – if you don’t do so within three months you can be fined £100 and lose benefits. If you plan to hold data on customers or prospects, you must register with Data Protection at a minimum cost of £40 per year. You can find more details here.
7. Get marketing
Hide your light under a bushel and you won’t win clients or customers. Work with experienced marketers to create a strong message and to get it out there via networking, direct mail, inbound web marketing, display advertising or other appropriate methods.
8. Keep your cash flowing
Cash flow is the lifeblood of every business – so make sure you have a regularly updated forecast in your business plan. Where possible, ask customers for cash upfront or to pay via direct debit. Late payers have wrecked many a business. If you have to pay VAT, talk to THP to make sure you choose the most efficient scheme for your business.
9. Choose the right people
Employing others is a huge responsibility and significantly adds to your workload. If possible, get established before becoming an employer – and if you do need to hire others, use an outsourced payroll bureau to take care of some of the red tape.
Use technology to make your work simpler and more efficient wherever possible. In particular, choose an accountant who offers cloud accounting software so both you and your accountant can keep on top of your bookkeeping and accounts. You’ll also need adequate IT support and it’s a good idea to start building up your social media profile from day one.
We hope these tips help steer you in the right direction. Starting a business is hard work and often daunting, but if you succeed it usually becomes the best decision you ever made.
About Mark Boulter
Mark Boulter is responsible for the efficient running of the firm’s infrastructure, and ensuring that THP delivers the best client service. Promoting the vision and culture across all branches, people are the key: “I like people who have a fresh approach and I’m happy for them to run with their ideas,” he says.
Communication across departments is crucial and Mark pioneers this. He ensure that people and departments not only talk to each other, but that they share ideas– whether they’re about marketing, finance, sales, strategy or any other topic that can result in us offering a better service. “I think helping to develop the next generation of THP people is essential to our success,” Mark adds. “We’ve a lot of talented people and our way of doing things increasingly attracts ambitious newcomers who are looking for a fresh approach. That’s good for us and even better news for our clients.”