Setting Up Your Own Business
By Andy Jones (Shepway Business Owner)
A group of local business owner’s have suggested starting a Romney Marsh business mentoring group, to help would- be entrepreneurs start their own small businesses.
Many people have often thought it would be nice to be their own boss and work to their own timetable and reap the rewards of their labour. But how do you go about doing this?
This is not a new idea for the Marsh, a few years ago a group helped out pupils of Southlands School before it change to an academy, which resulted in several school leavers developing their own ideas and starting their own companies.
One local business owner, Martin Binfield, told The Looker: “The idea of setting up this business mentoring group is simple, quite often the first thing people do is go to the bank and see about getting a business bank account and then get bamboozled with a lot of jargon about profit and loss reports! We have a potential group of around six people who have gone through the process of setting up businesses of varying size and will help talk through the process. We would begin talking through the new business to see if it really is viable, what have you got to offer that others are not offering, in other words ‘why should I buy this product from you’. Quite often you hear people talking about USP which stands for Unique Selling Point. Sounds basic, but it really is a fundamental first step”.
It can be a minefield getting from the initial idea to the first day of trading with lots of things to consider. The Looker has had experience in setting up a business or two, so with their help we have put together a guide to some of the things that should be taken into account if you think you have an idea that can make you money. If you are interested in being a business mentor or would like some help with starting up or talking over your ideas email the Looker at email@example.com.
We asked Martin Binfield and Looker Editor David Wimble for their advice.
1. Do a self-inventory.
Not everyone has what it takes to start a company. That’s not to say that your idea is not brilliant. It just means that you may not have the personality traits to handle launching a company of your own. Before investing any time or resources, evaluate yourself and see if you have some the typical traits of an entrepreneur. Are you motivated, able to adapt and confident? Are you resilient?
2. Develop an idea.
Don’t just start a business because something is in vogue and you think commercialising it will make money. Develop a business concept that you’re passionate about related to something that you have experience with. From there, come up with a product or service that you believe can enhance the people’s lives.
3. Test the plausibility.
Once you’ve settled on an idea, figure out how you can make it become a reality. Is the product or service something that people want or need? Can you make a profit selling it? Does the product work?
4. Write a business plan.
A solid business plan will guide you going forward. It’s also needed for presenting your idea to potential investors. Your business plan should include a mission statement, a company summary, an executive summary, a service or product offerings, a description of a target market, financial projections and the cost of the operation.
This does not have to be complicated and can be done for a basic business on a single sheet of paper.
5. Identify your market.
Even though you may have detected some interest in your business, you need to do more homework. Assess the market, targeting the customers most likely to make a purchase. Perform a competitive assessment.
6. Determine the costs.
Do additional research and find out the standard cost factors within this industry. This will help you manage your business more effectively.
7. Establish a budget.
Once you determine how much money you’ll have to work with, figure out how much it will take to develop your product or service and create a marketing plan.
8. Set up a great support system.
You’re going to be investing a lot of time and resources into your new business venture. Be certain that your family is on board. They must be aware that this process will be challenging financially and emotionally.
9. Determine the legal structure.
Settle on which form of ownership is best for you: a sole proprietorship, a partnership, a limited liability company, a corporation, an S corporation, a not for profit or a cooperative.
10. Select a business name.
Decide on a name that best suits your business. Then check to see if the domain name is available online, as well as if it’s free to use.
11. Buy insurance.
Make sure that you arrange for the proper insurance for your business. This will vary according to the type of business. If you’re working from home be sure that your homeowner’s insurance covers theft or damage to business assets, as well as liability for any business-related injuries.
12. Set up the books.
Figure out if you’re using a cash or accrual system, determine the fiscal year for the business and set up a recordkeeping system.
13. Be flexible.
Chances are that your original idea will have to be modified. Being able to pivot and adapt to create what customers want will determine if your business will fail or succeed.
14. Share your ideas with friends and family.
Your nearest and dearest will most likely be the most honest with you about your business. Don’t hesitate to seek their advice and suggestions.
15. Ignore the naysayers.
At the same time, there’s a difference between constructive criticism and someone’s quick jab projecting that your business will fail. Follow the example of French Internet mogul Xavier Niel and ignore them.
16. Don’t become angry.
If your idea is rejected by customers or investors, don’t just succumb to anger. Find out what they didn’t like, make adjustments and go back to them when you’ve made the changes. There’s the possibility that the timing was wrong as well.
17. Deliver the product or service fast.
Your business is a work in progress and if you launch your product or service quickly, you will be able to build a community of customers who can provide valuable feedback that can help you improve the offerings. In the words of LinkedIn founder Reid Hoffman, “If you’re not embarrassed by your first product release, you’ve released too late
18. Over deliver at first.
Once you land a new client, be sure to go above and beyond the call of duty for at least the first month. You’ll have this customer hooked from then on.
19. Blog all the time.
Don’t be ashamed to share both your triumphs and struggles. Customers will enjoy your honesty.
20. Avoid fights with partners
If you have disagreements with partners, then sever ties as soon as possible. In-house bickering will prevent you from focusing on growing the business.
21. Don’t fear the competition.
Don’t bad-mouth the competition when talking to investors or customers. There’s no need to become an object of pity. In fact, talking in this manner might even point customers to a competitor who may offer a product or service that you don’t. Remember, when competition exists, there’s a market for your business. Use that knowledge as inspiration to outperform a rival.
22. Benefit from word-of-mouth.
Nothing beats some good old-fashioned word-of-mouth marketing. Let friends, family members and influencers in your field spread the word about your product or service.
Don’t be afraid to get out there and show your face to the public, whether at a conference or just being out and about with friend on a Friday night. But try to stay local because travel can dwindle your budget.
25. Provide outstanding customer service.
Interacting with people is a big part of the job. Your business may gain new customers because you made them feel important. For example, Zappos wasn’t the first online store to sell shoes, but the company perfected its customer-service department and won over shoppers.
30. Make sure clients pay their bills.
Always be certain to receive payment for your products or services. Instead of being taken advantage of, establish a time frame for payment. It also wouldn’t hurt to accept credit cards and have an online payment system set up.
31. Say goodbye to your social life.
You’re going to spend a lot of time devoted to the business. Even if you plan a night out, you may leave early because a light bulb just went off. Hopefully those closest in your life will understand.
32. Arrive at a useful definition of success.
Just because your business hasn’t made you a millionaire (yet) doesn’t mean that your enterprise is a failure. If you’re able to make some sort of profit doing something that you’re passionate about, isn’t that a success story?
33. Don’t just rely on the advice of others.
Despite my offering up all of these tips for you, perhaps the most important piece of advice is something learned the hard way: While many people may offer a start-up assistance, recognise that in the end you’re the person running the show and the one responsible for the company’s success and failure. If you understand what worked and what didn’t, you’ll burnish the skills and knowledge to run your business.
The Group plan to meet weekly and offer a self help group, with help writing business plans and sharing the experience of being your own boss.
For more information e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org