Starting a new business venture

Start-ups are a hot topic: and tempting when salaried employment is hard to come by.

  1. Research your idea before committing time and money to it. Just because you think it is a good idea does not mean the rest of the world will. So ask your target audience if they would buy from you, not your loving family and friends.
  2. Research your own character. Are you the right personality type?
  3. Cost your time. if you can get from set-up to revenue generation a month earlier, what is that worth? Hopefully a lot more than skimping a couple of quid by not delegating mechanistic stuff like government form filling.
  4. Do not let the box-tickers tell you you need a formal business plan. You don’t.
  5. But you do need to understand how your business will work from every angle – use the Business Model Generation canvas, with lots of post-it notes so you can assess several variations. When you get the version that seems to work best, do document how things are going to work
  6. You will now have lots of tasks in mind to do. Document and manage them using Goalscape – it allows you to also record and easily visualise progress. It is worth thinking about the critical path too – no point doing lots of quick things first, and only starting the the long, delay causing task when the others are done!
  7. All this will also highlight the multiple skills that will be required. If you do not feel confident on sales/marketing/IT/accounting/Tax/engineering/etc/etc, we can help you find someone who is
  8. Funding is always a challenge (if not impossible to get) for start-ups. So “bootstrap” as much as you can. Don’t leave your old job until you have dedicated lots of weekends and evenings to your new idea – keep the cash coming in as long as you can. If you still need funding, look to friends and family (an uncomfortable step perhaps, but they are your best bet: offer them interest, annually paid, of at least twice what they currently receive – if you cannot afford 6% in the long term you need to go back to the drawing board!) but do not hold it against them if them cannot oblige. It is far easier to obtain funding if it is to buy equipment or for other business development purposes than it is if the need is to fund salaries, yours or someone else’s. ‘Equipment’ means tooling, and the like. The swanky office, laptop, furniture or car must wait until you are making profits. In the meantime, its ebay and the spare room for you. The best way to save money is not to spend it!
  9. Customer service is fundamental. Make sure, above everything, that you return calls or respond to enquiries promptly and efficiently. Don’t bullsh1t – only make promises you can keep – then make sure you do. Infinitely better to under-promise and over-deliver than the other way around.
  10. Chose a bank where you can develop a personal relationship rather than just become a number on a screen. But always bear in mind that a bank managers default approach is “what happens to me if it all goes wrong”
  11. If this will be your first company, you will be amazed at the number of bear-traps government departments have created to fine you for non-compliance with something. There are lots of free web-sites that will send you email or SMS reminders
  12. Unless you sell online, do not get hung-up on your website design. You do not have to spend a fortune on it. Save the designer fees and get an SEO guru on the case instead. Far more bang per buck. You need to know that static websites are not really going to help much with your marketing. To get noticed, you will need a blog based site like this one that is based on WordPress. Google is a monster that needs regular feeding with new content

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