1stformations Presents

Starting Your Own Business
The Ultimate Guide

Part One

In the beginning...

All successful businesses start with a fantastic idea. Whether you’ve spotted a gap in the market for a new product, think you can provide a better service than the competition or simply want to escape the rat race and go it alone.

Part One of our guide explores how to sharpen your business ideas, give your start-up some crucial legal protections and get started turning your dreams into well-written business and marketing plans.

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How do I get started?

“There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” — Colin Powell

Here at 1st Formations, it’s our job to help your business succeed. We offer a wide range of company formation packages and business support services, and we’re always on standby to lend you a helping hand – but at the end of the day, the success of your business rests largely upon your shoulders.

As the owner of your business, you’ve got to put in the hard work, make some tough calls and mold your company in order to see it blossom and prosper. If you’ve never run a business before, that sounds like a lot of pressure. It also makes the prospect of going it alone fairly daunting. But the truth is, launching a successful business isn’t scary – and even if you’re forming a new company all by yourself, you don’t have to do it alone.

That’s why we developed this guide to starting your own business. We know a lot about how companies work, and we know what it takes to lead a company and find success. So, in order to help you get started along your own business journey, we’ve broken the typical business journey down into four parts:

If you’re starting a business from scratch, you can use this guide by starting at Part One and working your way through our guide – but we haven’t just created the Ultimate Guide for newcomers to the business world. Even if you’re a veteran company owner, you’ll find all sorts of ideas you can trial on your own business.

Part One explores how to you can cultivate a business idea and develop that concept into an organised business plan. This series of posts will provide you with brainstorming strategies to help you come up with a great idea for your new business, explain how you can protect the legal status of your ideas by forming a limited company and instructs you on all the basics of how to organise and write your business and marketing plans.

Next, Part Two will guide you through some of the bare essentials you’ll need to set in place for your business to ensure its success. You’ll find information on potential funding strategies for your new company, a pros and cons list to help you decide whether you’ll need to take on staff and advice on what you should and should not include on your wish list when researching company premises.

Part Three outlines some of the crucial processes you’ll need to set in place before your new company starts trading. We’ll walk you through how you can set up a company website, how you can develop your ideas into a recognisable brand and how you should go about advertising and marketing your company.

Finally, Part Four offers some advice and support for those who have already started trading. We explain the basics of ecommerce and selling your products online, the skills you’ll need to hone and develop as a business leader and some friendly advice on how you can cope with the ups and downs of managing a small business.

This guide is by no means exhaustive. No two businesses are alike, and so you can expect your company to face its own unique set of hurdles. But in order to get your ideas up and running, these are the basics you’ll need to master. And if you can’t find the answers you’re looking for, get in touch. We’re always happy to help.

Part Two

Getting serious now...

It takes more than a pocketful of dreams and a great attitude to find business success. It takes meticulous planning, extensive market research and a firm understanding of what you want your business to achieve.

Part Two of our guide explores the different ways in which you can finance your new business, a breakdown of why you should or should not take on staff and a detailed list of what you’ll need if you plan on setting up a company premises.

“Success is 10 percent inspiration and 90 percent perspiration.”— Thomas Edison

Most of us dream about leaving behind a dull day job to become our own boss. Freedom is one of the biggest motivators for individuals who’d like to launch a new start-up, and it has definitely inspired some of history’s greatest entrepreneurs. But energy and creativity will only take you so far – and the sad truth is, starting a business isn’t for everybody.

It takes a lot of hard work, and you’ve got to express devotion towards cultivating and developing a wide range of business skills that will inform and bolster different aspects of your company.

So, where will you need to put in the work to ensure your business succeeds?

First and foremost, you need to wrap your head around company finances and how to manage those finances, for instance, knowing how to forecast your cash flow and sales, monitor your profit and loss and manage the ins and outs of your business dealings. That might not come naturally for most entrepreneurs – but you don’t need a degree in accounting to work on your company finances. You just need to study hard, tread carefully and accept professional advice when and wherever possible.

You can’t afford to get complacent, either. The sad truth is most start-ups are doomed to failure – and that failure isn’t always sudden. Many businesses struggle for over five years before calling it quits, and one of the primary reasons companies cannot overcome major hurdles is because their leaders aren’t looking forward. You must always be researching the competition, and you must always be reviewing your own business strategy and processes to find when and where you could be doing better.

Time management, communication and leadership skills are absolutely critical to your success, and so you’ll need to assess and correct your own behaviours on a regular basis. And if hitting the books, always going back to basics and constantly striving to improve isn’t for you, starting a business might not be for you, either.

You don’t necessarily need to possess all of the traditional skills of a business owner – you simply need to exhibit a willingness to learn those skills. Without the proper motivation behind your development, your chances of success will be greatly reduced.

So, before you start down this long and winding road, you owe it to yourself and your future business to think long and hard about why you’re making this journey in the first place. Why do you want to start a business? How will it change your life, and how could it change the lives of others around you? What are you willing to give to ensure your business succeeds, and what lines in the sand are you prepared to draw to safeguard other aspects of your life?

If you want to run a business, you need to be doing it for the right reasons. You need to demonstrate a set of basic skills, or a commitment towards developing those skills – and above all else, you need passion. At the end of the day, preparation and business acumen will only take you 90 percent of the way. To accomplish your goals and make your dreams come alive, you need to wholeheartedly believe in what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.

Part Three

Spreading the word...

Trying to write a business plan and figure out how you should fund your company can be totally exhausting – but the truth is, that’s just the start of your business journey.

Part Three of our guide explores some of the basic steps you need to take when you feel confident enough to start trading. We break down how you can create a website for your new business, why you should try to develop a distinct brand for your company and how you should go about developing powerful marketing and advertising strategies.

Don’t fall victim to the time trap: how to regain control of your schedule

Time is a precious gift – and once you’ve started your own business, that gift is incredibly difficult to come by. Managing the day-to-day processes, taking care of staffing, keeping track of company finances and everything in between are constantly nipping away at your heels, and they prevent you from taking care of other essential businesses functions.

That’s why you’ve got to avoid the entrepreneur’s time trap. You need to be the one in control of your work schedule, not your business. Avoiding that trap begins with awareness. That’s why we’ve compiled five of the top timewasters you’re bound to experience as a small business owner – and most importantly, how you can avoid them:

1. Perfectionism

A lot of entrepreneurs find it difficult to settle for second best. Everything they do at work is driven by a grand vision. They’re willing to lose hours perfecting the last sentence on a webpage, repapering the same section of wall or working their way through an entire phone tree to ensure everybody’s happy with a trivial decision. That level of commitment is admirable – but it’s no way to get things done.

You should always strive to do your best, and you should always aim for the top. But you need to understand your limits, and you need to balance your desire to put out a quality product or service with all of the other demands on your schedule.

2. Micromanaging

If you’re taking on staff to help you run your business, the worst possible mistake you could make in managing those individuals is to do their work for them. There’s nothing wrong with caring about each tiny business process, and there’s nothing wrong with wanting to ensure it’s being done correctly. But the whole point of taking on employees is to free up your time and give those individuals an opportunity to prove themselves and assist your business in finding success. You hired your employees to do a job, so let them do it. Learn to delegate tasks, and place trust in your team to handle all of the day-to-day tasks that would ordinarily decimate your schedule.

3. Lack of organisation

When a lot of us are short on time but have a long 'to do' list, we instinctively dive into the workload without stepping back to figure out how to finish it logically. That can be a fatal mistake as far as productivity is concerned.

Before attempting to tackle a large pile of tasks, you need to compile a list of everything that needs done and create a road map. Prioritise what needs to be done today versus what needs to be done in a month’s time, and focus on completing your most important tasks first.

5. Redundancy

Teams lose a huge amount of time and energy when employees are duplicating efforts. This often happens where your team members are required to carry out lots of repetitive processes on an individual level without communicating. These redundancies often slow up progress to the point where you’ll need to get involved, too – and as a business owner, you’ve got plenty of other things to be worrying about.

To avoid duplicate efforts, it falls on you to provide your employees with a bit of structure. Develop detailed processes, create templates for paperwork or production and make sure your team is constantly communicating to ensure everybody is on the same page.

5. Communication failures

If you fail to maintain a clear line of communication between you and your staff, key stakeholders, customers, suppliers and everyone in-between, all of these time-saving strategies are for nothing. Communication is absolutely vital to your success, and it can save you so much time and energy. Try to avoid back-and-forth email threads, get away from your desk and have real conversations with people in order to settle issues with one swift conversation. Ditch the memos, and pick up the phone – and when in doubt, always ask employees or suppliers to repeat action items back to you, to ensure everything you’re after has been clearly communicated.

Part Four

We're off and running...

So, this is it: you’ve done your homework, set up a marketing machine and have started landing sales. But what happens next?

Part Four of our guide explains some of the ways in which you can try to advance your new business by exploring innovative ecommerce solutions, but it also offers advice on the ways in which you should be trying to develop your leadership skills and where you can find support to help you manage the ups and downs of life running your new business.

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What skills do I need?

Three ways you can take your business to the next level in 2018

One of the biggest risks start-up owners face is getting comfortable. Business owners tend to find a groove in the early days of trading, figure out what’s working and then like to stick with it. That sounds like a pretty attractive prospect – but the truth is, it can lead to complacency and ruin.

No matter what type of company you’re running and what type of industry space you’re operating in, your business cannot afford to stand still. You should constantly be tinkering with processes and trying to improve your business to move forward, achieve your goals and move on towards setting more ambitious targets.

To help you avoid complacency and take your company to the next level, we’ve come up with three simple ways you can boost your business in 2018:

1. Fail often

Nobody wants their business to fail – and we don’t want it to fail, either. But on a microscopic level, you should actively be seeking out and celebrating failures. After all, you’re not going to learn anything new by sticking with what you know. So, instead of doing the same things all day, every day, you’ve got to mix it up. Try out new packaging design. Tweak your pricing strategy. Start using a new social media platform. Experiment with multi-buy offers, introduce discounts and pilot innovative new prototypes. These all sound like little things, and they’re not all going to work in your favour. But you won’t know until you try – and when one of your small risks pays off, it’ll pay off in a big way.

2. Be honest

In the early days of any business, you’ve got to do your best in order to please customers, clients or partners. As a result, you commit to doing a lot of things you may not be comfortable with – and more often than not, you bite off far more than you can chew. That’s not practical, and it’s not sustainable. This year, you’ve got to put a stop to it.

That means being honest with your stakeholders. If a client wants you to file a report by an unachievable date, don’t smile and say it’s not a problem. Sit them down and explain why this task will take longer, and why it will benefit them to wait until the job is done. If your business partner is keen on marketing a product to the wrong audience, don’t tell them it’s worth a try. Walk them through why they’re wrong and where you should actually be concentrating efforts. Honesty is always the best policy.

3. Listen

Nobody likes a micromanager – and despite your wealth of knowledge, you do not know as much as you think you do. There are loads and loads of ways your business could be capitalising on untapped markets that you have no clue about. But you can bet your bottom dollar you know somebody who does.

If you’d like to explore new ways to sell your products online, ask your staff how they purchase online and what ideas they have about increasing your online presence. If you’re not sure about new social media platforms, chat with friends and colleagues about how they’re using the sites. If you’d like to introduce a new service but aren’t sure about how to polish your idea, set up a focus group.

Even the best and brightest entrepreneurs need a helping hand sometimes. Ask people what they think about your business – and more important still, listen to those people. Take a risk and act on their opinions and knowledge.

Remember: this guide is not exhaustive. We’ve covered all the basics you’ll need to succeed, but we recognise that no two businesses are alike. As a result, you’re going to have your own unique hurdles to overcome. But here at 1st Formations, we’re always here to help. Don’t hesitate to get in touch with your queries, and we’ll do our best to guide you and your company towards success.

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