Top tips for start-ups taking the plunge in 2017

Jazz Gandhum, CEO of UK edtech firm e-Careers, shares his top tips for those aspiring business owners who want to make 2017 their year...

It is perfectly possible to build a small business from scratch.

In fact, there are now one million more small businesses in the UK than there were in 2010, which may not be surprising when you consider that the UK has been ranked the fifth best country in Europe in which to start a business. And with 2016 having seen over 7,000 Start Up Loans awarded to UK entrepreneurs, many of the country’s small businesses are thriving.

However, experts from Forbes to the Federation of Small Businesses will tell you that between 50 and 90% of all start-up companies fail within their first five years of operation.

For this, directors blame everything from UK tax laws to a late-payment culture crippling cashflow to the mountain of red tape entrepreneurs have to cut through.

But small businesses aren’t always blameless, and some nail their own coffin with a scrambled business plan, over-optimistic spending, no tangible online presence or a lack of knowledge in business fundamentals like sales and numbers, and all this lands them in a whole heap of trouble right from the start.

So how do you give your start-up the best chance of survival and success?

  1. Research, research, research. Test your business idea with thorough, targeted, pre-launch market research. It’ll help you build a successful business plan, identify pitfalls and finalise your brand. Initial research can be done on the web through a myriad of market research apps – but remember there’s no substitute for asking your target audience – your demographic – what they think of your idea. We might be in the digital age, but speaking to potential customers face-to-face is still as important as ever.
  1. Ask yourself, what’s the right business structure? Should you go it alone as a sole trader, create a partnership or set up a limited company? Each have their advantages, but you need to make sure the one you choose is right for you and the sector you’re operating in, at least in the short-term. Click here for more on each option.
  1. The clue’s in the name. Take time to choose the right name for your business and make sure it is also available as a domain name. The last thing you need is to find the perfect moniker, and then spend months negotiating with someone who’s already bought the right to use it on the web. Try namecheckr.com for an instant answer.
  1. Design matters. Your logo says everything about your business. Look at other small business branding you admire, and ask the business owner for their designer’s details. Don’t forget – bigger isn’t always better. With larger agencies, you’ll pay larger fees for brand creation, and they won’t necessarily be any more talented than the man who works from his spare room round the corner. Recommendation goes a long way. Find more logo design tips here.
  1. Cash is king. Apply for as many small business grants as you can. You might have to jump through hoops and fill in what seems like too many forms for a few hundred pounds, but it can make all the difference to cashflow, at least initially. There are business loans out there too, so create a cast-iron business plan, talk to your bank and forge forward.
  1. A room with a view. You’ll need to choose between working from home or paying for an office. If you work from a room in your home, you can expect some tax breaks. But the flip side of that is, you’ll look much more professional if you’re entertaining clients in a dedicated meeting space, and it’s easier to focus away from home. Office rental doesn’t have to be salubrious, or expensive – a simple room in a quiet part of town can make you look and feel much more professional.
  1. Money matters. Appoint the right accountant and, notwithstanding their substantial fees, they can save you an awful lot of money. Choose one who has experience in your field of business. It’s no use employing someone whose portfolio is filled with engineering companies if you’re a landscape gardener – they won’t be familiar enough with specific legislation to help you maximize your profits. As with designers, look at the size of the operation. A small to medium-sized accountancy office will be aufait with issues pertaining to smaller businesses – plus they’ll charge less than the big corporations. But make sure you get references from their existing clients.
  1. Harness the right technology. Tech is essential for the smooth running of your business. For example, a cloud-based office which enables you to work remotely, on whichever device you have to hand, will help you feel more in control of things. From internet banking to file retrieval, you can work from the train or your desk and keep the wheels of industry turning without fretting you’ve left something on your PC when it should be on your laptop. Visit the Startups Business Technology Zone for more guides.
  1. Knowledge is power. The world’s top businessmen all have something in common: they dedicate time to reading and expanding their knowledge. Feel you don’t have time? Download audio books and listen to them on your commute to the office. Feel your knowledge is weak in certain areas of business? Business related e-learning courses provide an affordable and accessible way to help you improve your knowledge and aid you in creating a successful start-up.

To find out more about e-Careers, visit the website: www.e-careers.com


Action point:
See if you can get a Start Up Loan to help you start a business idea
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