Whats Your Name?
No, not John or Helen, your company name? This is very important as it will be what customers will know you as, the name on all your corporate stationery, even the name you'll answer to on the telephone. Use initials or something that means something to you or your product(s), it can be catchy, but perhaps a descriptive name will help from early on.
Your Market Position
You sell shoes. How will your shoes compete with the guy the other side of town who also sells shoes? Will your shoes be cheaper? Will they be more expensive because they are made better? Will they be more expensive because you want more money? Will your shoes last longer? Are your shoes more environmently friendly? etc etc.
Once you have the answer, you have just worked out your USP, (Unique Selling Point) the key factor to use in your initial marketing, advertising and approach to getting your first customers.
Get Online, Get Noticed
Once your name is decided upon, get a logo, website and image for your company. The first mistake many people make is to ask a friend to do this. Your brand name and presentation is one of the most important features to set your business apart from your competitors. Call a professional in to offer options on a logo and presentation. Yes it costs money at an early stage, but it WILL pay dividends in the future - plus we'll tell how to save money further on. Get a recommendation from a friend or colleague for a company, and talk to the company, not just for costs, but for ideas, opinions and for you to judge how that company comes across to you. We can seriously recommend our website company NPC who worked with us to develop and design this free guide.
Get Registered - and Do Things by the Book
Register your company to the tax man. This is required by law to be done within the first 3 months of your company starting, and no if you wait 3 months you don't miss out the previous 3 months tax. Register and its done, nothing to worry about. Get an accountant, hopefully from a recommendation, as early as possible, this will cost nothing to setup, but they will inform you of key dates for your 'books' to be submitted. (which will cost!)
Money, Money, Money
Set up a Business Bank Account, with your local bank. There will be lots of bells and whistles offered to you, but essentially get the name of the account made out in your new business name. From which you will get cheque books, debit cards and the ability to get paid. Use this account for all your business transactions and keep all your receipts safe for your accountant/books.
It costs nothing to set up a business. It costs money to run that business. How are you going to finance the business? Perhaps you'll have a business partner, perhaps you have money available through redundancy, perhaps savings or by other means. You do not have to get a loan, but you will need to promote your new business, buy stock, tools and spend money. To get a loan you will need a Business Plan - more work before you can start work - so is that loan essential?
Public Liability Insurance, Household insurances, Vehicle insurance; these all need addressing. Will you be visiting customers in your current car? If so, you must ensure your insurance covers you for this. Are you working from home where customers will visit you? Check your home insurance. Finally, Public Liability Insurance. You will need this to cover any claims against you if someone has an accident; falling over your window cleaning ladders for example. Get a good premium and get covered. It's another tick off the list.
Once you are online, you'll know because out of the first 10 or so calls, to you, 8 will be companies trying to sell YOU something; mobile phone contract, advertising, website directory advertising, sponsorships, EVERYTHING - even your gas or electricity supplier will contact you (or at least a third party) offering a cheaper tarif. At this stage, decline them all. You have no budget yet, set one and you will call the people who you plan to advertise with.
So Where do I Advertise?
Advertising can be very expensive, so hold on. Set a budget and evaluate what you get in return for that advert - so if you place an advert in your local newspaper, how many calls do you get from the initial ad? Once the newspaper is available, tell the newspaper how your advert performed. If the response to your advert was poor was this due to the position, size or message? If the response was good, again tell the newspaper, pitch similar to this - "Great ad, I'm going to be really busy for the next month, but I'm really impressed by the advertising; at this rate lets look at one advert per month, what discount can you offer for a 6 month run?"
Other Ways to Promote
Think about sponsoring a board at the local football team, brand your company van, produce leaflets, brand your clothing, write blogs and attend breakfast club meetings, this list is endless; be creative - but within budget and time constraints.
Don't forget your family and friends. It is easy to work 24 hours a day setting up a business and it will be hard work. Do not loose track why you have set up your own business, involve your family by talking to them - showing them your website, latest leaflet etc but then allow quality 'non-work' time.
Enjoy the set up of your business, use professional services, listen to advice, work very hard
and allow time off.
Brand Name: Get One
Ask friends and family for help, write every name down on one list and pin in on a wall.
Logo: Get One
Get a professionally designed logo to show the world how professional your company is. Your business means business.
Position Your Company
Whatever your product or service you will either have existing competition or will face competition very shortly. Offer the best service you can give, offer excellent customer service and the best prices you can give.
Do it by the Book
Set up a Business Bank Account, Inform the Inland Revenue and check out your insurance policies
Website: Get a Good One
Employ a professional company to design and produce your website. You have enough to do seeing suppliers without chasing your friend - or learning a 'do it in 5 minutes' website design package.
Set a Budget
Set aside a budget for initial advertising and promotion. Split the spend down into categories and don't blow the entire budget on one large advert in an obscure magazine nobody reads, simply because the deal sounded too good to be true!
Choose your advertising medium well, have a well designed advert, with a clear message and your advert will perform well.
Think 'Out of the Box'
We do not like the expression, but what other ways are there to advertise your business? Some opportunities can give excellent dividends for very little financial outlay.
There's no Easy Way
Hard work, commitment, a good product/service and a slice of luck. There is no magic formula to Starting Your Own Business and being a success. We hope this brief introduction to some of the
processes involved will help you and give you the confidence to begin your challenge.
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