Here we are at the end of 2010. What has 2010 shown us in the business world? In the UK, there’s been a definitive and frantic up and down pace mixed with a struggling economy and a new government at the helm. Next question then: What’s in store for 2011?
Right now at the close of another working year in your life, what prospects or potential redundancy are you facing in 2011? Are you just starting out in business, or thinking of going into business for yourself?
To help you get a positive view of setting up in business for yourself, to allow you to look at your career and business options, here are The Twelve Days of Business 2010.
Explore your Options. Before you rush into setting up a new business, even if your business idea is something you’ve been passionate about for sometime, consider why you are doing this. Think about your current situation – Do you really want to do this? What will happen if it doesn’t work out? Give yourself a good amount of time to mull over your ideas and reasons for embarking on this journey.
What is your USP? Being clear about what you will offer is of vital importance. Will you offer a product or service? Are you the product or service as a sole trader? Who is your target audience, in other words who are you selling to? Research and establish if there is a need for what you want to promote and deliver. Yes, competition in your marketplace is positive for growth, however what makes you different from others in the same or similar sector? Know what your Unique Selling Point is i.e. What are the benefits you can offer to your market? How will your product or service make a difference to their life or business?
Goals and Ambitions. During this research and discovery stage ask yourself what do I want to achieve and how am I going to get there? Setting goals with realistic objectives to help you achieve them is the most commonsense approach to growing your vision into reality. Create a business and marketing plan to keep you on track and focussed, plus it helps to prevent you from rushing headlong into grabbing every opportunity that may present itself. Seek help and advice to put together concise plans. Make sure your goals are measurable and meet with what your business represents, what you wish to achieve and are set to a suitable time frame.
What are your Values? Going into business for yourself brings with it one major constant – your reputation. Consider what you want you business to stand for or represent. How do you want to be seen in your marketplace, in the eyes of your competitors? Core values set the foundation for any business and without them a business will not succeed. Remember too, your brand is your reputation and vice versa. Every telephone call or email, every client meeting and every piece of work or product you deliver, will be preceded by your values.
What is your Financial Situation? A thorough assessment of your financial pot so to speak, is one of the primary things you must look at. If you are facing redundancy and you receive a good remuneration, how will long will it last if you set up a business? Likewise, if you leave your current job and start over, how long will your savings cover your costs? Work out exactly how much money you have at the start, how much you will need to cover personal expenses such as mortgage and living, as well as start up costs, to give you a clear picture of how long your finances will carry you. Alternatively look into options of ways to get support finance, either from your bank or an angel investor?
Sole Trader vs Limited Company. The best source of professional advice about the type of taxation structure most suited to your business is a qualified accountant. If you have no access to an accountant at this early stage, you can visit the HMRC website, which is full of helpful advice, support and downloadable forms etc From here, other legal matters to consider include registration/non registration for VAT, employee rights, responsibilities and roles, and personal and public liability insurances.
Legal Decisions. Early in your setting up stage you will need to register for tax, once you’ve decided what type of entity you will be i.e. sole trader or limited company, register your company name and consider trade marking, open a business banking account and arrange a business loan (if required) to cover set up and initial ongoing costs, buy a domain name(s), and hire an accountant or bookkeeper (or use online accountancy software such as Kashflow).
Do I work at home or rent an office? Wherever you choose your business to be based from, there is an extensive list of office requirements to think about. Plan to work from home? Do you have suitable office space such as a spare room? What will you need to set up your office – a PC, printer, a good sized desk, filing cabinet, shelving, cupboards, broadband, a telephone or mobile connection? Ask your accountant for advice about claiming expenses on your spare room office or rented office space and other related costs.
To Market, To Market. How will you market your business? Writing a marketing plan is a good way to get your ideas down on paper, to give you a clear focus about what you want to achieve. Marketing wears many different hats, from online e shots and direct mail shots, to websites and online social networking. Therefore, have a good brainstorm about what your business message is, and then work out the best approach to sharing your message. A website is your most important “shop window” for your business, so make sure you find a web designer who understands what you want to achieve. Talk to small business owners about how they market their business, to discover new ways.
What is Networking? Networking is all about having conversations with others, to build relationships; with your ultimate aims being to do business and to help others do business. Next the big question: Do you network online or face to face? Online social networking is one of the fastest growing industries today however this style does not suit everyone. Take a look at Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn and decide if these meet with who you are and what you represent. These online platforms are an excellent way to build a database of contacts, have conversations, do business and recommend other businesses, however weighing up your time spent on social media is also important. Have you thought about attending face to face networking events? After all your business is you and you are best placed to sell yourself as your brand. Find a network event near you, go along and start up a conversation. The great thing about networking is you never know where a conversation will lead and what opportunities will be presented, for you or others.
PR and Promoting Yourself. Get to know your local and national journalists. Making positive connections with the media can be a highly effective way to promote and grow your business. As a new enterprise you are in a perfect situation to be of high interest to your local and national press. Have you taken on new staff, won an award, or are you supporting a local charity? Journalists love to write about human interest stories and your business can provide them with great column material. Good PR doesn’t have to cost you the earth, you can do it yourself. However if you want to remove the hassle so you can get on with developing your brand, speak to a PR agency.
Professional Support and Advice. Setting up a new business or improving an existing business involves a lot of effort and hard work. It can take up so much of your time that you forget about giving yourself a chance to step back and actually see your business progression or stagnation. Don’t give up at this stage. Do get yourself a mentor or hire a coach to help you through the rocky stages, to inspire and motivate you, and to help you move both you and your business forward. A coach or mentor, as someone removed from your business, will listen to you and help you realise what options you have, or ways to change or improve what you are doing. Give yourself an opportunity to share your challenges and celebrations with a coach or mentor, and watch as you grow, personally and professionally.