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Your Business Startup Twelve Pillars in brief Dr Chris Thomas


B

ELIEVE IN YOURSELF

● Have a dream! ● Stay positive ● Keep one foot on the ground ● Continue learning Thinking of joining the three million or more businesses in the United Kingdom? Welcome! With more than 90% of businesses having 5 employees or less, it does not matter how big or small you are to get started. Starting a business involves a key step, taking control of your own destiny. You can seek advice, you can look for help - but ultimately, the buck stops with you. The benefit is that it is your dream. You can set your own horizons. It can be exciting as well as terrifying. My recommendation is to live that dream. Be positive without being unrealistic. Above all, be open to learn as you go down this path.


Y

our business

● New Idea ● Improvement on an existing idea ● Something you are good at ● Knowledge ● Be unique If your business is going to be based on a new idea or an improvement of an existing one, your idea itself has a value and needs to be protected. Check out the UK Intellectual Property Office website at http://www.ipo.gov.uk/. Do not talk or write publically about your novel idea until it is protected. Your business can also be based on a craft or skill, on professional training. It is something that you are good at relative to your potential clustomers. Having gained knowledge or experience can also give you a business advantage. When you are confident about starting your business, let others know about what is unique about you.


R

esearch the Market

● Talk to potential customers ● Talk to existing experts in your market ● Library Research ● Internet Research

Once you have your business concept, it is important to research it thoroughly. Test your impressions against reality. Talking to existing experts in your market, i.e. possible competitors, may seem contradictory. However, there may be people you can talk to because you are not seen as a direct competitor. Examples may be where your business is not in the same geographic area or where you are tackling a slightly different niche. A new tool now available to test out your ideas and get feedback from both potential customers and peers is the Social Media.


A

nswer your Customer's Questions

● Can you solve my problem? ● Will it work for me? ● What's in it for me? ● Why choose you? ● What next? The above are categories of questions. The ideal business situation is where a potential customer has a need and you are there at the right time to meet it. Think about questions future customers will ask. Note down questions by customers that are put to you. And then set out to answer them in advance. Making this information available, for example on your website or blog, has several benefits. It educates the potential client and gives them additional confidence in choosing you over all the other competitors. It also saves you time in not having to repeatedly answer the questions in the future.


F

inancing your business

● Your own funds ● Friends and family ● Banks ● Business Angels/Investors ● Grants

Research the best funding source for you. Prepare a thorough business plan so that you appear credible. The reality is that most business start-ups are self financed from the start, using either their own money or assistance from friends and family. Demonstrating that you are committed is actually an important part of convincing other investors, banks etc. to commit to you. If you can demonstrate that you had a previous success with a business, then it also becomes easier to find external funding. If you do not have such experience, you could bring in someone who has to help.


I

s it worth it?

● Personal choice ● What are my investment costs? ● What are my running costs? ● What is the income? ● Whats left for me? ● 1000 Hour rule Setting up your own business should be primarily about doing something that you enjoy doing and have a passion for. Ultimately though, you do want to pay your way. But what is the 1000 hour rule? Take a years 365 days, remove the 120 days in weekends, bank holidays and holidays. Then expect that only half of the remaining days will actually be earning you money (the rest is marketing, admin, travel, finance etc). This is about 1000h. From this figure, and your expected costs, you can calculate your hourly rate - needed to ensure you can finance your business and have an income.


G

et Help

● Public Agencies ● Other Businesses (networking) ● Seminars & Workshops ● Mentors ● Charitable organisations

You may be responsible for your own business, but there is a lot of help out there. Do not be afraid to ask for it. Look out for the often free or low cost seminars and workshops that can provide you with valuable information to help run your business. Meet and get to know other business leaders, your peers. They will have made their own mistakes or gained useful insights that, if shared with you, can save you a lot of grief.


H

ave a disaster recovery plan

â—? Computer backup â—? Ability to work from other locations â—? Contingency fund

Most businesses that are confronted with a catastrophic failure, such as a fire, never recover. My first warning was a hard drive failure on my computer. Since then I have ensured that I have multiple backups. Having a disaster recovery plan will make you a lot fitter and more likely to succeed if the worst does happen. An extra tip. Consider using secure online data backup or storage systems such as Dropbox and those by other major players. The added benefit for me has been the ability to access data wherever I find an internet link, at home, in the office, whilst travelling or abroad.


Y

our Business Plan

● Broad brush strokes ● Where do you want to be in two years? ● How are you going to get there? ● Do your sums work out? ● Be prepared to adapt and change

A business plan has at least two benefits; it gives you a focus on where you want to be and how to get there. It also demonstrates to potential investors that you are a serious proposition that they can have confidence to commit money to. Whilst you should to try to follow your plan, do not be too rigid - especially when the unexpected happens or a new opportunity comes along. In those cases, think hard and redefine your plan if necessary. There is information online, from mentors and other agencies on how best to draw up your business plan.


L

Legal and Insurance

● Is it legal? ● What laws do you have to stick to ● Health and Safety ● Assets Insurance ● Your insurance

If you run a business, you ultimately are responsible for any actions you and the business takes. Make sure you are legal and protected. Get professional advice on the best types of insurance for your business and include it in your budgeting.


Y

ou and Your Business

● Be on top of it, not just in it ● Find people to work with ● Outsource to experts where possible ● Take time out (with family/to relax) ● Have eggs in several baskets ● Make sure it's fun/enjoyable! The initial temptation with a new business is to do everything yourself. It may save money in the short term, but you get to lose sight of the bigger picture quite rapidly. There are some things that other people and professions will do far better than you for your business. If you can afford it, outsource these. Examples are your accounts and some secretarial services. Another route is to find partners from companies with complementary skills to start a new venture. Above all remember - "All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy."


T

alk about Your Business

● Short sentence description ● To individuals you meet ● At meetings ● Social Media ● Website/blog ● Other media ● Measure success of methods ● Listen to what others say! If you do not let other people know what your business is, how are you going to do business with them? Let people know what you do without being overbearing. Have a simple phrase ready that encapsulated the core of your business. Demonstrate your expertise in free advice or comments. Also talk about other businesses that you know, when appropriate, by example or referring to them. In many cases this leads to them doing the same for you. Measure to find out which method is best for you.


C

hris Thomas is Director of Milton Contact Ltd and 2011 Chairperson of the Huntingdonshire Business Network. http://uk.linkedin.com/in/christhomas01


Your Business Startup: Twelve Pillars in brief