Have you been sitting at your job for years, dreaming about starting your own small business, but didn’t have enough courage for it — now is the time! So much has changed since the whole world was turned upside down with the pandemic in 2020 - the way we do things has changed, and among the bad, this has opened up a lot of opportunities.
If you’ve ever listened to owners of successful businesses, you probably know that you don’t have to have a university degree or millions of pounds in the bank but rather the drive to succeed, commitment to work hard, and a smart business idea that will bring some value to your customer.
So if you’re asking yourself how to start a small business to ensure your success, look no further! Here are 10 steps you need to follow in order to start a business successfully, take each one a day at a time. Don’t rush the process and you’re well on your way to small business success.
1. It all Starts With You
Before you do anything ask yourself - why do you want to start your own small business? Is it something you have always wanted to do but never had the time or courage to take the leap? Do you want away from the 9 to 5 and gain more control over your life? Whatever it is write it down and don't forget it - running a small business is hard and in the tough times remembering your "why" can give you the motivation to keep going.
Now that you know your "why", ask yourself these questions to further pin down what type of business you should start and if it is likely to succeed -
What are your skills?
Do you have the tools needed to start a small business? If not are you willing to learn?
What are you passionate about and how will it help other people?
What is your area of expertise?
How much can you afford to spend?
How much will you need to spend?
What kind of lifestyle do you want to live?
Are you sure you’re ready to be an entrepreneur?
Take your time to answer these questions and make sure you answer them truthfully, these answers will build the foundation of your business so it is best to answer them honestly at the start.
2. Choose Your Idea
For your business to succeed you need to be passionate about what you do - you may have the most revolutionary idea but deep down if you don't really connect with that idea, when times get hard you will not be motivated to keep going, ultimately ending in the failure of your business.
Secondly, to succeed your business needs to solve a problem, fulfill a need, or offer something the market wants. This can be anything from helping people live more healthily to socks that keep your feet warm to chocolate with zero calories!
When you have an idea in mind, be truthful with yourself and ask is this something people want/need? If the answer is yes, drill down some more and answer these questions:
What is the need for your “new” products/services?
Who needs it?
Who else offers this similar product/service?
Right now, what is the competition like?
Where does your business fit into the market?
3. Choose Your Business Name
You now know what your business is and what product or service it will provide so it's time to choose a name! This is easier said than done...
The best thing to do is brainstorm all possible names, this could be works or phrases relating to your business product or service, or perhaps you want to have your own name included.
Once you have a few ideas, check no other businesses have the same name. This can be done by a quick google search! And you can also check Companies House (Companies House - GOV.UK (www.gov.uk)) to find out if any formally registered companies with the same name.
Make sure you choose a name that:
Relates to your product/service
Stands out from competitors
Is not already trademarked
4. Develop a Plan
It can be easy to skip over the planning stage and jump straight into the more exciting things however this is a crucial step to ensure you start on the right foot and don't waste time at the beginning stages of your journey.
A business plan is a map that guides your business from start-up to establishment to growth – it is key for every new business to develop. If you are looking for financial investment a traditional business plan is critical, however for most businesses a more simple plan can be used. Business Gateway has a great free template which can you find here -
Or you can simply create one yourself, by working through the below:
Title page. Write down the name of your business! (Or the proposed name of your business)
Executive summary. This is best to be completed once you have filled in everything else. This gives an overall summary of your business plan.
Business description. Answer the following in this section: What business are you looking to start? What’s the industry look like now and what will it look like in the future?
Business tools. What are the best small business tools that you need to learn or utilize in order to make the most out of your business?
Market strategies. Explain what your target market is, and how you plan to best sell to that market?
Competitive analysis. Include the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors, and how you’ll beat them.
Design and development plan. Describe your product or service and how you plan to develop it. Then outline the budget for that product or service.
Business operations and management plan. On a daily basis, establish how the business will function. Are you gonna be a solopreneur or planning on hiring people in the future? If so, you need to start thinking about management solutions in advance.
Finance factors. Where will the money come from? When and how? What projections can you create and what should you take into consideration?
5. Sort Your Finances
When starting a business it is not all about money coming in, it is important to look at your outgoings first. Write down everything you will need to start your business - this is your initial outlay - make sure you know how you will cover these costs either via savings you already have or a business loan.
When deciding on what you need really think about what you NEED and not what would be nice to have. For example, you may want custom branding boxes to use for shipping however these are not a necessity and a plain box with a logo label can do the same job to start.
At the beginning of your business journey, it is really about optimizing business expenses and reducing operating costs. Every penny counts and to last the long game it is important to manage every expense you have.
6. Know Which Business Structure is Right for You
So you have your business idea, you have your plan in place and your cashflow forecast, now it is time to consider our business legal structure.
Don't worry it sounds a lot scarier than it is! Most small businesses start as a Sole Trader which is considered to be "self-employed". The benefits of being a Sole Trader are that it is low cost and easy to set up, and you retain full control of your business.
Other business structure options are
Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
Incorporating a limited liability company (Ltd)
You can find full information on our government (UK) website here -
7. Get All the Licenses and Permits Required
There are many kinds of small business licenses and permits which may apply to your industry, this depends on the business type you’re starting and where you’re located. For example, if you sell food products you will need to ensure you comply with allergies, HS&E, etc.
You will need to research what specifically is required for your industry and ensure you have these in place before moving on.
8. Pick An Accounting System
A key component to running your small business smoothly and keeping track of incoming and outgoings is to have an accounting system. This can be simply made in the form of an excel spreadsheet if you have the knowledge or there are many small business finance apps which are available to use such as NetSuite and monday.com - do a bit of research on this and find out what suits your business needs best.
9. Get Your Location Business Ready
Whether working from home, buying, or renting a commercial space it is important to consider the location of your business and what you will need from it.
Once you know where you are working from ensuring it is fully set up before you try and start trading. You don't want to sell out of cupcakes and then find out the delivery of your new oven has been delayed 2 weeks!
10. Spread the Word About Your Small Business
Now that your business is officially up and running, it’s time to bring in customers!
Marketing your business can cost as much or as little as you want it to, and there is no right or wrong way to go about it - it is finding what suits your business best! The most common types of marketing are:
SEO / Search Engine
Last Word on Setting Up A Small Business...
Once you complete the 10 steps outlined in starting a small business, you have all your bases covered so you can focus on the big picture and succeed. But be patient, success doesn’t happen overnight. Consistently work on your business and you will see success.