What no one tells you about starting a new business

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So, you have a cracking idea for a business, better than any you’ve ever seen on ‘Dragon’s Den’?  You may think you know just how to get your enterprise afloat, but launching without a map and clear trajectory can quickly get you lost in deep waters.

Take a moment to chart out a course with the help of these often-overlooked obstacles, and increase your chances of plain sailing.

You need to protect your idea

If your business is based on a unique concept that sets it apart from others in a particular market (for example, rocket-powered snow shoes, though that one’s mine and don’t be stealing it), you’ll need to mark that idea as your intellectual property.  To protect your invention, you will require a patent, explained here by Gov.uk.  Getting a patent isn’t always straightforward, though.  An idea itself does not count as an invention, so can’t be patented.  You’ll need to have a physical thing that can be crafted and used, that’s brand new, and not just a slightly modified version of something else.

It pays to know your market

Market awareness is vital when running any business, particularly if it’s in its early days.  James Caan in the Guardian defines the market in clear, basic terms, as ‘your customers, your suppliers and your competitors.’   Do your research.  Look online, and in the local community, for businesses similar to yours.  This can not only help you size-up the competition, but also avoid pitfalls they may have fallen into.  If their online reviews highlight a major customer complaint, for example, you can be sure to avoid making similar mistakes.  You can also build up a solid base of knowledge about customer expectations, and how to make your product or service stand out with competitive prices, quality or efficiency.

A digital presence can make a real impact

Even if your business is not solely an online enterprise, you’d be wise to harness the power of the Web.  A simple website with information about your business, an eye-catching logo, and, as time goes on, some customer testimonials, can boost your reputation, market presence and sales significantly.  In fact, in today’s digitally-oriented world, you’re seriously hampering yourself if you don’t have a web presence.  If your business is your ship, your website is your pages flag, and you want to show your colours brightly and proudly.  Think carefully about the layout of your website, the content of your homepage, and the graphics and text you use, to convey a message of quality and reputability.

The Internet isn’t just a tool for advertising your services, either.  If your business sells products to customers, you can offer online ordering, to open up a new avenue of sales and reach other areas of the consumer market.  If you have the staff and resources, you could even set up real-time chat help features, to make your customers feel truly connected and cared for.

Your name is key

Picking a name for your business might seem like a simple task, but a good or a bad name can make or break your corporation.  Name means ‘title,’ but it also means ‘reputation’, and the two are intertwined more closely than you might think.  You want to spend time considering and comparing different name ideas, and checking to make sure they’re not the same as or too similar to those of competitors.  You want something that encapsulates the ethos of your business, is concise, and easy to remember.  Puns can be catchy and memorable, but won’t not be the best choice for, say, a funeral parlour.  This is how your clients will form their first impression of your business in their minds, so think carefully, because a name sticks.

You need a vision and a plan

It goes without saying that you’ll need a business plan, but this might involve more elements than you expect.  A solid place to start is with a list of objectives, which will form the foundation of your plan and keep you on track as your business grows.  Some examples of objectives to consider are:

  • Productivity – for example, how much output gained from an hour of work, or the time taken to produce an item of stock
  • Customer services – ways of measuring customer satisfaction, and ensuring the customer experience is the very best it can be
  • Return on investment – often shortened to ROI, this is the projected gain of an investment, written in terms of a percentage of the cost of investment
  • Growth – a projection of how you hope your business will expand and progress over a set period of time
  • Quality control – objectives related to improving or maintaining product quality and/or reducing customer returns
  • Values

Values are… well… valuable

That last bullet point is worth a heading of its own.  Your core company values express your business’s vision, philosophy, and long-term goals.  In this way, they guide your business’s decision-making processes and help you build and maintain a relationship of trust with clients.  They are also central in providing a blueprint for communicating with customers and associates, and motivating employees, driving their productivity by inspiring passion for their work and loyalty to your brand.  Some effective ways to frame core values are alliteration:

  • Care
  • Courtesy
  • Commitment

Or acronyms:

  • Loyalty
  • Opportunity
  • Vitality
  • Excellence

You need Employers’ Liability Insurance

Though you always hope to develop a smooth-running, mutually rewarding relationship with your employees, accidents can happen.  It’s a legal requirement, and also common sense, to equip yourself with Employers’ Liability Insurance when starting up any business.  In the unfortunate event that one of your employees is injured on the job, or suffer ill health effects because of your business activity, this type of insurance gives you a vital safety net.  In the early days of a business, having to pay out compensation to an employee can set your finances seriously awry, and hamper your growth.  What’s more, without this insurance, you’re at risk of a daily £2,500 fine from the government.  Companies like Be Wiser Insurance compare employers’ liability insurance quotes to ensure your company gets the very best deal, and protect the interests of your business and your employees.  Their experienced team provides fast and reliable advice on all types of cover, for businesses of all sizes and natures, making the process of acquiring cover streamlined, transparent and stress-free.

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