If you're reading this article, it's most likely for 1 of the following 2 reasons:
- You're starting a business and need assistance with taking the first steps.
- You're intrigued by the idea. You've toyed with the possibility of starting a business, but have decided that it's too risky. Or, you simply don't know where to start.
Either way, you're in the right place. We've put our heads together and created a list of 5 essential tasks you must complete before launching your business.
Bear in mind - there is of course a huge number of tasks (aside from the ones covered below) which will require your attention from day 1 onwards. However, by completing our 5 steps prior to launch, you will have built some strong foundations for success. Plus, the blueprint for future decision making and behaviour throughout your business journey will also already be established for you. Put simply, you'll know what to do, and critically, why you're doing it.
1) Establish your value to customers.
However we choose to look at it, business is fundamentally about gaining enough customers to generate a profit. In order to get to that point and beyond (where repeated, measurable growth can occur), your business has to present an attractive proposition to potential buyers on a consistent basis. This proposition must represent enough of a benefit in the mind of the customer to allow them to confidently choose your business over another option. Whilst in some cases, a value proposition can be comprised of a single aspect/point of difference, we strongly recommend building yours around several defining aspects that would boost your appeal in the eyes of the customer.
2) Decipher product versus service.
Make a clear distinction in your mind and on paper about the difference between your product and your service offering. This process allows you to divide aspects of your value proposition (covered in point 1) between the two, improving your offering even further in the eyes of the customer. Secondly, you can use this division of product versus service to measure performance more accurately. You can identify areas for improvement, enhance training and development for staff members, and develop department-specific KPIs. The list of benefits goes on.
Most importantly, this process of deciphering product or service will allow you to communicate accurately with the customer about the value that your business brings to the table. You're now building a powerful arsenal of ‘ammunition' (excuse the pun) that can be communicated at the right time, to the right people, depending on their specific needs. Which leads us seamlessly onto point 3…
3) Understand how to communicate that effectively with the customer.
We've worked hard on developing some truly ground-breaking, distinctive product and service benefits that are now ready to take the marketplace by storm. Now we are tasked with understanding how to effectively communicate this information to the customer. Ultimately, what's the point in having an unrivalled, market-leading offering if no one knows about it?
Whilst the medium of communication will vary industry by industry, the message here remains the same. Invest significant time in developing both written and verbal language that you are comfortable delivering with passion and conviction each time you do so. Practise until it becomes second nature. This clarity and consistency of message will resonate tremendously with your prospective and existing customers. It speaks for itself. They will be under no illusion as to what you're offering them, and why they should choose you.
*Side note: ironically, in the B2B sphere especially, clarity of communication can often prove to be a differentiating factor in itself – so get it right!
4) Write a business plan.
A business plan is critical to your short, medium, and long-term success, whether you're looking for external investment or not! We recommend focusing on a minimum 2, maximum 5-year timescale, always starting with the end goal in mind.
The purpose of business planning is to firstly establish a clear, time-bound goal e.g. ‘500k turnover by the end of year 3'. Once the goal is agreed, work backwards from that point, calculating the exact figures required annually, quarterly and monthly. With figures clearly laid out, we can plan a route to market and in doing so, develop our sales and marketing activity plan. So, how do we achieve those revenue figures?
The chosen approaches here will again vary greatly depending on the industry in question, but the message remains the same for all – we need to identify and quantify the required sales and marketing ‘input' to achieve our set (monthly, quarterly and annual) revenue figures.
As a broad example – “this particular email marketing campaign will yield >3000 unique monthly website visitors, which (based on data from closely related examples) will generate £1.2k recurring monthly revenue”. Repeat this process using multiple sales and marketing approaches relevant to your industry, until you have a robust and conservatively forecasted daily schedule for achieving your business revenue targets.
Once you've launched and carried out your sales and marketing plan, built some experience and collated rich data - you can refine your plan to prioritise the successful approaches. Importantly, you can now drop the unsuccessful ones too. Your sales and marketing plan should continually evolve in this way, responding directly to the results it brings you.
Business planning is where the money is – literally!
5) Register your business.
Once you've nailed points 1-4 on this list, it's time for a few formalities.
Get your business name sorted, along with logos, branding, a web developer and help with social media. Then it's time to call upon further professional help. As a small business owner who's likely embarking on their first venture, you'll need assistance with the following:
- Company structuring (sole-trader, self-employed, limited company, partnerships).
- Share allocation (single or multiple shareholders).
- Funding (bank accounts, overdrafts, bank loans, government grants, crowdfunding, VCs).
- Compliance (self-assessment, tax, VAT, MTD, accounting).
- Ongoing advice and support (all queries relating to your personal and business circumstances business, including purchases, tax, bookkeeping and payroll).
To ensure you're always covered for all legal and compliance obligations for your new business, and to get access to ongoing help and peace of mind – speak to an accountant.