Our setting up a business checklist will help you remember all the things you need to consider with getting a small business going. From business structure to branding, tech to tax.
You don’t have to do all the steps in order and can come back to earlier items on the checklist later. What’s important is to make a start. Before you know it, you’ll be in business.
1. Write your elevator pitch
Pin down exactly what your business will be, who it will serve and why it is a good idea to create it.
This will help with creating your elevator pitch – or the one sentence that really sells your business.
- what goods and/or services you will sell
- who your customers will be
- who your competition is
You can always go back and amend this later, but starting off with a defined idea will help you to move forward.
2. Research your competitors
When you want to start a business, you can learn a lot from competitors. Time invested in competitors analysis is time well spent.
Think about who your competitors are, what they do well, what they don’t do well and how you are going to lure customers away from them and to you.
3. Decide on your business goals
Are you establishing a small side hustle and just wanting to test to market to see if it could be a viable business?
Do you need to earn enough money to pay yourself a salary in the first year of your start-up?
Is the ultimate goal to grow a huge business and potentially employ lots of people and make big profits?
Set out your overall business goals and ideally separate them into short-term and long-term aims.
4. Work out your figures
Most businesses have a primary goal of making a profit – or at the very least breaking even at first. To do that you need to be on top of your figures.
Work out your:
- Start-up costs
- How much money you already have to start your business
- How much you need and where you’re going to seek loans or investment if necessary – then begin the process of securing it
It might help to create a break-even analysis.
5. Brand your business
Branding is one of the fun parts of setting up a business. A strong brand can really help a business grow.
Chose a name, create a logo and consider how it will work across all channels including, business signage, paperwork, social media channels and products.
6. Decide on and find a location
Where is your business going to operate from? Are you starting a business from home? If so, do you need to clear a room or space to make that possible?
Do you need physical premises such as a shop or café?
Could you opt for a mobile business like a food truck? (if so, you’ll need to think about food truck costs)
Figure out what you need and find the perfect base for your business.
7. Decide on a business structure and register
First off, you need to decide what sort of business yours will be. It is wise to seek professional legal or accountancy advice when making your decision.
Most UK small businesses register as either:
Sole trader – if you are running your own business as an individual and are self employed
Limited company – the main characteristics being that it is legally separate from the people who run it and has separate finances from your personal accounts
Partnership – when you and one or more partners share responsibility for the business
You can learn more about different business structures with our handy guide: on how to register a business in the UK.
8. Consider tax
This is another area where you may wish to seek professional advice.
In the UK, sole traders register as self-employed. You’ll only pay tax on profits of more than £1,000.
Businesses with turnover of more than £85,000 need to be VAT registered.
9. Think about licences and insurance
Consider the insurance, specialist registrations or permissions you may need and the timescales for securing these.
This could include planning permission, food business registration or a licence to play music in public, for example. If you will be contact with the public, you’ll most likely need public liability insurance.
A solicitor can provide professional advice on what licences and insurances you may need.
Other places to look for help include:
- Other people already running similar businesses
- your local authority
- the Government licence finder
10. Set up a business bank account
If you’re a partnership or limited company then you will be required to have a separate business bank account, but sole traders should consider one too. Shop around and make sure the provider you opt for will give you everything you need to help your new business flourish.
See our guide: How to open a business bank account.
11. Invest in the tech and tools you need
Identify and invest in the tech and tools that will make a valuable difference to the efficient running of your small business.
It’s natural to want to keep costs downs when you start a business, but try not to cut corners on the physical tools and software necessary to provide a professional, efficient service. Not having the right equipment can easily prove a false economy if it affects the goods or service you offer.
One area all business must consider is point of sale equipment and payment collection devices.
If you are going to be running an in-person business, ensure you can easily accept card payments. Better still equip yourself for card and mobile device payments. It’s easy to accept orders and payments online too, even without a website.
It’s even really simple to install and use point-of-sale systems that can allow you to not only accept payments, but also to:
- keep track of sales made
- accept orders
- keep on top of stock control / inventory control
- gather sales insight (to help you identify best sellers)
- enable customer relationship management (to help you direct marketing, for example)
- print receipts
- log hours and feed into payroll
- accept tips.
You can also turn an iPad into a point of sale tool.
11. Get your small business online
An online presence is essential for all modern companies.
You can get your business online easily with a social media profile, such as a business Facebook page. Set one up and don’t forget those pay buttons to ensure you don’t miss out on sales.
You can easily insert pay links, QR codes and pay buttons on social media and via web-based communications and emails with no upfront cost with online checkout.
Creating a professional online store or website is also extremely simple even without any specialist technical or coding skills.
12. Consider staffing
Are you going to be able to do everything on your own or do you need to employ staff? Figure out what help you need and then consider all the processes involved in supporting them, including:
Have a good plan on what to do when hiring your first employee. Look after your staff and they’ll look after you.
13. Promote your new business
You’re going to create a great business and you want everyone to know about it. To do this, you will need to devise a promotion and marketing plan.
Firstly, you want to reach out to new customers and let them know who you are and what you do.
Then you’ll want to nurture customers to keep them coming back. Building brand loyalty is a winning business strategy.
- leverage Facebook insights to help you grow
- grow your business on Instagram
- try email marketing
- consider offers and discounts.
14. Put all your answers in a business plan
Once you’ve worked through all the points on this checklist you’ll have a firm foundation for writing a business plan.
Gather all your insight and research in once place and use it to motivate and guide you as you get started on the exciting journey of running your own small business.