We know from experience setting up a business is challenging. Those that have done it before may tell you it’s easy, but there are a lot of elements that you need to juggle in order to get yourself established and your business growing.
In our course, tips and tricks for starting a business in The Netherlands, we provide a number of suggestions of what to pay attention to, where you may get stuck and generally what we experienced when setting up Blue Ninja. Many of the suggestions we provide apply to setting up a business in most countries, and we’d like to share the best ten things you can do when setting up your business.
Number 1: Write a plan
You may have heard the expression – failing to plan is planning to fail. When you are setting up a business you must write down what you are planning to do, determine the market and know how you will get started.
When you develop a plan, it doesn’t have to be perfect at the start – it just needs to get you thinking through how you will develop your business. You will use this plan to develop a full business plan.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- What do you want to achieve from your business?
- How much money do you need to make as a bottom line?
- Do you need to hire staff?
- Are you creating products or delivering services?
- Who is your target market?
- What impact will your business have on you personally – do you need to factor in your availability?
- Do you need some investment to get started?
Research and read as much as you can at the start of your business journey. Once you start you may not get much chance to read and research so use your time to learn and understand as much as you can about running a business, talk to people, watch webinars and get yourself in a frame of mind to succeed.
Number 2: do everything legally and officially
This may seem like common sense but making sure you are complying with the laws of your country when you register are so important. You will need to register the business in the right way, and make sure you have provided any legal requirements.
You may not need to consult a lawyer as a lot of information will be provided by the Government for how you are to register and what you must do, but make sure you know your legal obligations.
Number 3: put your taxes aside so they are available when you need to pay
There are two things you cannot avoid in this life – death and taxes. When you set up a business, you are legally committing to pay taxes for yourself and your business. In many countries you are required to declare your tax at least once a year. For business, you may be required to pay more regularly so make sure you know what your obligations are.
We recommend putting taxes aside from any income earned so when the time comes you have funds to pay your taxes. Banks will allow you to open more than one account so look at what they offer and see if you can set up a second account to pop your tax money aside as you receive earnings.
Number 4: don’t go it alone
This is a bit of a judgement call as to how much support you need or want, but you won’t be able to do everything yourself, and nor should you try. You’ll be worn out barely by the time you’ve gotten going.
There will be key people you will need to help you so develop a SWOT Assessment (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats) and focus on the areas, your weaknesses and threats, to start with.
You may need support such as: an accountant, a graphic designer, a social media strategist, a trademark lawyer, a mentor, an assistant, a product development specialist…just to name a few.
Try to meet these people first and get a sense of who they are, how busy they are, and how engaged they seem in your business. Your first instincts are usually right so if you feel that a support person won’t help you, don’t use them. Build up a team of people around you that are interested in helping you succeed.
Be prepared for people to try and take advantage of you. As soon as you register your business there will be people reaching out to sell you something. Please, please, please be smart and don’t agree to anything that makes you commit to a long-term agreement, something you don’t understand but are getting pressured to buy, or you’ve not compared what’s being offered with other products and/or services.
Number 5: Put things in writing and make it official
You may be itching to get started – we appreciate and admire your enthusiasm. Number 5 is critical for when anything could go wrong. It is your protection, it covers your backside when trouble may come up.
We strongly recommend you have contracts or agreements in place with anyone who supports your business that you pay, as well as who buys anything from you. Make it very clear what your obligations are, and where your liability starts and ends.
You may like to consult some legal support at this phase to get your agreements in place and check they cover all the elements you need.
Don’t work with someone without knowing your obligations. Paperwork is there to help when you run into issues. If you don’t have anything in writing, you may end up with a big problem for you and your business.
Number 6: enjoy the little things
Be prepared for some long days, weeks, months, and for it to take years for your business to really take off, if it does at all. Businesses fail all the time and if you want to start a business you need to be prepared to make some hard decisions, take a bit of a risk and know there will be some difficult days alongside failure (that’s a hard word to read, we know).
So, when someone goes well, celebrate it! Registered the business? Celebrate it! Got your first income through? Celebrate! Hired your first team member or brought in your first consultant? You guessed it!
You don’t need to have big parties or spend a lot of money to really appreciate the little parts of your business that you are proud of. We took a day off and went and did something fun together as a business when the course was launched. When we registered Blue Ninja, we went and had lunch and reflected on what a huge moment it was.
Don’t underestimate the need to celebrate these moments, as they can be fleeting and forgotten when all the bigger stuff is being juggled continuously around you.
Number 7: keep a record of your progress
Unless you end up being a larger company, or are under obligation to, chances are you won’t need to provide an annual report of your business’s progress each year. You will most likely forget what has happened last month, let alone two or three years ago.
If you are going to submit applications for funding, awards etc then it would help to keep records of what you achieved in some detail. Keep track of key events such as your registration, staff appointments, product/service launch dates – those easily identifiable milestones for your business.
You could set up a monthly summary of activities, identifying the positives and negatives of your business, and perhaps personally. If you write a newsletter or send out updates to your email list, these can also help keep a record of your progress.
Number 8: don’t ignore the problems
This is a tricky issue to deal with as many of us struggle to deal with negatives, whether it is professionally or personally. We’re not going to get into psychology here, but sometimes it’s very hard to face the problems that come with running a business.
Small or large, problems will inevitably happen. Team issues, client problems, deadlines missed, finding the balance between work and family… How you handle them could make or break your business.
If you are very uncomfortable with making decisions and handling problems, it’s going to be hard to run your business so you either need to learn how, or bring in the right people who can eloquently articulate your message. For issues like HR, there are a lot of legal issues you need to be aware of before making a decision so check before you step into something you can’t go back on.
You may want to consider finding a mentor or getting some coaching to help you build up your experience and knowledge. A mentor is a valuable resource to bounce your thoughts off, to listen to and learn from. A coach can train you on how to effectively handle situations and provide techniques to be a better business owner.
Number 9: take time off
We can hear you scoffing already. Taking time off is one of the more difficult elements to do but is one of the smarter decisions when running a business. Yes, your business could fall down if you stop for a bit, but with planning and a bit of trust you can build in times to rest and recuperate.
You will have times of stress and emotion, it’s inevitable in running a business that you will be juggling a lot as well as balancing your own personal needs and obligations. If you grow quickly you’ll have a lot of pressure.
Some of the worst decisions we’ve heard of have come from a business leader that is stretched too far. They are burnt out but can’t stop. They start to become irrational and emotional. If this sounds like you, please take some time off as soon as you can.
The pandemic has stretched people’s emotions in ways that many businesses weren’t prepared for, nor coped well with. From having to deal with people working from home, to major events and opportunities cancelled, 2020 and 2021 will go down in history as very stressful years for businesses and business owners.
Brains need to rest, bodies need to recover. Use your team, consultants, and even services like ours to help give you a break. Speak to your customers if you need to about blocking time off but do it.
Once you’re sitting on a beach with a drink with a little umbrella in it, the sun is shining and you finally start to relax, you’ll realise how much you needed it.
Number 10: learn to let go
A hard life lesson is to give up on something you have worked so hard to make happen. Businesses can thrive or destroy themselves on this life lesson. If it’s that important that you’re willing to fight for it, go for it. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. But, if you’re only fighting for something because of pride, it’s time to let it go.
People will come in and out of your business throughout it’s life who will have great ideas and honest thoughts on what you are doing. If you can’t take advice and criticism then you may end up having very hard days ahead.
At the same time, letting go can open you to new opportunities. If you’re nurturing a business relationship that is not converting to business, how long will you give it? You could be liaising with the best and most amazing person ever, but if you give them all your time and they are not interested in buying your product or service, how will the person who does want your product or service get your attention?
We‘ve shared what we think are thoughtful and helpful points which we think are the best elements to consider when setting up your business.