So, you have made the decision to start your own business, great! Let’s work on turning your idea into a reality. There is a lot to starting your business properly, this is why we have put together this 18-item checklist you’ll need to do before you start your company all the way through to your regular routine once you have formed your limited company.
The steps before you start:
- Think of a name
- Secure website domain
- Write a business plan
- Work out finance needed
- Define directors and responsibilities
- Assess strengths and weaknesses
- Define business structure
- Form a limited company
- Open a business bank account
- Build a brand
- Create a website
- Plan your marketing activities
- Find premises
- Get Insurance
- Buy tools to help you do the job
- Hire employees
- Become a creature of habit
The steps after you start:
Checklist for before you start your company
#1 – Research
You should research the viability of your business idea, as well as who your target market is. You will also need to research who your competitors are and how your business idea differentiates from them. Once you have done this you should test your product to make sure your product is right for your target market and there is a need for your product or service.
You can find some testing methods in our previous article Escaping the nine to five: can I turn my passion into my business?
#2 – Think of a name
Your business name can come to you instantly or it may take longer to come up with. Either way you need to carefully consider what your business name will be as it can have a huge effect on how your business is received by your customers.
Here are a few tips to take into consideration when deciding on your business name:
- Keep your customers in mind – the name must appeal to your customers
- Think big – don’t restrict yourself to things like location, your business could go global
- Web friendly – how will your company name look as a web address and is it available?
- Be precise – choose a name that reflects your products or services and is not confusing
- Be unique – differentiate yourself from your competitors and stand out.
When you form a limited company, your business name is protected.
#3 – Secure your website domain
Securing a domain name should be considered before starting your business. Your domain name should be easily relatable to your business as well as memorable. Domains are relatively inexpensive.
#4 – Write a business plan
Writing a business plan gets everything to do with your new business idea in order. It helps keep you organised and focused at the critical development stage of your business.
A typical business plan includes:
- Market research
- Customer analysis
- Competitor analysis
- Product / service information
- Organisational structure
- Financial information
#5 – Work out finance needed
Some business can be started by using personal finances, some require more. You need to realistically figure out how much you will need to successfully start your business, this includes everything from premises to cost of living. You also need to consider the fact you may not make a profit for some time.
#6 – Define your directors and responsibilities
You may be starting your business alone, great, you will be the director and know that you hold all responsibilities. If you are starting a business with two or more people, you need to choose your company directors and what their responsibilities are when you form a limited company.
#7 – Assess your strengths and weaknesses
If you are starting your business on your own, you will need to be a master of certain skills in order to give your business the best chance of success. By figuring out if you have the necessary skills in areas such as organisation, communication, finance, IT, sales will give you a good idea if you need training to effectively run your business.
#8 – Define your business structure
Deciding what sort of business, you want to own is very important, you could be a sole trader, partnership or a limited company. Each one has its advantages but as limited company you have limited liability, they are tax efficient, potential credibility and prestige and pension possibilities.
#9 – Form your limited company
Once you have checked off all the above, it’s time to form your limited company. See the following articles for advice on this:
Checklist for after you’ve formed your company
#10 – Open a business bank account
Now that you have a limited company, your finances must be separate. This is where business bank accounts come in. When selecting your business bank account keep an eye out for charges that may apply and what facilities the bank offer. A lot of banks offer other perks such as cashback too.
#11 – Build a brand
A brand is like your company’s identity or personality. This means you need to convey more than just your logo and themes; you need to convey your brands core values and beliefs in everything that you do and make sure your stake holders and customers understand them.
#12 – Create a website and get online
Building a website is not necessarily essential for every business, but a website has its advantages. It extends your reach to potential customers and customers tend to check out a business’s credentials, products and services by looking at a business’s website and online reviews. If your budget does not cover building a full website, you could consider building a holding page with key information and contact details.
#13 – Plan your marketing activities
You have a great product or service, but how will people know about it? With a marketing plan you should aim to increase your brand awareness and grow your business. Your marketing strategy should have clear objectives, messaging and target audience, as well as the marketing channels you will use.
#14 – Find your premises
You may need to start your business in commercial premises should you need the space for your business to grow, or you may only need to work from home. Either way you should consider the facilities, the proximity to your target market, transport links, licences required, and insurance policies needed.
If you decide to start your business from your home, you should take a look at The GOAT (greatest of all time) guide on how to start a home business. This guide will help you in setting up your business at your home.
You should also consider that your private address will be on the Companies House public register for everyone to see, should you have your registered address as your home address. To protect your private address, when you form a company with LegalZoom, you will get exclusive access to our Registered Agent service which protects your privacy.
#15 – Get insurance
Insurance for your business is critical and you need to get professional advice on what policies you need as they vary from industry to industry, such as liability insurances like professional liability and products liability which vary depending on your industry. You will also need to consider property and contents insurance, business interruption and theft.
#16 – Buy the tools to help you do the job
You will need tools and equipment that help you effectively produce products or enable you to provide a high-quality service. You will need to shop around to find the best deals and find out which tools and equipment are best suited for your needs. This can also administrative requirements e.g. telephone and IT requirements as well as fixtures and fittings.
Make sure you are on top of your financial data from the start. Accounting software will help you with minimizing you administration time. A few tools for Startups we recommend are:
#17 – Hire employees
You should hire someone to fulfil a role that requires a specific skillset. You will not only need to consider the financial implications of an employee’s salary; you will need to consider PAYE and National Insurance contributions along with pension contributions.
#18 – Become a creature of habit
There are certain aspects of your business that are one-off tasks. There are also other tasks that will require regular attention, some of which are:
- Updating your business plan
- Adapting you marketing strategy based on successes and failures
- Refine your target market
- Research new competitors and potential target markets
- HMRC returns
- Confirmation statements
- Up to date insurance policies
Summary and More Guides
Hopefully this checklist has helped get an idea of how to get your business off to the best start, even before you start your business, and the key areas to focus on and organise once you have started your company.