Checklist for New Start-ups

If you want to join over 500,000 people who start businesses each year, then here's a checklist of the top tasks you need to deliver.

Most items improve your chances of building a long-term profit business venture while others are legal requirements.

1: Do You Know the Contents of a Business Plan?

A standard business plan may only contain seven to eight sections but do you know what they are? Some require more detail than others, and you may need additional research and information to complete them.

Check through the main sections required and see what data is missing. All will need various detail that may take time to complete. Starting now on gathering some financial figures or external economic trends should expedite completion.

2: Have Your Formed Your Company Yet?

Many new ventures begin as a sole trader and morph into a Limited Company. If you're going self-employed as a sole trader, then you need to inform HMRC of your intentions within the first three months.

Information about your company registration, address and directors will need to be added to your plan. If you're already trading, you may also need to register for VAT.

3: Do You Have up to Date Market Data?

One important area investors or banks require knowledge about is to understand how large your target market is. The research may be in terms of the total market value, number of potential customers, competitors and growth trends. Investment is unlikely if your market is contracting, or you don't have the figures to hand.

You may need to undertake your own primary research to obtain the data although that's a time-consuming process. There may be free to use industry reports that can help through a trade organisation or equivalent institution.

4: Are Your Numbers Solid and Realistic?

Every investor will scrutinise your revenue and profit projections. We see many budding entrepreneurs come through our doors having a limited grasp of their numbers. This component of you plan needs to stand up to scrutiny at the outset. If you find it tough, then hire an accountant to help you. Beware of controlling any forecast during the first 12 months to ensure revenues and profits are realistic.

5: Will Your Marketing Gain You Customers?

Once you have your financial projections, you'll need to show you have a solid marketing plan to target potential customers. Some customers will come from your competitors while others will be entering your market for the first time.

Marketing comes in many forms including public relations, press releases, advertising through radio and TV, direct mail or email campaigns. Your business plan must cover how you're going to communicate to your target market and the messages and offers from your venture.

6: Have you the Right People Employed?

Many new business ventures start up with one person, but you won't be able to tackle every job yourself. From accounting, legal and marketing to actually running your business takes much time. Consider the roles required and the type of people you need. You could hire temporary staff or contract workers to help without full-time employment in the early stages.

7: Are All Your Products and Services Clearly Articulated?

You'll understand your product and services benefits better than anyone, but portraying that to customers is the key to marketing success. You need to demonstrate the benefits of buying your products and services rather than your competitors. Before any marketing investment begins, answer the question "what's in it for me" and that will develop your communications materials effectively.

8: Do You Have a Unique Business Idea?

Some ideas need protecting but not all. If your product is unique, are you able to trademark the concept?. You can register trademarks yourself for a small outlay and don't need to hire expensive trademark or patent lawyers.

9: Should You Get a Mentor to Help?

A strategy that's developed by yourself could fail if it's not thoroughly thought through or executed according to your plan. In the first instance ask friends or family to check and read your plan and ask questions.

If you need help then hiring a consultant can be money well spent. If there's a person close to you in a business environment that you admire, talk to them about mentoring you. You can learn much from people who already have success in their lives.

10: Will Your Business Take Over Your Life?

It can be difficult explaining to family and friends your objectives and your rationale for going it alone. You income could fluctuate wildly in the first year of operation and time in the business could affect your family life.

Ensure you have discussed your business plan before you start trading to set and manage expectations at home as well as in the office. Being an entrepreneur is about satisfaction and enjoyment so ensure you can manage both.