starting a business: cafeStarting a successful small business is a bit like running a marathon, it takes a lot of preparation, can feel extremely daunting and requires a serious commitment if you want to make it to the finish-line. Knowing where to start can be the most difficult part of all, so here is our short guide to setting up a successful small business.

1. Market research

You might have a great idea for a business, but to make sure your idea is actually viable you’ll need to do some market research. First and foremost your business will need to meet an unmet or under-served need within the marketplace and until you know the marketplace you can’t know whether that is true or not. Try not to be so passionate about your idea that you lose objectivity.

2. Business plan

Your next step is to create a professional business plan which outlines not only your direction for the future but also what contingencies you have in place in case of unexpected detours on the road to success. Your business plan is your place to outline your mission, voice your vision, and define all of your objectives.

3. Decide on a budget

Usually the biggest factor in the success or failure of a new business is the financials. Aim to keep your budget as low as possible while still being realistic about the costs that will be involved. Add 20% to your monthly expenditure forecast for unexpected incidentals. That budget reserve will be your safety net and cover you if problems occur.

4. Pick a name

Your business name will often be the first impression customers get of your brand so it’s important to get it right. Make sure you choose a name you love – with luck you’ll be saying it multiple times a day for years to come. Avoid a customer or prospect confusing you with competitors by making sure your business name is unique – and before you get too attached – make sure nobody else is using it.

5. Get the branding right

Your brand design is something that will stay with your business for a long time so it’s important to get it right from the get-go. Most people start with a logo, but your branding is so much more than that. Make sure you work with a designer who can bring your vision to life and who can be on board for ALL aspects of your branding in the years to come to ensure a consistent and powerful look across all areas.

6. Get online

These days, to have a successful business you need to have a strong online presence and the first step is to register your domain name and build a website. There are lots of inexpensive ways to do this, but investing some of your startup money into creating a professional and on-brand website is always advised. Hiring an SEO copywriter for example, will help drive traffic to your site and get you heading in the right direction.

7. Choose a great team

When starting out as a small business, it’s not uncommon to be a one-person operation (or rely on the kindness of family and friends). But if you do need a team to help build your success then remember that people are everything. Find the best people you can afford, staff that you respect and who will do the right thing when it comes to your business and brand. When staff feel part of an amazing team and share your vision they can become your best brand ambassadors.

8. Create a network

Things are going to be pretty busy for you in the early days, but making time for networking whether in person or online will be valuable in the long-run. Consider finding a mentor who can help guide you and listen to advice from people who have been successful in their field. LinkedIn is a valuable online resource for making contacts and your local Business Chamber is a great way to get out and meet like-minded business owners and become an active member of your local community. At the end of the day, you never know who can bring you customers or help you build your business.

Following these steps will help put you on the path to small business success.