By David Grimes, managing director at My Parcel Delivery
Lots of people have ideas for businesses or new products but this is many steps away from actually setting up a company. The process of launching a viable business from that ‘eureka’ moment can be a long and arduous one. Perhaps you doubt whether or not you should actually take the plunge – ‘is it too much of a risk?’ you ask yourself.
Let’s not forget that caution is good. You don’t get to be a successful entrepreneur by not thinking things through. It’s always important to make sure you’ve asked the important questions before embarking on any new business venture – especially if you have to give up a full-time job to do it.
For many people, it’s also not a decision they can make alone. Embarking on a life as an entrepreneur can affect your personal and family life too, so having loved ones fully behind the decision is key for most.
When I set up My Parcel Delivery I was convinced that the pain points I found with delivery as a small business owner were equally felt by thousands of other business owners and individuals alike.
However, a business plan must be backed up with proper research, facts and figures – it’s definitely more than a gut feeling. Before I even got to the stage of preparing my business plan there were a number of processes I went through to ensure I was heading down the right path.
Is there really a demand for the product or service you have thought up? It’s not unusual to conceive an amazing idea before finding out there’s already somebody doing it. However, this is not always a barrier to success - particularly in the service industry. If somebody out there is already doing something similar, you just need to identify what it is that you’re going to do differently and better – what’s your USP?
Just as you need to confirm that your proposition is viable, you also need to establish what the barriers might be. Perhaps someone has looked at setting up a similar operation but the obstacles to getting the product or service off the ground were just too big to overcome. It’s always a good idea to sketch out a basic SWOT analysis, which looks at strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats to launching the business.
Do your sums. You as the business owner and any potential investors need to know exactly how long it will be until they can expect a return on their investment. If you are forking out for the project yourself, you need to work this out so you know how long you can afford to keep going before you’re breaking even and moving into profit. Be realistic with your figures from the offset – and ALWAYS keep on top of them!
4. Intellectual property
Protect your intellectual property to make sure nobody steals your idea. Depending on your business, copyright, patents and trade marks are all types of intellectual property protection. This stage of the process will cost money so it does need to be accounted for early on. You then need to check if the name you want for your business is available before you register yourself as a ltd company. You will also need to register for your website domain – be aware that your first choice might not be available.
Invest in the best – people will make your business. I can’t stress enough how critical an excellent team is when getting an idea off the ground. Take the time to get the right people in place and it will pay off in the long-run.
Seek to gain as much feedback for your product and service as possible. Test, test and test again. Test your ideas, test your products, test your branding. Although your idea is your baby, love alone won’t make you money if others don’t love it too. Find out what’s not working by conducting focus groups and usability tests. This will help you to iron out any problems before going further into development of the final product. But remember - you should never stop testing or asking for feedback!
The legal stuff. There are lots of forms you need to fill in when you embark on a new business venture which can be overwhelming if you have no experience in this area. I would recommend investing in a good accountant and solicitor. As a rule of thumb - if you don’t understand it, hire someone who does. Either way, just make sure it’s done.
Spend time developing your brand identity and deciding what your company’s personality and tone of voice should be. Part of this process is to consider your marketing and communication messages across each of your touch points. It’s important to ensure that the brand message is consistent across the website, in any material you produce and in how your team are communicating.
Although this is a vital step, don’t worry too much if you feel you might change your mind at some point. Your branding is something you’ll frequently need to revisit as you grow.