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21 October 2014

How to Launch a Business in 10 Steps

We’ve brought Hatch to life over the past month, but before that, we had a lot of exciting days of planning and ideas. There can be a lot of issues  that arise in the planning process of launching a business, so we’ve compiled this 10 step guide do help you overcome them.

Launching a business relies on a few different things; a great idea, a solid foundation, and reliable, driven, partners. Together, you can really drive a business forward and you can pick each other up when you fall. Working with a team can be very satisfying, as can the numerous high fives that get passed around when the business achieves something special or passes a milestone.

Hatch came to life over a course of roughly 10 days. The idea was pitched on a Thursday night and the site and brand went live the following Friday. We worked flat out, working extra hours and through the night on several occasions. This is how we brought our start-up business from idea to completion in such a short period of time.

  1. Start with Your Business Plan / Generate Your Great Idea
  2. With Hatch, I already had the idea half baked. I was 100% sure that I wanted to run a conference for start-up businesses. That much I was certain of. I took the idea to my business partner and pitched it to him. He was very interested.

    Over the course of one evening, we fleshed out the idea. We agreed that the conference itself was a good idea, but we wanted something more. As we talked, things began to unfold. What started out as just a conference grew into an online portal for start-up businesses. We were talking about blogging, content marketing, writing podcasts, having guests come to talk and more exciting ideas that we’ll be revealing over the coming months.

    In our initial meeting, we were out eating dinner in an Indian restaurant. Whether you write your business plan on the back of envelope or a napkin in a restaurant, get something down on paper so you can refer back to your original ideas as things develop.

    Once we formed the idea in our minds, we ran through the numbers to make sure the idea was financially viable. With that confirmed, the business went forward full steam.

  3. Do Your Market Research
  4. Before you get too carried away, do your research. Have a look at what exists in your new market place. If there’s nothing, it could mean one of two things:

    1. It’s been tried before and it didn’t work / the world’s not ready
    2. There’s a gap in the market, move quickly and capitalise

    Unfortunately, unless you have great connections in the business world, or you manage to drudge up some old web pages / press clippings, you’ll never really know if something has been tried before and failed. Obviously there are exceptions to that rule, but it’s entirely plausible that a similar venture to your own could’ve been and gone without so much as a whimper.

    If you do discover a similar start-up business that’s been tried before and failed, there are a few things you could try. First, you could try to put a unique spin on it. How about creating and developing a stronger brand or a better user experience? Depending on the market space you occupy or plan to occupy, it might not be worth competing on price. The chances are that before the previous companies folded, they tried making their price as low as possible.

    That said, you might not need to do anything different to succeed where others have failed. It’s possible that if the idea was tried three or four years ago, and your start-up is location specific, things might have changed. It’s possible that the world wasn’t quite ready for the service at that time. For example, if your business idea is to serve Mexican street food in a new part of town, that idea could have failed in the past. Maybe a recent trend development has given the area a new lease of life and this time, the idea could succeed. One good way to get proof that your Mexican street food idea might work, is to head out onto the streets and conduct surveys.

    The same goes if you discover a gap in the market. There’s no real way to test whether your business idea will succeed or fail, but you can gain as much feedback from people as possible. Don’t just ask your friends and family, as you may find you don’t get the most transparent feedback. Again, head to the streets, get on social media, and talk to real people, preferably your target audience, gaining insightful feedback.

  5. Register Your Business
  6. Depending on the legal setup of your business, there are different ways you can register. When I registered Canny Creative, I decided it was in my best interest to register as a sole trader. All that I had to do was to ring HMRC and declare the date that I planned on becoming self employed. From there, I set up a bank account and was on my way.

    With Hatch, we set up as a limited company. We found there were a number of different ways you could do this. You can register directly with Companies House for instance. We decided this was too slow an approach for us. You could have an accountant do it for you, and then charge you for the privilege. Didn’t seem right. So, we used the Companies Made Simple.

    Both Ali, the other director of Hatch, and myself had prior experience with forming companies. If you’re going in completely green, I’d recommend talking to an accountant (lots offer free hour long consultations) and agreeing what sort of legal setup is right for your business.

  7. Flesh Out Your Brand
  8. There are a number of different approaches to fleshing out your brand and as a Creative Director of a design agency, I’ve seen successes and failures across a broad spectrum. Let’s investigate the different approaches.

    First, you’ve got “the DIY approach.” People that just want to get something visual done in a jiffy to communicate their brand’s name. There’s a whole host of reasons as to why this may not be the best approach. Firstly, unless you’re a designer, you’re not experienced in designing a brand identity. Secondly, your new start-up business needs more than just a logo design, however, that’s a post in itself.

    The next approach is to crowdsource your branding using a site like Fiverr or 99 Designs. Whilst this is a very cost effective way to have a simple logo designed, it isn’t, in my view, your best option. There is a great deal of literature discussing crowd sourcing on the internet and I don’t propose to rehash that ground here. But, my advice to any startup is that crowd sourcing and the brands they create does not match the quality of professional design agencies. I’d suggest that you do your own research, and compare the brands on 99 designs to those in professional portfolios.

    The final, and in my opinion, the best approach is to contact a design agency to help brand your new start-up business. How do you find the right design agency? That’s a great question. It’s easy to find design agencies. Just like you’d find a pizza or taxi company, type it into Google and see which names come up online. Visit the sites and shortlist your entries. Once you’ve shortlisted the competitors, talk to them. Either by email, telephone, or going in and meeting them face to face, start the dialogue.

    It’s possible at this stage that you’ll have several design agencies that you’re looking to work with. Gather the quotes. Yes, what they’ve quoted you will be a lot dearer than the other methods mentioned above, but the job they do, in my opinion, will add more value to your business. They won’t just produce a nifty looking logo, they’ll design a brand and help you discover your core message. They’ll then help you sell that brand through design to your target audience. That’s the sort of value a great design agency can add to your start-up.

    Your branding won’t be complete in a day, but even if you can get something simple to launch with that looks professional, you’re already ahead of some of the other start-ups out there. You can always build on it later.

  9. Start Your Business Machine
  10. Don’t forget that in amongst all the excitement of registering your company and talking to different design agencies, you need to start working on your start-up. With the clock ticking towards “launch” you need to get into gear and work like you’ve never worked before.

    As I mentioned earlier, when we were launching Hatch, we were worked long days into the early hours on several occasions. If you need help and the option is available to you, ask friends and family. If you need certain skill sets, you can ask online or look at local listing papers and websites, offering to pay interns or students. Just don’t be a cheap, you get what you pay for.

    If you don’t have an office space yet, work wherever you can. If you have a laptop, that’s half the battle won. Take your office mobile and work out of coffee shops and cafes with free WiFi. If you have the room, put a desk somewhere in your house and treat that as your office. Or, use your laptop from a sofa. The key here is to have a space that is respected by you (and others around you) as a work space.

    At this stage, you’ll likely be bombarded with offers for things like Google AdWords, especially if you’ve registered for Google Places, which I highly recommend. However, before you go spending an awful lot of money on advertising or shiny new technology, take stock of where your company is at, and properly assess every outgoing.

  11. Ship Your MVP (Minimum Viable Product)
  12. Before you get hung up on writing every bit of content for your website, think about this: “What’s the minimum you can you launch with?” Why would you want to launch with a half finished site? Well, there are lots of reasons.

    Shipping your minimum viable product is a great way to bring something to market earlier than expected. As soon as you have something out there, you can start gauging reaction and perhaps even making changes to your strategy and approach as you discover new things about your customer base.

    Having a basic website up online is better than having no website at all. Imagine the amount of email addresses and social follows that you could gain by launching something ahead of schedule.

    Obviously, there’s a lot to be done once you’ve shipped your MVP. But, just getting something out there and into the public can alleviate feelings of stress and doubt. As soon as you put yourself out there, you’ve overcome one of life’s greatest hurdles: taking a risk. A lot of great projects fail because people don’t have courage. Don’t let your start-up be one of those projects.

    Business Man Marketing

  13. Start Marketing Your Business
  14. Marketing your business is cheaper and easier than ever before. With social media, you can reach out to your target audience directly. Search engine optimisation tools are better than they’ve ever been and content marketing is still going strong. Podcasts and video broadcasts are greats ways to make an impact too.

    Choosing the right social networks for your startup can be your key to success. Whether you market to Mums on Facebook or busy Silicon Valley entrepreneurs on Twitter, the social side of your marketing can play a pivotal role in your strategy. Social media brings you closer to your customers than ever before.

    Search Engine Optimisation may have come and gone in some people’s eyes. Google are working hard to stop the manipulation of their search engine through Black Hat SEO techniques. However, there are certain things you can do to your website to improve your chances and increase your visibility. You could get help from a professional, or read great marketing blogs such as Quicksprout, Moz and Backlinko to grow and improve your online marketing strategy.

    Content Marketing is another avenue to explore. If you have a strong opinion and it relates to your business, why not turn that into a great piece of content? Make sure you write great content for people, not search engines, to help you stand out on the internet. If you can create content that people enjoy, you’re likely to receive a high amount of social shares, leading to better marketing results.

    There are a huge amount of marketing strategies that you could try putting to use in your new business. Some of them cost more than others, but in the initial stages, think carefully about what you spend where. Look at the potential return on investment of any money that leaves your account.

  15. Inform the Media
  16. Twitter has made it easier than ever before to alert the media to your presence. Nearly every journalist these days has an account. As well as Twitter, you can start your media outreach via telephone and email, depending on who you’re targeting.

    If you’re looking to market to your local area, try the local papers and newsletters first. In Newcastle, and the surrounding areas, we have The Evening Chronicle and The Journal as well as NE1 and other local publications. Whilst the Chronicle does touch on several business related things, The Journal is more known as “the local business paper.” Does your area have specific newspapers that would suit your business?

    If selling locally is your main goal, keep up to date with other ongoings, and pitch ideas to your local journalists when you can. As well as papers, don’t forget about popular blogs from the area, local radio shows and podcasts. The internet is shrinking the world, don’t be afraid to reach out to people.

    If global outreach is your ultimate goal, use your local press coverage to reach bigger news outlets and national media. If you’re getting great traction in the local scene, there is a chance that the rest of the country and even the world might be interested in what you’re offering. You could also look at hiring a PR agency if things are getting too much for you.

  17. Work Harder Than Ever Before
  18. Starting your business is hard work. You have to wear a lot of hats. You’re not just a small business owner. You have to work in the business, work as a marketeer, an accountant, a salesperson, a receptionist and more!

    You can spend all of your time working in the business, for example, if you’re a bakery owner, you might spend each weekday baking bread. However, if you’re doing that, who’s taking care of everything else? Who’s marketing the business? Who’s updating the website? Who’s making the sales?

    At Canny, what I do, is make sure I take either one full day a week, or one hour of each day to work solely on the business. This means I can be forever improving the agency.

    Working in and on your business can lead to burnout and leave you feeling stressed. So, if that happens, make sure you:

    Celebration Drink

  19. Throw a Party!
  20. Celebrate everything. If you’ve just launched a business, go out for a meal. Engage with your family and friends that you may have been neglecting during the launch phase of your business. Go out to dinner or get dinner in, make everything as stress free as possible.

    Have you just won a huge contract or made a great sale? Celebrate that too. Don’t be afraid to open that bottle of bubbly and celebrate from time to time! It’s important for a number of reasons. First, it’s nice to remember that you’re carving your own destiny and making a living off your own skill. That’s reason enough to celebrate. Second, it relieves the stress of the day to day running of your business.

    A lot of entrepreneurs and business owners live and breath their business every second of every day. And whilst hard work and dedication are two of the most important things, you do have to remember that there is a life away from your startup. If you’ve worked four weeks straight and you’re starting to feel the effects, take a weekend break! Getting away from it all can refresh your brain and feed new passion, energy, and excitement when you return.

    If you’re making a go of everything on your own, you deserve to celebrate!

    That’s it. Ten steps to launching a business. Notice that they’re not called easy steps. However, if you take the steps and manage to create a successful venture, then take a bow, you’re doing great. Please leave your thoughts and ideas in the comments below!

2 Responses

  1. Matt Harrison

    Brilliant article, probably one of the best I’ve read around launching a business – very easy to read and nicely written. I’ve recently been thinking long and hard about whether to ‘take the plunge’ and go it alone, and your blog has given me some real inspiration! Thanks very much for posting. Matt :)

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