By Kate Fogarty

Start-up businesses are a powerful force and have been cited in being the foundation of the UK economy. A strong small business sector is vital to a healthy economy offering employment to those with a varied skill set in regions that need the support. If you have always dreamed of running your own business, read the following tips to help get you on the right track for your small business launch.

1. Do What You Know

You must be passionate about what you do. Launching a business and working for yourself is tough. You will put in more hours than you did working for other people so you make sure your business is about something you love. OK, there needs to be a gap in the market for whatever you are offering but creating a product or service that you would use yourself is a good place to start.

2. Know Your Target Audience

Who are your customers and what makes them tick? Do you understand your target market? The success of your business relies on knowing your customers, their needs and behaviors. After all, how can you promote your products and services to an unknown audience? All your efforts will go unnoticed if you don’t have a clear picture of who they are. Knowing how they tick will help you engage with the very people who will become your loyal customers in the future. Their feedback will be essential, helping you make decisions about the direction your business is going in.

3. Understand Why You Are Unique

What’s your USP? Why are you different and better than the rest? This is where your research comes into play. Understanding your competitors allows you to see gaps in the market and to create a tailored service or product that is better than theirs. Offering your customers something that no one else does is essential and will help grow your customer base and popularity.

4. Focus on Your Business Plan

It’s straightforward, planning is vital to your success. If you want to start a business, you must have a business plan. It will give you the professional approach necessary when dealing with banks and investors. Your business plan needs to explain your business and should include an executive summary, competitor analysis, knowledge of your target market, a marketing plan, and financial projections.

5. Become a Financial Expert

If numbers are not your thing and you have no accounting skills, it’s time to learn! You need to be able to understand your cash flow and how to forecast. Whether you do a course or choose to learn from an expert or a book, get your financial head on. You need to know and understand every aspect of your business, so don’t rely on others especially when it comes to your finances.

6. Know that Tenacity Wins the Race

Your business may start with passion but tenacity wins the race. Learning from your mistakes and never giving up will help your business to grow and evolve. You will be amazed at the number of hours and amount of effort you put into your own business. No doubt you will be working harder than you have ever done before. Keeping your eye on your goals and the reason you wanted to start your own business in the first place will keep you focused when the going gets tough.

7. Be Ready to Make Your Move

If you’ve laid strong foundations, worked hard and your business is growing then the next natural step is to consider taking on premises. This is a major consideration for most small businesses, like buying your first home, you may feel you want to do it and need to do it but are you really ready? List all the reasons why you feel you need to move out of your home office and then look at your finances. Can you afford it? If expansion means you need to hire staff as well as an office then this is an even bigger step.

While we can’t necessary guarantee future growth or see what’s around the corner, if you, together with your accountant, take a detailed view of your accounts and business plan then this might ensure you make the right decision at the right time. Understand that hiring a workspace is not only about paying the rent. You have to consider all your overheads, furniture, carpets, IT systems and infrastructure. Be aware that you will also be tied into a lease for years although you could consider the managed or serviced office option with short term leases designed to support SME’s and start-ups.

8. Keep Moving Forward

Never rest on your laurels. Even if your business is doing well you still need to put the effort in, keep an eye on your competitors and continue to market your products and services. It’s never a case of job done. You’ve got to constantly think of what to do next. Look out for new innovations within your industry and listen to your customers. This will require you to remain adaptable. Being flexible and reacting to an ever changing market place often is the difference between one business flourishing and another faltering.