Establishing a Business: People, Place and Promotion
Setting up a small business can seem a long and complex process, from planning, through legal and financial issues, to recruiting staff and finding a suitable location. There is a lot to do to ensure that your business is ready to start making money.
The planning process is covered in our page on Developing a Business, which explains how to put together a business plan. Getting funding and sorting the legal aspects is covered in our page on Establishing a Business: Legal and Financial Issues.
This page focuses on getting the right people around you, and deciding on a location for your business.
Finding a Location for Your Business
The question of location may be worth considering quite early on.
Many small businesses are launched from their owners’ home offices, or even a corner of the lounge or garage, and this is often the most cost-effective solution. It means that you do not have to take on any commitments to pay rent or a mortgage. However, there are some aspects to consider:
- If you are living in rented property, make sure that your lease allows you to run a business from there. If in doubt, check with your landlord.
- Make sure that you speak to your home insurance company. Your insurance may otherwise be invalid, and they may place want to place some conditions on your insurance as a result of your home also being your business premises.
- Consider where you are going to work. There are challenges to working from home, and it can be helpful to have a physical separation between your ‘home’ or ‘leisure’ space, and your working area.
There is more about this in our page on Working from Home, and you may also like to check out our Top Tips on Working from Home.
If you do not want to work from home—or if this does not work for your business—you will need to find an alternative. This might be a co-working space, such as a shared office, a retail space, or some warehouse space.
You will need to consider:
- Whether you wish to buy or rent your working space. Renting usually makes sense early on in the life of a business, because it is less commitment. You may, however, prefer to own an asset, especially if your business needs a particular type of premises, or if you think you can use the premises in other ways should the business fold.
- What equipment you will need, such as computers, office furniture, or retail furnishings, and whether you plan to buy or rent these. You will need all the equipment set up before you can move into the premises and start work, so this may need some prior planning.
Wherever you choose to work, the precise location needs to work for your business.
For example, if your customers will be visiting your premises, have you considered car parking and somewhere presentable for them to sit and/or meet you? If you need good broadband, is that available? Is there space to expand in line with your business plan? Businesses can go under because of a poor choice of location, even in the internet age, so it pays to consider this carefully.
Getting Good Advice
All businesses, however big or effective, need access to good advice. That may be legal, financial, accounting, or on other aspects of running a business. Nobody is an expert in everything, and the internet is not always a good substitute for speaking to an expert.
It is, therefore, worth taking the time to build a network of good, reliable and expert advisers around you.
Some of these you will already know, perhaps through your previous work experience, or via friends. Others you will need to find. Getting recommendations from others is a good option, as is drawing on incubators and other hubs of advice.
You Get What You Pay For
The best things in life may be free, but it is also true that you get what you pay for.
If you pay peanuts, you will get monkeys.
It is worth paying at least the ‘going rate’ for professional and/or expert advice or consultancy. In the long term, this is a business expense that will pay off.
Remember that you do not have to gather all your advisers at the same time. You can take your time in getting together your network of advice, as and when you need it.
There are a number of questions to answer about staff. The first, and most important, is do you need anyone else to help you with your business?If the answer to that question is ‘yes’, then you need to consider the basis on which you will hire those people. That is:
- Will you employ them? or
- Will they be self-employed, working for you on a contractual basis?
This is not as strange as it sounds.
Many people now choose to work for themselves, and across several different businesses or customers. They like the flexibility of not being reliant on one employer, and being able to choose their own hours.
It can also work better for small businesses, especially if you don’t need full-time staff. It gives you the option to expand later, and use more of their time, and also avoids the hidden costs of employing people, such as tax and sickness pay. It is easier to try staff out, without being committed, and it is certainly easier to get rid of people if you decide later than they are not what you want. You may also find that people can work remotely, saving on office space.
There are pitfalls, however.
In particular, you need to be certain that your self-employed workers are considered self-employed by the local tax authority, as you will otherwise be liable for back-tax later. In the UK, HMRC, for example, has a self-employment ‘checker’ on its website that can help you avoid future problems.
Finding self-employed workers
There are a number of ways that you can find self-employed workers.
- You can look at freelance and self-employment websites like UpWork, Elance and PeoplePerHour. These sites allow freelancers to create a page about themselves and show their skills. You can search by skills or experience, and approach people directly.
- You can advertise or post jobs on freelance sites. This allows you to specify exactly what you want and wait for people to offer to do the work.
- You can search online more generally.
A Final Thought: Promotion Activity
Once you have your business plan, your financing and your company (or legal form), as well as staff and a location, you are ready to launch. You may even have launched already, because the process is not always logical.
It is worth considering whether you need to do any promotion, and if so, how.
- For example, a website (or a page on another website) is a good way for customers to be able to find you, and see what your company is about.
- Social media is also a good way to share information about you and your business.
Neither of these is particularly expensive, although they may take time. Other options include paid advertising, whether online or mainstream media.
There is more about marketing and promotion in our section on Strategic Thinking. In particular, you may want to look at our pages on Marketing Skills, the 7Ps of Marketing, and Customer Segmentation.