THE TEN STEPS TO START UP SUCCESS - Richard Holden Lloyds Bank

Write a sound business plan

A business plan will help you take a critical look at your ideas. You can use it to communicate your business idea clearly to potential suppliers or lenders, giving them confidence that you’ve thought through the essentials. Your plan will also serve as a benchmark to measure your progress against. Then, if things don’t go as planned, you can take measures to correct them.

Practice your pitch

Be well prepared when meeting the bank manager for the first time. It is likely that they will ask challenging questions and you should be ready to answer these questions confidently. Time spent preparing for the initial meeting and having a clear understanding of what you are looking to say will help, so practice the delivery of your pitch beforehand.

Research your chosen sector

If you don’t already have experience in your chosen sector, gain some before you launch your business. Learn about any laws affecting your business and talk to HM Revenue & Customs about tax issues. If there’s a trade association for your industry, ask them for guidance. Investing in a well-established franchise opportunity can provide a proven and successful business model with initial training and ongoing support from the franchisor throughout the life of the licence and is generally considered a less risky route into self-employment.

Get to know your customers

Try to get to know the people you’ll be selling to. Chances are, unless your product or service is really unique, people will already be buying a similar one somewhere else. So talk with your potential customers to discover what could make them choose you instead. Before making an investment into any franchise speak to existing franchisees who will be able to give you an insight into the business potential and likely customer base.

Listen to advice

As well as help and support from the business advisers at Lloyds Bank Franchise Unit, you can get advice from many other sources including the British Franchise Association. Talk to people who'll be frank with you about your business plans, and listen to their feedback.

Prepare family and friends

Do people close to you understand how time-consuming starting a business can be? Warn them about any lifestyle changes you need to make to help your business succeed. Ensure that you have their full support before you start your business.

Don’t use all your funds up front

Don't invest all your funds in the business unless you have no other option – you’ll almost certainly need more money for something within months of starting up. Keep a contingency reserve fund to fall back on in case the business takes longer than expected to get off the ground. Lloyds Bank can look to assist with a variety of financing options for new businesses.

Make the most of free publicity

Tap into as much free publicity as you can. Word of mouth is often the best way to advertise. Another effective tactic is asking satisfied customers to tell their friends about you. Network and tell people about your business – you never know where it might lead.

Start bookkeeping

It will help your business if you set up a good bookkeeping system early – it can be expensive to sort one out later. Keep all your business receipts, even before you officially start trading, as you may be able to offset costs against tax. Accurate bookkeeping will help you monitor your business progress.

Be resilient, adapt and change

If something goes wrong, learn from it, keep going and be ready to change. Start-up businesses can usually evolve and change direction much faster than more established ones. So take advantage and be ready to adapt your business if the right opportunities come up.