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how to start a business
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How to start a business in 20 days

Few things are more exciting than starting your own business. But taking your small business idea and turning it into a reality can be challenging. Get overwhelmed and you can find yourself stalling and potentially giving up on your start-up dreams. What you need is a step-by-step action plan to help you get your business up and running. We’ve put together a 20 day checklist with all the key activities you’ll need to consider and do – plus a free 50+ page How to start a business in 20 days ebook for reference. 

Download: How to start a business in 20 days ebook

One in four SME owners took longer than a year to feel confident in running their own business, while The Telegraph claims that 50 per cent of startups fail within five years.

It doesn’t have to be that way. Starting your own business , whether that’s as a limited company, a sole trader or even if you’re funding a franchise, is a realistic career plan that isn’t always destined to fail.

Our free how to start a business in 20 days ebook is the definitive guide to getting your business up and running.

Compiling all the activities on this page with further guidance from fellow business owners and industry experts, you can use the beginners guide checklists on this page to keep track of your day-by-day progress.

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Days 1 – 6: Doing your homework

Whether you go for a business startup idea that has been tried and tested, or something new, innovative, and potentially lucrative, you need to do your research. 

It might feel tempting to rush in with ideas you can start and try to sell it straightaway, but this won’t have longevity; what we’re looking for here is to get something off the ground that offers sustainability and long-term growth potential. You need frequent reality checks.

We’re going to call this the homework period.

Each day should be spent focusing on a different research activity that will help shape your product or service offering. This will be from the types of business you want to start to the business loans that will get you through it. After all, you don’t want to overlook a major part of your proposition that could impact on your business once it’s launched.

Similarly, the information and data you gather at this stage will help to formulate and enhance your offering later on. For example, you could find out that there is a glaring market need that your competitors are not fulfilling. You may find online business ideas that are the first of their kind. Or, on the flip side, you might find that your USP doesn’t have quite the draw that you initially imagined. It’s so important to scope out these business opportunities now rather than be surprised later down the line when you’ve already committed money.

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Days 7 – 10: Building business relationships

The research you’ve conducted puts you in a good place for the next stage of planning. The next four days are all about establishing business relationships and putting in place key components and processes that will have a major impact on your business’s day-to-day operations and overall stability.

Be mindful at this point to do as much comparison as possible and canvas feedback from other business owners and industry professionals. There are many businesses in the UK that you can learn from – all serve as case studies for your startup. There are newsletters you can get direct to your inbox with case studies and more information. Active feedback can be gathered by deciding to create an Instagram business account or joining dedicated Facebook, LinkedIn, or other social media platforms, or you can gather insights using Google Reviews, Check A Trade and TrustPilot. For example, while one supplier might offer a better price, do they offer the best all-round service?

Consider also what your business will need in terms of costs for the initial launch and for its ongoing operations. Whilst cutting corners might save you money in the short term, ultimately it may lead to you spending more money later on. Think about the pros and cons of different products, and see if you really need them right now. Similarly, be wary of investments – for example, premises, equipment, and staff – that might not be necessary during the startup phase. Other tools like accounting software and business bank accounts can help you manage your finances.

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Days 11 – 14: Selling the sizzle

“Sell the sizzle and NOT the steak” is a popular marketing phrase and this next stage is all about promoting your business effectively.

The best small businesses have a clear idea of their target audience and how their branding and marketing will appeal to them. Whilst this might not be something you formulate overnight, these next few days will help you begin to define this. This starts off with fundamental things like your business name and logo but expands into your long-term strategic goals and your tactics to achieve these objectives. If you do this right, not only will you draw in your target customers but you’ll build a connection that keeps them coming back.

Also, don’t be scared by the jargon and buzzwords, marketing is mostly common sense. If you learn to embrace it, you’ll quickly begin to enjoy it. Try and insert your personality into everything you do. One advantage small businesses have over larger businesses, is the personal connection people feel towards them and their owners – something you can harness to good effect.

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Days 15 – 20: Getting ready for launch

Everything’s coming together nicely now. Launch day is nearly in your grasps and you’re ready to start your business but there are a handful of essential tasks you’ll need to undertake before then.

Some of these activities, for example, choosing the legal structure of your business, will have a major impact on your tax obligations. Licensed Accountant and past AAT president Henry Cooper FMAAT speaks of business owners making naive decisions as a major reason for startup failure. “I’ve seen many businesses who are working through an inappropriate structure,” he says. “For instance, a window cleaner, who has become a limited company to make some tax savings, whilst not considering the additional compliance costs.” Therefore, it’s well worth paying out for professional advice or seeking free independent advice

There are also some planning activities to do that will ensure you’re not just thinking in the short term. Insufficient forecasting and planning can lead to cash flow issues, something you really want to avoid. Therefore, having key trading dates in mind and an understanding of supplier/customer payment terms is essential when you’re starting out. 

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