How to Start a Business in 15 steps’ from a close friend of Toucan
by Will Broome
As I’m about to launch something new and deliciously ambitious, I thought I’d share my thoughts on setting up a business…
OK, first off, the greatest, most magical, innovative, inventive, ground-breaking and revolutionary idea in the history of the world is still just an idea. It’s only the first 1% of what you need to start a successful business. Daunted? You’d better be! But, here’s the thing; do it anyway.
I’ve made a few mistakes; not as many as my impulsive personality might suggest, but one of them was HUGE and worthy of 100 little ones! It’s all relative. But as people often say, you learn a lot more from failure than success. So, with that said, let’s get down to the nitty gritty of how and why you should start a business…
Nike got it right with the brilliantly simple slogan: ‘just do it’. Beyond this there are a few, less important steps. I say this because I would bet that the large majority of business owners (and leaders) didn’t necessarily know exactly what they were getting themselves in to but they were so filled with determination, enthusiasm, energy, desire and belief that they just kept going and simply would not stop. Like the Terminator! As Winston Churchill once said: “If you’re going through hell, for God’s sake keep going!” And that’s probably the best possible advice anyone could ever give.
So much of our lives are restricted by the desire to avoid risk. The fact is, if you want to be recognised as an entrepreneur, that’s exactly what you have to do; Risk. It. All. In life there are those who think they can and those who think they can’t. And both are usually right. Take a look around you. Everything you see, everything you use, everything you enjoy – except for fresh air and an unspoilt landscape, maybe – have been invented, created, commercialised and scaled by someone, somewhere at some time. So why (the f**k!) not you? Seriously, why not!? If you genuinely believe you can achieve something great, give it a go starting today because you’ll either achieve it or you’ll be too busy to notice you haven’t. Either way, it’s an amazing thing to do! Do not be afraid to fail because failure is way better than regret…
Oh and another thing. Don’t over research something – I realise that sounds crazy and almost irresponsible but it’s a scientific fact. Even Albert Einstein endorses this point when he says that the greatest ideas often come from outside a sector. And that’s because those within any particular market sector can’t ‘un-see’ what they’ve already seen or ‘un-know’ what they already know. In short, they can’t necessarily see the wood for the trees. They’ll do things the way they’ve always done and they’ll get what they’ve always got…
The exciting, disruptive brands and products go intergalactic because they do things dramatically differently and serve a purpose that needs serving, simplifying life in a way that people are ready for. As Henry Ford said: “If I’d have asked people what they wanted they would have said ‘faster horses’!” The big incumbent brands which have, until recently, dominated market sectors with unbreakable market share are now under threat because they’re like Supertankers, unable to turn on a sixpence or change direction for fear of cannibalising their own market and destroying themselves. That’s why it’s our duty to destroy them as little, nimble, under-the-radar start-ups (or up-starts as I’d prefer to be labelled!).
So, there’s the pep talk as to why starting a business is so worthwhile. Now here’s a 15-step guide to starting your own business (all opinions are my own!):
1. Have a great idea. That’s the first 1%. Just 99% to go!
2. Be brave. No guts, no glory.
3. Focus. And be forever determined.
4. Work, work, work, work, work. Harder than Rihanna. You’ve got to love work. Absolutely love it – 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, with no end in sight. Prepare yourself for at least ten years of hard graft. You have to really want it but you also have to really enjoy the chase. If it was that easy, everyone would do it, right? If you believe anyone who says you need to establish a ‘healthy’ work/life balance then this isn’t for you. You have to look forward to problems, because that’s exactly what you’re going to get. Lots and lots and lots of them!
5. Do the paperwork. Register a Ltd company name and open a bank account. Now it’s getting real.
6. Build a basic website. It’s the foundation and the go-to place for people to discover you and your product, but it won’t do anything on its own. Your website is only as good as the people you drive to it. As my mum always says: “You can only take out of the fridge what you’ve already put in it.” The same goes for social media. Set them all up and then work them. Hard.
7. Devise a simple company structure. Speak to an accountant and maybe even a lawyer but avoid big fees at this stage! Drive hard bargains through sheer enthusiasm and belief. It’s infectious.
8. Register a trademark. This will cost about £500 through a specialist attorney. You may also need to file a Patent if your idea is factually ‘unique’ and ‘inventive’ (about £10,000 as a starting point). Chelsea FC own the trademark ‘Jose Mourinho’ – D’oh!
9. Plot a basic route to market. How are you going to promote and scale your great idea? Talk to a PR agency and tell them about it. If they get it, they can really help you articulate your product or service. It’s all about your story so you need to tell it. Really well.
10. Get people enthused. The people around you need to be excited – professionals and creatives. Maybe even potential partners in the sector you’re about to disrupt. The more allies you have on the inside, the better, as these will tend to be the most forward-thinking and dynamic brands. This is important because you can’t do it all by yourself.
11. Get some money. Although, if you can somehow grow things organically, then that’s the best route. The starting point, however big and expensive your idea may be, is your FFF contingency. That’s friends, fools and family. Even crowdfunding platforms require that 25% of your raise is already handled as proof of viability. Like having a deposit before you borrow the rest of the money for your house. Don’t wait for a windfall. Hustle.
12. Accept that it’s now all about sales. You are a salesman and, what’s more, you are the best salesman because you created whatever it is that you’re selling.
13. Be aggressive. (In a good way) and don’t be shy. Ever. You need to become a publicity hungry monster that needs feeding. Hunger is insatiable and you have the biggest appetite in the history of binge-eating grotesquely obese people! So stay ‘Hangry’!
14. Grab every opportunity. Any opportunity that comes your way, you have to grab it and stand by your convictions. It’s you against the world and that’s just the way you like it! Relish that predicament…
15. And finally. Never, ever forget, it’s a dirty job but someone’s got to do it. Congratulations, it’s YOU! Now do it (or be forever anonymous!)