19 step checklist for starting a business in the UK

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 15/12/2023 | Updated • 15/12/2023

Starting a business

19 step checklist for starting a business in the UK

by Maxine Bremner

Published • 15/12/2023 | Updated • 15/12/2023

Starting a business

One of the challenges around starting a business is turning your vision into a practical plan of action.

If you’re nurturing a business idea that allows you to visualise the ‘finished product’ in detail, but you’re not sure how to get from point A to point B this detailed checklist for starting a business is for you. 

Think about breaking your vision into a series of actionable steps that will help you realise and achieve your business potential.

This ultimate checklist will walk you through all the essential steps to executing your idea and bringing it to market. 

1. Define the need

One of the most universal traits of all successful businesses is that they meet a clearly defined need presented by their target audience.

For any kind of customer or client, whether that’s someone walking down their local high street or the head of a multinational corporation, a business needs to be able to effectively solve a problem they have for them to part with their money.

Though problem-solving may not be the first thing that jumps to mind when you think of your product or service, it can be helpful to think about your business idea in terms of the problem your customers have and how you’re going to solve it. Defining this need will be the core idea of your value proposition, the simple statement as to why a customer should choose your product or service.

Clearly defining the need for your business can give you a much stronger sense of direction in countless activities your business will have to engage in, from developing your product features to conceptualising marketing campaigns.

Take a moment to review your vision for your business and write down the specific need that it’s going to fulfil. You may find that what seemed like a great business idea at first needs a little more tweaking and fine-tuning to reach its full potential.

Here are a few example business types defined by the needs they fulfil to help get you started:

  • Vegan food truck: People need quick, delicious, and sustainable food when they’re at open-air events.

  • Computer repair shop: People need access to their desktops and laptops, and occasionally run into technical issues that they can’t solve with their own knowledge and resources.

  • Mobile landscaping service: People want well-kept gardens, but are often too busy or inconvenienced to take care of their own landscaping work.

2. Confirm viability

Defining the need for your business is a rudimentary part of our second step, confirming the viability of your business. 

Although there may be an obvious need for the product or service that you’re planning to sell, that doesn’t always mean that you won’t encounter challenges when bringing it to market. Before you get too invested in an idea that may not be quite right for your situation as a new entrepreneur, it’s essential to put your business idea through a viability check.

When you set out to check if your business idea is viable, there are 2 main things you should ask about your business idea:

Is there a market for my product or service?

Every entrepreneur must be able to determine whether their product or service can satisfy the demands of the market they're poised to enter. 

A product-market fit is one of the biggest deciding factors in a new business's success, and can be more important than any other variable you'll have to think about as you get your business off the ground. It will determine how fast you can grow your business, how cheaply you can acquire customers, and how easy it is to scale your operations over time.

Determining the market for your product or service involves determining who your target customer is through detailed market research, identifying needs they have that are currently underserved, and specifying the product or service features that will help you serve those needs.

Defining the market for your product or service will serve as a driving force behind your ability to scale, and inform the future steps you'll need to take to keep customers loyal and happy with a product that meets their needs.

Is my solution unique?

Once you’ve determined that a market exists for your product, the next thing to think about is whether people will part with their money in exchange for the precise product you’re offering.

Just because there’s a specific need for, say, a high street florist, doesn’t mean that your Unique Selling Point (USP), your price point, etc, will convince your target audience that you’re the right business for them.

The best way to determine if people will want your specific product? Ask them.

Some of the best ways you can research how your target audience feels about your product idea include:

  • Talking to friends and family, presenting them with a detailed pitch, answering their questions, and discussing how you might be able to develop your idea to address any criticisms or shortcomings.

  • Leveraging social media and forums, finding online communities with some kind of relation to your industry, posting questions about your business or joining existing discussions that will help you understand how your audience sees your type of business.

  • Seek out a mentor on LinkedIn, in-person networking events, and industry-specific discussion spaces. Talk over your idea with them and ask for their input based on their own experiences in the industry.

3. Formalising a business

The next item on your starting a business checklist is to formalise your idea. 

As your business idea starts to take shape, it’s essential to think of a few key formalities that all businesses need to address. These are absolutely necessary for keeping your business legally sound and ready for future developments like seeking investment.

Some of the key steps to formalising your business idea include:

Writing a business plan

When you come to write a business plan it should be a formal document outlining the goals your business is setting out to achieve, and how you’re going to achieve them. 

Though these are traditionally written as part of a pitch to potential investors, your business plan can also give you an overarching sense of direction as you develop your business, helping you avoid getting too wrapped up in any one area.

Choosing a legal structure

There are several different legal structures that a UK-based business can take, and you’ll need to decide on one in order to pay taxes and trade legally. Research the following legal structures, how to register a business in the UK and determine which one is best for you:

  • Sole trader

  • Partnership

  • Limited liability company (Ltd)

  • Limited liability partnership (LLP)

Research your tax obligations

Depending on the legal structure you choose, your business will have different tax obligations that it will need to fulfil. 

For some business structures, like sole traders, these tax obligations will be very straightforward. Others on the other hand, like limited liability companies, will have more complex requirements which could require the help of a professional. 

Research your requirements thoroughly to avoid running into unexpected issues further down the line.

Register for permits and licences

Some business activities can only trade legally with certain permits and licences in place, for example:

  • Selling alcohol as a mobile vendor or craft spirits brand.

  • Taking care of children as a child minder or playgroup.

Take some time to list the core activities your business is going to engage in, then use the gov.uk licence finder to plan ahead for any licences and permits you might need.

4. Setting up your business finances

As you work towards turning your idea into a reality, here are some essential steps when thinking about your business' finances and how you’re going to manage them:

Setting up business banking

If you are setting up a limited company in the UK, there is a legal requirement to keep your business and personal finances separate. Aside from this, setting up a business account has several benefits, such as simplifying your taxes and allowing you to build a credit rating for your business which you can borrow against further down the line. Research your options and find an account that’s right for you ready for your launch.

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Tracking and managing finances

The ability to effectively monitor your cash flow can make or break your business. Make sure that you have a clear idea of how much money you need to start a business. Having a system in place for tracking and managing your finances long before you start trading.

Some of the most important things to consider when managing your business finances include:

  • Knowing where your break-even point is through an accurate account of all your operating costs and the rate at which you can move products or services to match this figure.

  • Maintaining an emergency reserve in the case of a macroeconomic crisis that your business might have to weather.

  • Building accurate projections so you can prepare for your business’ busy and slow periods.

  • Having reliable accounting software so that you can get a clear picture of your business’ finances anytime you need it.

Understanding cash flow management

Cash flow management is the act of consolidating your accounts receivable (money coming in) and your accounts payable (money going out). 

Be sure to carry out independent research on managing a business’s cash flow and how these principles apply to your unique business plan. From there, you can plan out active steps to make your cash flow more efficient and dependable, such as improving your receivables, experimenting with your price points, optimising inventory management, and more.

5. Research funding and support programs

Starting a business is now more accessible than ever before. For many types of business, all you’ll need to launch is a good idea, a laptop, and an internet connection, and you won’t have to worry about starting a business with no money

For many business models, however, you’ll need some initial capital to get your business off the ground and start monetising your idea.

If you need funding to start your business, it’s essential to spend some time researching common funding and financial support programs available to companies in the UK. Funding and financial support could include: 

  • Bootstrapping, which involves using very little money to start your business. This gives you a great degree of freedom, but will typically limit the amount of capital you have access to.

  • Borrowing from family or friends, which can make funds more accessible for first-time entrepreneurs, but has the potential to put personal relationships at risk.

  • Using business loans. Going the traditional route of bringing your business plan to banks and applying for a loan can give you access to a lot of capital. However, banks tend to be risk-averse and can be hard to convince with an untried business idea.

  • Government business grants. Some businesses can be eligible for government grants aimed at stimulating certain industries and meeting certain societal needs. Though these can be highly competitive, they tend to have very favourable repayment terms, with some even being non-repayable.

  • Equity investment, which involves pitching your business idea to venture capitalists and asking them to invest in your company for a share in its equity.

  • Crowdfunding for startups, helps create a campaign to fund your business and solicit donations from private individuals.

6. Review pricing

The next point in your checklist for starting a business is to make sure you’re getting your pricing right.

A product that’s too expensive won’t sell, and a product that’s too cheap won’t enable you to turn a profit and scale. 

Pricing your services correctly is an essential step for any business owner, and will require you to consider a number of different factors, such as your competitors’ price point, your operating costs, and your target market’s willingness to pay above a certain marker.

Establishing pricing strategies

There are a number of pricing strategies businesses can use to position their products effectively. Here are some of the common ones to research and consider in the context of your business plan:

  • Penetration pricing: A strategy that involves starting with a low price point designed to undercut larger competitors, and gradually increasing your prices as your business starts to grow.

  • Economy pricing: Focusing a lot of resources on cutting costs in the way of manufacturing, marketing, and distribution to keep pricing low.

  • Premium pricing: The opposite of economy pricing, premium pricing involves setting a higher price point than competitors, with the expectation that customers will pay a higher price for a higher-quality product.

  • Price skimming: A common strategy in tech-based markets such as phones, computers, and games consoles. This strategy charges a premium price point aimed at early adopters of new, disruptive products, with the aim of gradually lowering it as competitors catch up and release similar products.

  • Price anchoring: Price anchoring is a technique that places lower-priced products against premium products in order to frame the former as the better-value option. Though developing a diverse range of products can be resource-intensive, this technique allows brands to keep customers’ product comparison restricted to their range of products.

  • Bundle Pricing: Selling several products as part of a bundle to encourage a perception of greater value.

7. Build supplier relationships

Your suppliers and your relationships with them are one of the most important predictors of your business’ success. 

Good supplier relationships will allow you to sell a higher-quality product with greater efficiency, providing an all-around better experience for your customers.

Building these kinds of relationships can be difficult, especially if you’re starting a business for the first time. Some key pointers to bear in mind when you’re looking for your suppliers include:

  • Find suppliers who align with your values: If your suppliers’ operations are aligned with values that are too far removed from your own, you’ll be setting yourself up for conflicts of interest and inefficiencies further down the line. When vetting suppliers, take the time to understand the values that drive their business and how they fit with yours.

  • Know and respect your supplier’s needs: Creating conflicts between you and your suppliers’ processes is a sure-fire way to sour your working relationship. If they need you to submit purchase orders in a certain format or stick to strict invoice deadlines, be sure to facilitate these for a positive, sustainable relationship.

  • Prioritise communication: Like with any kind of relationship, your relationship with your suppliers will hinge on effective communication. Try to facilitate a working relationship where transparency is the norm and both parties are comfortable with giving constructive feedback.

  • Think ahead: Many of the issues that undermine supplier relationships can be avoided with a little foresight and detailed planning. Take a proactive approach to avoid letting issues with your supply chain simmer in the background for too long and create stressful situations for both parties.

8. Establishing yourself online

It doesn’t matter if your product is entirely digital or physical - every business needs an online presence to survive and thrive in the modern market.

Your exact approach to how you’ll establish your business online will depend on certain specifics like the kind of business you’re planning to launch and the audience segments you’re going to be targeting.

Having said that, all businesses should be planning to set themselves up with a few fundamental digital assets, including:

A website

Your website is your business’ digital storefront, and the first point of contact that many of your customers will have with your brand. Even if your website is nothing but an appointment booking form and an ‘About us’ page, you’ll need to maintain a functional and aesthetically-pleasing website to establish some fundamental credibility for your brand.

Compelling content

High-quality written content, along with other forms like images, photos, and graphics, will help to attract the attention of your target audience and establish your brand as an expert in your field.

Implement search engine optimisation (SEO)

Alongside producing quality content, you should make a point of researching popular and relevant keywords that people might use to search for a business like yours, and incorporate this into your pages’ meta tags, titles, and descriptions.

Local listings

Somewhere in the world, someone’s discovering their new favourite brand by Googling ‘[business type] near me’. To capitalise on these kinds of searches, you’ll need to ensure your business maintains local listings through directories such as Google Business Profile and Yelp. 

Making sure you have accurate information on these kinds of platforms will lend your brand greater credibility and help you capture online traffic.

Choosing a domain name

When you come to establish your business online, one of the most important considerations is going to be your domain name.

Your domain name is the basic web address, e.g. sumup.com, that your customers will use to reach you. Aside from that, it will also act as the first point of contact for many of your customers, making it important to get right.

Some key things to bear in mind when you’re choosing a domain name for your business website are:

Simplicity: The ideal domain name should be easy for potential customers to remember and type. Try to keep it as short as possible, and avoid uncommon or hard-to-spell words.

Keywords: Obviously, you’ll want your brand name to feature in your domain. However, choosing your domain name can present a great opportunity to include high-relevance words which will let your audience know what your business is all about, e.g ‘dufferin-coffee.co.uk’ as opposed to just ‘dufferin.co.uk’.

Top-level domains (TLDs): Though .com is the most universally recognised TLD, there are many different options you can use in this area to help your business stand out online. Whether it’s localising your business with .co.uk to being more explicit with one like .photography, do your research and find a TLD that matches your brand.

9. Selling online

If your business is going to be selling its product or service online, it’s essential to make sure your online presence is up to standard. 

This means not only providing a positive online shopping experience for your customers, but also aligning your website with the kind of platforms people are going to use to reach it.

At a basic level, the 2 items on your online small business checklist should be:

Exploring e-commerce platforms

It’s possible to build a website that facilitates selling your products completely from scratch. However, from a practical standpoint, most online businesses will be making use of a third-party e-commerce platform to run their online store. 

Whether you’re selling fashion to fabrics or baked goods to custom bath bombs, if you’re looking for some inspiration to help create your online storefront, take a look at some of our favourite online store examples and begin selling online today.

There are a lot of e-commerce platforms on the market today, with many offering different subscription plans with varying features like custom sales reports, payment links, and printable QR codes. You’ll need to ask yourself a few questions to ensure you find a platform that’s right for you.

Some of the key things to consider include:

  • What kind of marketing features will you need from the beginning, and what kinds can you live without?

  • What kind of features do you want to offer your customers aside from the basic shopping cart setup?

  • What level of customisation will you need to provide the customer experience that you have in mind?

  • What features will have the biggest effect on your ability to scale?

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Implementing search engine optimisation (SEO) strategies

SEO is one of the most powerful and economical marketing tactics an online store can use when it’s just starting out.

Implementing SEO strategies means optimising your website to maximise the chances of ranking in organic search results, mainly by making it easy for search engines to discover them and making the user experience as high-quality as possible.

Some of the most effective SEO strategies for e-commerce businesses include:

  • Implementing keywords that are optimised for search intent, e.g using keywords like “buy espresso machine” for your product detail pages and “how to choose an espresso machine” on a blog post.

  • e.g.Optimising your user experience with fast-loading, mobile-friendly, and easy-to-navigate pages.

  • Use short, simple URLs that include keywords in a logical way.

  • Avoiding duplicate pages within a large catalogue of items.

10. Create a marketing plan

One of the most important items on your checklist for starting a business is planning how you’re going to promote your product or service.

Your business may have a great product, a forward-thinking culture, and an unmatched customer service philosophy. However, if you don’t have effective marketing to go along with it, your ideal customer may never know that your business exists. 

Every business needs a marketing plan, so make sure this makes it into your checklist to start a business.

The core elements of any good marketing plan are:

Marketing goals and objectives

Your marketing strategy needs realistic and measurable goals that all of your marketing efforts are aligned with. 

This can include things like improving the sales of a particular product, gaining a certain quota of new customers in a given time frame, or even something as specific as getting your brand mentioned in a particular industry journal.

Marketing drives without goals are certain to fail, so be sure to get these guiding principles in place before anything else.

A target audience profile

To market your product effectively, you need to know who you’re selling to.

Every good marketing strategy should have a detailed audience profile, looking at demographic information such as their income band, age, and location, along with details of their media consumption habits, such as what social media platforms they spend most of their time using.

Like your goals and objectives, having a clear picture of your target audience will act as an overarching principle you can refer back to when making key decisions.

Marketing tactics

Ask 10 business owners what the best marketing tactics are, and you’ll get 10 different answers.

There are countless different methods you can use to market your product, so make sure you research the different options available and determine which ones are best for you.

Gaining a keen understanding of both digital (SEO, PPC, social media marketing etc) and traditional (print, TV, radio) marketing techniques will help you determine which marketing mix is best for you, and make it easier to distribute your resources in the most efficient way possible when you come to launch your campaigns.

Timeline and budget

With a long-range marketing strategy in place, you’ll always have a guideline to refer back to, and will never run the risk of going over budget and creating a deficit.

To achieve a marketing plan that guarantees both of these things, you’ll need to include a detailed timeline and a fixed budget. Your marketing timeline should cover the promotions you’re going to be implementing for the year ahead, with a breakdown of the capital you’re going to plan on investing in each phase.

With this level of detail in place, you can keep your marketing active during your business’ most profitable periods, and avoid sinking precious resources into marketing drives with limited potential.

11. Prove success and set up a physical store

In time, you may want to include setting up a physical premises as part of your checklist for starting a business.

If you have a view to moving your online business into trading from a brick-and-mortar location, there are a number of things you’ll need to consider to make this shift, such as:

Leasing or purchasing commercial space

The decision of whether to lease or purchase your store or office will depend largely on how long you’re planning to use a location to run your business.

When you lease commercial space, you’ll have a much greater degree of flexibility, as you’ll be able to negotiate the terms of your lease to match the length and level of commitment you’re comfortable with. There’ll also be less upfront costs, and less responsibility for the maintenance of the building where you set up your business.

When you purchase a commercial space, you’ll have virtually no restrictions on how you use the space, and will be able to make extensive modifications like interactive displays or self-service kiosks to better accommodate your business operations.

You’ll also be able to enjoy reduced running costs compared to leasing a property, and won’t have to worry about ground rent or various service charges that come with leasing. Buying a commercial property can also turn into a profitable investment, with the potential to provide your business with a significant windfall further down the line.

Setting out shop layout and design

There are many ways you can design the layout of your physical store, and the approach you take here can have a considerable impact on the success you have via foot traffic.

Your floor plan can be used to invite curious shoppers in from the high street, lead people to certain displays on their way to your card reader, POS Pro and POS Lite, and create a strong sense of your brand identity through the sensory experience of being in your store.

Working out of a vehicle

Certain kinds of businesses may need to consider a vehicle as part of their physical premises, such as to-your-door florists, landscaping businesses, or street food brands that want to sell at festivals.

If you can see a future for your business where you’ll be working from a vehicle, then this should receive the same degree of consideration as a static brick-and-mortar store.

If your vehicle is going to have a customer-facing element, how are you going to showcase your brand? If it’s mostly functional, how are you going to store your equipment as efficiently as possible?

Ensuring compliance with regulations

When you move your business to a physical space, you may find that you have to address new regulatory issues that you hadn’t before. 

If, for example, you’re hoping to install CCTV on your physical premises, sell alcohol, or play background music inside your store, you’ll need to attain new licences which wouldn’t be applicable if you were running a purely e-commerce operation.

When opening a physical premises, it’s essential to not only find out what kind of licences you need, but also have a plan in place to train your staff in making sure the business stays compliant with relevant regulations.

Opening a physical store?

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12. Hiring and managing employees

Even if you have plenty of experience as a line manager, hiring and managing employees for the first time as a business owner can be a daunting prospect.

Some key things to consider for the smoothest recruitment drive possible include:

Understanding employment laws and contracts

Failing to comply with employment laws or hire new candidates with detailed contracts can lead to all kinds of trouble. Be sure to seek out professional advice to make sure your recruitment is legally compliant.

Recruiting and hiring suitable candidates

Your team is going to be among the most important assets your business has. Give the recruitment process its due diligence, and leverage detailed, accurate job descriptions and a consistent interview process to ensure you get the best people for the job.

Managing payroll and benefits

Your business’ payroll and benefits are essential cornerstones of your relationship with your employees, so make sure you’re approaching them as such. 

Ensuring compliance with payroll legislation, keeping highly accurate employee records in regard to their salaries and promotion history, and reviewing policies regularly should all be key considerations as you set up your HR operations.

Creating a positive work environment

If you’re able to foster a work environment that your employees love being a part of, you can look forward to a more cohesive workplace culture, reduced absences, increased productivity and improved employee retention. 

As your recruitment plans begin to take shape, make sure you’re prioritising your employees’ needs from the onboarding process to training and development and beyond.

13. Operations and logistics

No checklist for starting a business would be complete without paying some thought to the operational aspects of your venture.

Behind every interaction you have with your customers, you’ll need to have a reliable supply chain and operational framework to keep your business ticking. Some of the important things you’ll need in your setting up a business checklist include:

Procuring suppliers and managing inventory

The companies that supply your business with its stock and other resources can have a tremendous impact on your ability to delight your customers. Be sure to vet potential suppliers thoroughly and build a reliable system for managing your inventory.

Streamlining supply chain and logistics

Even after finding suppliers and couriers who are perfect for your business aims and values, there’ll be plenty of elements in your supply chain and logistics that can always be improved. Plan to review efficiencies in your supply chain regularly and optimise processes to avoid problems.

Establishing efficient processes and workflows

A business can live or die based on how efficiently it can tackle its day to day operations. Be sure to implement clear standard operating procedures (SOPs), chains of command, and other operational parameters to prevent inefficiencies from creeping into your ways of working and sapping your business’ potential.

Implementing customer service protocols

Just like the efficiency of your business’ operations, the quality of your customer service needs clear parameters to serve your business well. From the day your business starts trading, you should have specific guidelines, scripts, and other customer service protocols in place to ensure a consistent and positive experience every time a customer interacts with your brand.

14. Think about your branding

Your branding is your business’ identity, and the story you tell people every time they come across one of your ads, your products, or anything else that you have control over. Effective branding should stick in the mind of your target audience and motivate them to consider you as their first choice for your product or service.

Some core elements of your brand to include in your start-up business checklist are:

Your logo

Like the Apple apple, the McDonald’s ‘m’, or whatever logo is jumping to mind right now, your business should have a distinctive symbol to act as its signature on all branded communications.

Your brand colours

Similar to a brand’s logo, the colour scheme that your brand uses should convey a distinct identity, and the kind of values that sets your brand apart from its close competitors.

Your value proposition

A business’ value proposition is a promise that the brand makes to its customers, and an explanation of why the business is their best choice. This should be explicitly stated on your website, and should also be communicated throughout your marketing materials.

Your tone of voice

In every line of copy your brand writes, and every minute of voiceover spoken on your ads, your brand should showcase a distinctive tone that’s recognisable every time your audience encounters it. Take some time to think about the mood or emotion you’re looking to convey in your marketing, and how this can translate into the rules surrounding a tone of voice for your brand.

15. Marketing and promotion

With a well-considered and fine-tuned marketing plan in place, you’ll need to start thinking about the practical steps you’ll take to start getting your product in front of the people it’s meant for.

Some key things to consider in the way of marketing and promotion are:

Traditional vs digital marketing

Will your brand lean more towards traditional marketing channels like print advertisement and TV, digital marketing tactics like SEO and social media, or a combination of both? Being able to distribute your marketing budget across channels in a logical way will help you towards more efficient and tactical marketing drives with a better return on investment.

Building customer loyalty and retention

How will you please your customers consistently and keep them coming back to your business? Attaining and maintaining customer loyalty is one of the most challenging things you’ll have to do as a business owner, but carefully planned initiatives like: 

  • Customer feedback surveys

  • Running loyalty programs with freebies or gift cards

  • Constantly improving customer service

All of these areas can help you improve your customer retention.

Networking and attending industry events

Networking can be one of the most powerful and cost-effective methods you can possibly use to promote your brand, especially when you prioritise free or cheap events. 

Attending industry events will give you unlimited opportunities to meet potential clients, partners and competitors face to face and improve awareness of your brand while learning some powerful lessons about goings-on in your industry.

16. Assess environmental responsibilities

Aside from the inherent ethics of making your operations more sustainable, assessing your environmental responsibilities as a business will help you ingratiate your brand with modern audiences and better define your business’ identity.

No matter your industry, all businesses can take certain steps to make sure they’re operating as sustainably as possible, such as:

Determining their environmental impact

Analysing the environmental impact of your day to day operations and looking for ways they can be made more sustainable, e.g switching to a supplier that uses sustainable materials.

Embracing energy efficiency measures

Implementing energy-efficient workplace policies and encouraging employees to adopt more sustainable habits such as turning lights or taps off when not in use can go a long way towards reducing your business’ carbon footprint.

Recycle and reduce waste

Making sure that all employees who handle waste at your business have access to bins and clear instructions will minimise your business’ environmental impact. You can also look to your product design for ways to reduce the waste produced by your business, for example reducing packaging and using more eco-friendly materials in production.

17. Comply with data protection regulations

Since it first became official, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) has become one of the most significant pieces of data protection legislation in Europe. 

In the age of big data, privacy is a more important topic to consumers than ever, so be sure to familiarise yourself with the principles of GDPR, what constitutes personal data, and the lawful bases for processing it.

To ensure your business is compliant with data protection regulations, you should also.

Assess data collection, storage, and usage

Make sure that any methods of data collection you’re using are legal and transparent, and that you’re obtaining explicit consent from individuals before harvesting and processing their data. You also need to make sure the way you’re storing data guarantees a certain level of security to prevent leaks and cyber attacks.

Implement security measures

A personal data breach can be catastrophic for both you and your customers, so be sure to implement trusted security measures to protect yourself from cyber threats. This should include using secure encryption methods for data transmission and storage, and regularly updating software and systems to address security vulnerabilities.

Respond to data subject rights

Sometimes, your customers may put in requests for you to share the data you have on them or remove it completely from your records. Though these instances are rare for small businesses, it’s essential to have a clear process in place for when they do happen, and to maintain records of all requests and responses.

Implement broader cybersecurity measures

Though personal data protection is a hot topic for modern businesses, there are many more ways in which online attacks and leaks can hurt your business. Make sure you have a robust cybersecurity strategy in place, covering topics such as data storage and backup policies, password policies, and regular employee training initiatives.

18. Monitoring and evaluating business performance

To make sure your business is moving in the right direction, you’ll need reliable, objective methods for measuring the impact of your decisions and evaluating performance.

Some key things to consider in this area are:

Setting key performance indicators (KPIs)

KPIs are quantifiable measures of your business’s performance over a given period of time working towards a specific objective.

As opposed to more isolated metrics which look at the success of day-to-day business activities, KPIs are targets that will have the greatest impact on your long-term business goals.

Let’s say, for example, you were running a window cleaning business and had a long-term goal of growing your customer base, one of your KPIs might be “new customers serviced per month”.

Tracking and analysing business metrics

Metrics are the datasets used to measure the performance of your day to day business activities which feed into your KPIs. Though metrics are closely linked to the larger outcomes of your business, they’re not necessarily as critical as KPIs.

Businesses should use data analytics tools like Google Analytics to track and analyse key business metrics, and use patterns that they find here to make better-informed decisions in the future. Going back to the window cleaning example, if you maintained a booking system on your business’ website, one of your core metrics might be the conversion rate (proportion of visitors who made a booking) for this page.

Making data-driven decisions

Using the data you’ve gathered with these tools, it’s essential to use the insights collected to guide your business strategies and make better-informed decisions. 

By adjusting your tactics based on objective analysis, you’ll be able to help your business adapt to the conditions of its market and improve overall profitability.

In our window cleaner scenario, one example of this might be if you began noticing a drop in impressions and clicks for a certain PPC keyword. This could mean that a competitor might be outbidding you, and you’ll have to consider increasing your bid for this particular phrase or your overall PPC budget.

Adapt and adjust strategies as needed

As you work to develop your business and track key performance indicators and metrics, it’s essential to stay agile and be ready to pivot based on the changes in your performance and market forces.

As a small business, you’ll be able to enjoy a unique ability to stay flexible without causing too much disruption to your operations. Be sure to keep monitoring this and be ready to make necessary adjustments to improve your business’ efficiency, profitability, and customer satisfaction.

19. Use technology and software to help streamline operations

Though tools won’t make a business inherently more effective at achieving its goals, they can be a big help in streamlining your business operations.

When it’s applied properly, technology can allow you to consolidate your data, automate key tasks, and generally make every part of your business more efficient.

Some examples of tech and software you can use to streamline your business operations include:

Accounting/payroll software

Accounting and payroll tech can automate essential administrative finance tasks and free up more time to develop your business. Research and select reliable accounting software that suits your business needs.

Communication tools

Though you may be starting out as a solo entrepreneur, as your business grows you’ll need to have reliable communication tools in place for effective collaboration with your team. Utilise communication tools like Slack and Loom to enhance team collaboration and efficient communication.

HR tools

HR tools will help you and your management track employees’ performance and wellbeing. Explore HR tools that can streamline employee management, such as scheduling, leave management, and time tracking.

Inventory management

Inventory management software is an essential tool for any modern retailer, whether you’re primarily based in the e-commerce space or a brick-and-mortar store, allowing you to effectively track and manage your stock levels, orders, and supply chain.

Local & global marketing

Leverage social media management platforms like Buffer and Hootsuite to streamline your social media marketing efforts, and utilise email marketing tools like Mailchimp to efficiently manage and automate your email campaigns.

Productivity/workflow/project management tools

Project management tools can help you align your short-term goals with broader KPIs, and manage time more effectively for you and your team. Look into tools such as Trello or Asana to organise tasks, collaborate with your team, and track project progress.

Customer relationship management (CRM)

If you’re going to be launching as a business model that relies on large sales volumes, then having a CRM system will be essential for your success. Use a CRM system like Hubspot to manage customer interactions, track sales pipeline progress, and develop more positive relationships with your customers.

Data analysis

Utilise tools like Google Analytics to analyse traffic and visitor behaviour, and gain insights to improve your online presence and marketing efforts.

Document management software (DMS)

Every business needs a reliable way to organise shared documents and other files. Tools like Google Drive or Dropbox can be used to centralise document storage, while facilitating great collaboration and version control.

Entrepreneur apps to avoid start-up burnout

Starting a business is no easy task, and it’s important to take preventative steps to avoid getting burned out in your first year. Explore apps like Calm, Blinkist, Rescuetime, and Pocket, to manage stress and maintain a healthy work-life balance.

Steps to success

As you start to take steps to develop your business further and define the direction you’re taking, we hope this checklist serves as an effective set of guidelines so you can define your own steps to success.

Though it’s important to have a plan in place, remember that running a business is an ongoing process where very few things are static. To maximise the outcomes for your business, it’s important to remain flexible and take the unpredictability of entrepreneurship as it comes.

With an open mind and a high level of dedication and perseverance, you’ll be able to embrace challenges, learn from failures, and celebrate successes as you scale.

Additional resources for UK entrepreneurs:

Companies House (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/companies-house) - Official UK government resource for registering and managing companies.

HM Revenue & Customs (https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/hm-revenue-customs) - Provides information on business taxes and VAT in the UK.

ICO - Information Commissioner's Office (https://ico.org.uk/) - Offers guidance on data protection and GDPR compliance.

UK Government Business Support (https://www.gov.uk/business) - Official government website providing resources and support for starting and growing businesses.

Federation of Small Businesses (https://www.fsb.org.uk/) - A non-profit organisation offering advice, support, and resources for small businesses in the UK.

UK Finance (https://www.ukfinance.org.uk/) - Industry association providing information and resources on banking and finance for businesses.

Small Business Administration (https://www.sba.gov/) - Provides valuable resources and guidance for small businesses, including financial management, marketing, and business planning.

Disclaimer: The contents of this page are intended for informational purposes only and should not be construed as professional advice. For matters requiring legal or financial expertise, it’s recommended to seek guidance from qualified professionals.


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