Practical steps to starting a business

Trish Clarke, regional manager for small business banking at Lloyds TSB, gave advice to would-be business starters at the Workingmums LIVE exhibition.  Here,she gives Workingmums.co.uk practical tips on how to set up a business. 

Trish Clarke, regional manager for small business banking at Lloyds TSB, gave advice to would-be business starters at the Workingmums LIVE exhibition.  Here,she gives Workingmums.co.uk practical tips on how to set up a business.

Risk and rewards
The rewards of running your own small business can be high: you are the decision-maker and you have the freedom to make those decisions; you can run the business to suit your own needs and hours; you keep what you earn because the profit is yours; and the style of the business will reflect you – its strengths will be your strengths.
But there are risks.  ”It’s a big, brave step, but it is a step that people want to take,” said Clarke, who has worked at Lloyds TSB Commercial for over 20 years and provided support for businesses in London and East England with a turnover of up to £15m.   She is passionate about helping women in business.  ”Women are far better at spinning plates than men are, so they are the ideal people to start a business.  You need to be passionate about your business – it is like your child.”
Last year Lloyds gave financial backing to 100,000 business start-ups.  But what about the risks you need to be aware of if you’re contemplating starting your own business?  ”You need to think about the risks and how you can minimise them,” said Clarke.  ”Your  earnings may fluctuate. Think about how best your business will survive especially if you were the only earner.”  
Other risks:
* External forces – ”You don’t always know what is going to happen,” says Clarke. ”If you were dependent on a delivery service one of the external forces could be the rise in petrol prices.”
* Bad debts and creditors – ”Plan and think about what you would do to spread your risk,” she says.
* Employees – ”They can be a risk if they don’t deliver what you want them to do and they aren’t representing what you want to be represented in your business.”
* Too many plates to keep spinning.
* Illness – if there’s a dip in your income, think about what would happen.

The importance of a business plan
Bear in the mind who the audience is for your business plan: the bank; external investors; potential partners; grant providers; potential buyers; and yourself.
”The key to a business plan is not to write something which is too complex,” says Clarke. ”Don’t use fancy language – put it in your own language.  Make sure you write it yourself.  Some people do it on computer, some people do it on a piece of paper.  Do whatever suits you.  Most people print it off and take it in to a bank.”
The components of a business plan should include: the market for the product or service – do your research on the area; the strengths and weaknesses of the competition; your unique selling point – understand what makes you unique in comparison to competitors; and a marketing plan. 
The finance aspect on the business plan is crucial.  ”Tell the bank what you want,” says Clarke. ”If you ask for less you will probably catch yourself out – there’s nothing worse than coming back to a bank because you need extra fees.  Get it right up front – be open and honest.” 
The cash flow forecast is also important – a business plan should cover the possibility of dealing with unexpected costs and should also include profit forecasts forthe end of the first year.  ”Don’t be afraid if you’re not good with figures – ask for help and get help,” says Clarke. ”It’s important that you understand figures, but you don’t have to be a mathematician.  Try to keep your expenditure down as early as possible and look at the ”what if” questions.”

Top 10 tips
* Write a business plan.
* Learn about your chosen industry.
* Know your customers.
* Listen to advice.
* Dip your toe in – set up a mini business.
* Keep a contingency plan.
* Make use of free publicity and networking.
* Set up books and records quickly.
* Prepare your support network.
* Be resilient and adapt to change.

www.lloydstsb.com/business





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