Information from our experiences - Some practical advice for anyone wanting to set up a new (small) business.
Call / Email us if you want advice on a technical matter. If we can't help we'll be able to put you in touch with someone who can.
We've written this guide based on the knowledge (and pitfalls) we've observed in helping small businesses resolve issues in starting up.
It is intended to be practical advice for anyone wanting to set up a business venture.
This is not a replacement for professional advice (we have to say that) and CIS provides no warranty, express or implied. If you make a decision based on anything you've read here the consequences are yours alone.
We can't help you here. We're assuming the idea is in your head.
When starting out you probably can not afford to hire people (or pay consultants) to do everything. This guide hopes to help you by showing what you can do yourself when starting out, and hopefully when to hand that over to a professional in the field.
This is the time to visit a Creative agency, if you intend to, to put in place the various aspects of your "brand". You could easily spend upwards of £500 for a very basic service. It is possible that you can do this yourself.
You need to decide on colours that suit your idea, perhaps google "Guide to choosing brand colours" and see what competitors are doing. Re-branding in the future is expensive, but, at least by then you'll have a thriving business and it does give you a reason to re-contact clients with the news.
If you go to an agency they will consider your product and research the market and then someone creative will come up with a few logo proposals for you to refine. Once decided it will be delivered to you in .EPS or .PSD format. You should also request a hi-res .JPG or .PNG since this will be needed for most things online. If you're going to create your own logo you can always draw it on paper and just get someone to re-draw it in Photoshop or Illustrator. Our logo was created by an agency 12 years ago.
The Colours and Logo will influence just about everything you do from here on, so perhaps take a few days and ask some friends what they think before carrying on. These are now your (very basic) Brand Guidelines.
You need to choose a URL and purchase a domain for your endevour. There are many site dedicated to "how to choose a domain". Once you've chosen it you can buy it using a service like [http://www.domainmonster.com/].
Pitfalls: There are many cheap registars to buy a domain through, but be aware that when something happens you might not be able to contact them. The industry segment revenue module is to automate everything and outsource support. Don't use a registrar that operates like that. Our advice would be to call the registrar and listen to who answers the phone. Make up a question about payment method and gauge from their response whether you will use them.
Agencies will offer to create and host your website based on various packages, if you need high end design this is a must
Pitfalls: Any professional wants to do a good job. Creatives want to produce something amazing and since this takes time it will cost a lot. The more amazing the design the more complicated the website construction too.
An alternative is to base your site on the look and feel of a site you like, and go directly to a developer with your colours/logo and the url of the site you like and they will create your site.
Pitfalls:Speak to previous clients of the developer or negotiate a staged approach and pay only at the end of each stage. Some developers are excellent, some are not, there is just no way to tell
Choose a hosting provider that is based in the UK and
Unless you're going to pay someone to regularly make changes you should ask that your developer use a Content Management System (CMS) i.e. Word Press, or Joomla or even something more basic than that. You need to have an honest converstaion with the developer since there is a trade off between CMS ease of use and functionality. Any web developer will happily run through a few options with you.
If you are only 1 person there is no need for advanced features (shared contacts and calendars). You could use an IMAP Mailbox until the company grows to the point where you need a hosted exchange service (upto 15 people), there after a Small Business Server is a good option until you're over 50 people.
Use a SIP provider [http://www.sipgate.co.uk] to provide you with a local number for your business. You can use these services with any SIP compatible phone (a SNOM 300 is less than £100).
Pitfalls: As soon as there is more than 1 person you will start needing PBX services (see [http://www.cislondon.co.uk/IP-PBX-Asterisk/] for a list of PBX features).
If you do not install a second ADSL line dedicated to the telephone you will need to Traffic Shape the upstream connection to ensure voice traffic does not drop out.
It doesn't cost much to setup a Limited Company (but there is some admin involved in running one). It is probably a good idea to form a limited company to conduct the business to ensure that your personal assets are not affected if things don't go well and to allow you to take on partners/investors if necessary.
Business Cards: Our advice would be to put only information that is necessary on the business card, you might have them for a while. The important information is
Whether a Limited company or a Sole Trader a dedicated bank account to keep the business transactions seperate from your own is a must. Check with all the major banks, there is always at least one offering free business banking (usualy for a limited time only though).
Using (say) Sage One and keeping your accounts online is an option, and will mean that an accountant can do the year end reporting. If you have no accounting background this probably won't work for you. Find (perhaps) a bookkeeper who will help you, they probably can put you in touch with an accountant too.
If you have opened a limited company there are mandatory returns to Companies house and HMRC the are legal requirements and there is no lattitude in choosing to complete them.