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Start-up businesses: getting off on the right foot

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With EY’s highly respected annual survey revealing that investors see Scotland as a great place to put their money, and with Paisley a serious contender to become the City of Culture in 2021, it’s an exciting time to be in business here. After the challenges of the past decade, the city’s economic fortunes finally seem to be turning around. It’s no surprise an increasing number of people are seeking to take advantage of this by setting up businesses. If you’re one of them, you’ll need to know what you’re doing if you’re going to succeed. What are the first things that should concern you, and how can you find the resources needed? 

Doing your research

Before you even think about starting a business, you’ll need to know whether the work you’re interested in doing has any realistic prospect of making you money. You’ll need to identify and assess your competitors, work out who your customers would be, and see if you can come up with anything new to offer, whether that’s better quality products, lower prices or a unique kind of service. You’ll need to work out where you would get the supplies you’d need, how you could source equipment, and how you could get potential customers to notice you existed. 

Sourcing talent

Most people setting up new businesses do so with friends or former colleagues whose skills they know and trust. It’s difficult to get every necessary skill covered this way though, and sadly, the reality may be that those you rely on turn out to be more skilled at talking than doing; you therefore need to be in a position to source other talented people if needed. Having the University of the West of Scotland on the doorstep is a big help, along with Glasgow’s universities and colleges within easy commuting distance. Talk to their careers services to find out what they can do for you. 

Developing a business plan

When you’re looking for funding and support for your business, you’ll need a business plan to pitch what you intend to do, and it’s a document you should continue using in order to keep your business on track, updating it every six months. Your business plan should outline your central idea, the talent behind it, your supply chain, your understanding of the marketplace (along with competitor profiles) and your assets (from finance to equipment). It should also include a cash flow projection which details you expected income and expenditure across a three-year period. Try to be as realistic about it as you can. 

Finding funding

Very few people can afford to start a business using only their own financial resources, and even if you’re one of the lucky ones, you’ll still need a bank to look after your day-to-day finances, and it will be useful to build up a positive relationship with that bank from the outset. They day may come when you need to borrow, so ensure, at the outset, that your bank offers competitive rates on business loans. Bear in mind that there may also be grants and low-cost government loans available to you, depending on your financial circumstances and what you plan to do.  Scottish Enterprise can help you find out about these. 

Making yourselves comfortable

Setting up in the right premises will influence your team’s morale and impact your ability to keep going through the tough first few months or years of running your business. Some people choose to work from home or share offices at this stage, but having your own place can help you stay focused and make a better impression on visitors. Make sure you have enough natural light to keep your team alert and healthy, hire a heater to keep the temperature comfortable, and provide good seating so team members working at desks for long periods don’t develop back problems. You’ll also need somewhere to store cleaning equipment so you can keep the premises looking good. 

Networking

To set up good deals with suppliers, distributors, investors and so on, you’ll need to develop your business networking skills. These days, most people have some basic networking skills they’ve picked up from social media, and indeed your social media contacts may be helpful as you get started in business. Just remember that when you’re representing your company you need to make a professional impression.  Organisations like Scottish Enterprise can help you get invited to networking events, but you should also find out whether anything is happening specific to your sector.

Starting up in business for the first time involves a steep learning curve, but if you follow the steps above, you’ll get off on the right foot.