5 top tips for business start-ups Thinking of starting a business? Here are some tips to get things off the ground.Tip #1 – begin with a great ideaIf you’ve always wanted to work for yourself, you need a great business idea to get things going. What are you good at? What is your passion? Can you see a gap in the market for your product or service? Think about who your customers are likely to be. Is your offering entirely new, or do you have competitors out there? If so, how will you differentiate yourself and develop a USP (unique selling proposition) that makes you stand out? Ask yourself why people should buy what you want to sell them. It takes a lot of dedication to run a business, and a range of skills – do you have all the resources necessary to create and run your new enterprise? If not, where will you find them? There’s plenty of support and advice available – the government’s website is a great place to start, or try Innovate UK, the UK’s innovation agency.Tip #2 – create a business planYour business plan will help you answer many of the above questions in a structured way and create a firm foundation for your venture. Even if you decide to self-finance, a basic business plan is essential. Again, the internet is an excellent source of advice and information on how to write one. Most of the major banks have guides like this one from HSBC.As well as focusing your thinking on bringing your product or service to the market, your business plan will include set-up costs, pricing, sales forecasts, overheads and a cash-flow forecast. These will determine how much start-up finance you’ll need.Tip#3 – decide how you’ll finance your businessIf you can start with just a desk, chair and laptop, you will probably be able to fund your start-up yourself (although remember you will still want an income so that you can pay the bills while you get going). But for anything more substantial you are going to require business finance. Talk to your bank about the support they can offer, or go to Better Business Finance (BBF), which was set up by Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds and Santander to provide information on exactly what help and what finance is available to new businesses. BBF can also connect you with mentors – independent business experts who can help with advice and expertise. It’s also good to learn about how other businesses got themselves off the starting blocks – read as many case studies as you can, and learn from their experience.Tip #4 – choose a name You need a name that will enable you to avoid confusion with competitors and stand out from the crowd. Think of companies, products or services that you admire: how could you learn from the way they’ve presented themselves? Think of your offering and the problem it solves (the emotional associations) for your potential customers. Consider the added value you are promising. Your market research will have identified key target audiences – do they respond to traditional names or will they be inspired by something a bit quirky? Once you’ve decided on a name, register it as a domain name as quickly as possible, to ensure no-one steals a march on you. And once you’ve had a logo designed, consider registering it as a Trade Mark with the Intellectual Property Office (IPO). You may also want to patent your invention – they can help with that too.Tip #5 – get startedNow it’s time to establish your business as a commercial entity for legal and accounting purposes, and to decide where you will operate from. New businesses often prefer to save on the overheads of renting business premises by working from home but taking a professional address for their correspondence and using it as their registered company address. A virtual office or business mailbox gives you the kudos of a professional address plus the peace of mind that comes with knowing your mail and parcels will be received and signed-for and kept safely until you’re ready to collect them. Alternatively they can be forwarded to an address of your choosing.It’s important to register with HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC). Most businesses register either as a sole trader, a limited company, or a partnership. Find out more here. When you rent a business mailbox with Mail Boxes Etc. you can also register your business at our address with Companies House and for any official HMRC mail.Once your company is registered you can go ahead and put your business address on your website (important for Google searches), have some corporate stationery printed and ensure you’re in all the relevant business directories.Keeping overheads to a minimum is crucial in the early stages, so make sure you find a reliable business services supplier for ad hoc requirements like print and copy, scanning, archiving, stamps, post and parcel services. We’re always happy to help at MBE. Good luck!