Now, more than ever, it's essential that you're fully prepared before you start your own business. The current economic situation doesn't make it easy, but with plenty of planning, support and learning, there's no reason why your business can't survive past the four year mark.
Not sure where to start? Try asking yourself the following questions.
A business plan is essential for any business starting out. It gives you structure, short- and long-term goals, and provides any investors with all the information they need. As your business grows, your business plan needs to be flexible enough to adapt, while still keeping your focus on the main goals.
Not sure how to write a business plan? Have a look at our 500+ free sample business plans.
So you've got a business plan and you know what you need to do. But are you ready? Is your idea viable? Do you have the resources, time and funds to dedicate to building your own business? Are you prepared to be self-motivated?
A lot of new entrepreneurs are surprised by the amount of time they actually have to dedicate to their business (wave goodbye to several of your evenings and weekends!) or how big a budget they'll actually need.
Not sure if you're ready? Check out our recommended tools for 'assessing your readiness'.
Before you even think about starting your new business, you need to identify what your Unique Selling Point is. It might be your product, the way you provide your service or your own personal brand. Whatever it is, put it at the forefront of your selling pitch.
Bear in mind, this USP might change over time as you adapt your business to growth, industry change or economic change. A regular review is essential for every part of your business.
This is a biggie. You need to thoroughly research your product or service to make sure your idea is original and legal. Get the patents, find a lawyer to look through your business plan and, particularly online, be aware of copyright issues.
Business Link has some useful information about legal structures and registering your business, and check out our sections on legal advice and company formation too. The government's Intellectual Property Office has everything you need to know about searching and owning a patent, and the Home Learning College has a list of legal elements to consider when setting up your business.
If you're lucky enough to be able to fund your business, great! But the majority of new businesses need a little financial help, so it's important to ensure your business and your pitch is attractive to potential investors or banks.
Have a look at my recent post on the six most common mistakes on Dragons' Den to see which pitfalls to avoid when pitching to an investor.
Smarta also has a huge range of useful tools to help you out, including several resources for getting funding for your business.
Liked this? You might just find our ultimate checklist for starting a business handy too.