If you’re an entrepreneur new to the start-up scene, you may be feeling quite overwhelmed by all the things you need to do to get your business off the ground. But fuelling a start-up should also be an exciting and memorable time, so keep your cool and focus on these seven business basics:
Decide on a company name
You’ll need a company name that’s relevant to what you do and that’s memorable. Keep it simple, snappy, and depending on what type of business you’re starting, it could be humorous, elegant, clinical or playful, but make sure it’s aligned with your company’s overall vision and style. A long-winded name without a clear connection to what you do is going to confuse your customer who will forget about you, guaranteed.
Register your company with CIPC
Once you have your company name in place, it’s time to make things legit. You can either register your business directly with the Companies and Intellectual Properties Commission (CIPC) or have a third party help you with this. Having your company registered means you can open a bank account in your company’s name, register with SARS and operate your business as an entity completely separate from yourself. Being a formally registered company will also make doing business with you more attractive to prospective clients. Note: The CIPC website states that “It is not necessary for all business entities to formalise by registering” (with them). More on the subject here.
Get a business bank account
Early on, you might struggle to mentally detach yourself from your business, especially since so much of you has gone – and will go – into making it a success. Get into the habit of thinking of your business as a completely separate entity from yourself as quickly as possible. This is especially important when it comes to finances. Once you have a company registration number, open up a business bank account with your preferred financial institution. This way you’ll keep your finances separate from those of your business and have an account from which to do business transactions. This also goes a long way in showing your customers that you are a legitimate and established enterprise.
Invest in a good company logo
Having your company logo is tightly linked to conceptualising your company name. Be sure to keep your design as simple as possible and remember, while logo designs can, do and should evolve over time, you will be doing yourself and your business a disservice by reworking and relaunching your logo over and over. This will confuse your customers and cost you time, money and a lot of effort rebranding everything from stationery and vehicle decals to your online presence. If you do have the resources to have your logo professionally designed, then do it. Your logo will – and should – be a pervasive mark on your company’s online and offline presence, making this investment priceless.
Get email, web domain & hosting
Having a Gmail account for your business is great for when you’re starting out and don’t have a formal email address. But don’t take too long to invest in a domain name and associated email address. A proper company email address is far more professional than a Gmail or Yahoo address; it gives your business that extra bit of credibility and messages from a domain-registered address are less likely to end up in the spam folder.
But first you’ll need to settle on a domain name, which is where you’ll also want to keep things simple, memorable and worthy of a long shelf life. Don’t buy a domain name that’s convoluted or that’s funny only to you or has no connection to what your business does. Like a tattoo, it’ll be around for a while, so rather err on the side of conservatism. (That said, your domain is not that permanent. If you’ve gone and done a whopper with your domain name, you can change it, but you’ll have to pay for a new domain, possibly hosting (if you can’t cancel or transfer your existing hosting), and admin around transferring all of your digital assets to reflect the new domain. So not impossible, but not cheap or fun either.)
When it comes to domains and hosting, I’m pretty set on using Hetzner. Their site is easy to navigate, their product offering is simple and easy to understand, and their customer support is second to none.
Get a website
I’ve said before: investing in a website means claiming virtual real estate for your business, so if you don’t have a website, you really don’t exist in the realm of digital marketing. Having a website – a good looking, well functioning one – makes it much easier for potential customers to find your business, to learn more about what you can offer them and adds a certain professionalism to your brand that supports customer confidence. If you’ve got the budget, this is a good place to spend it, but make sure you find a reputable web developer, have turnaround times or a work flow schedule in writing and know what you’ll be paying for and when.
Sign up for social media
If you can’t yet afford a decent website, you can use social media to give your business a digital home on the web until such time as you can. If you’re a one-man band and don’t have all the time in the world to manage your social media accounts, I’d recommend just starting Facebook business page and taking good care of that. Keep the content fresh, updated and relevant to your target market and make sure your page is host to current contact information. Don’t sign your business up to a million different social platforms if you can’t commit to maintaining all of them. An outdated or unprofessional company/business page on social media could well be less appealing to the customer’s eye than not having one at all.