London is one of the most vibrant and lively cities in all of Europe. As a result, it is a popular location for entrepreneurs to launch their first retail ventures. But while London might be a land of opportunity, anyone hoping to find success will need to approach their business in the right way.
Always have a plan
Trying to start a business without a formal plan in place is a complete folly. Some people assume that a business plan is only necessary if you are going to be approaching investors asking for funding. A business plan is definitely an important part of this process, but this is far from the only reason to bother putting a proper plan together.
A business plan will lay out what your business hopes to achieve in the long term and will break these long-term objectives down into short-term steps. This then provides a blueprint and can inform decision-making as the business grows. More importantly, a business plan will set out a series of key milestones for the business to achieve. Hitting these milestones reliably will be proof that the business is healthy and growing at the rate expected.
Don’t be afraid to start small
There is nothing wrong with being ambitious in business. In fact, it is good to aim high and have aspirations. However, trying to achieve too much too soon is a recipe for disaster. Even businesses that are already firmly established can cause themselves to collapse under their own weight if they try to expand too quickly. For a start-up, whose situation is generally much more precarious than their well-established competitors, trying to expand too fast or launch too broadly can have the same impact.
When your business is just starting out, don’t be afraid to take things slowly and give yourself space to grow. If this is the first business that you have led then it will inevitably take some time and experience for you to learn the lessons you need in order to take things to the next level. Focus on getting your first location opened and up to a decent standard of health before you start worrying about spreading to further locations.
Establish your funding and corporate structure early
Starting up a new business is always a difficult proposition. Any money that you invest in the endeavour is money that you could potentially lose if things go bad. It is important that you establish your funding early on, and that you formalise the resulting corporate structure. For example, if someone is going to provide you with a cash injection to help see you through the first year or two of your operations and is taking a corresponding stake in the business, then it is important to formalise this before you open your doors.
If you will be operating the business on your own or with a small team while you retain full ownership, it is still important to establish who the primary decision-makers within your business are. If your ownership is split 50/50 with someone else, then you need a mechanism for making decisions when you are both split.
Make sure you have the right admin in place
The last thing any budding entrepreneur wants is to deal with a legal threat once they open their business. But if you fail to secure the appropriate licenses and permits for your business, then you can find yourself facing some pretty hefty penalties. Ensuring that all of your admin is in place beforehand is a quick and simple process, especially when compared with the potential complications that can arise when documentation is not in order.
Most of the relevant rules and regulations that you need to know are consistent across the entirety of London. However, there may be some specific restrictions that vary from borough to borough, so you should check the local laws to be certain.
Think carefully about your partnerships
Whenever the time comes for your business to work with another, you should make sure that you properly vet them and consider the implications of forming a professional relationship with them. This applies to every partnership, no matter how insignificant it might seem to you. Whether you are choosing someone to stock your breakroom with food and other supplies or a cleaning service to keep your outlet looking its best for your customers, you should always carefully weigh up your options. If the businesses that you associate with has a poor reputation or finds itself embroiled in a major controversy, your business can end up suffering by association.
It isn’t just your reputation that you need to consider, you also want to choose to partner with the other businesses that are going to provide you with the best results. Ensuring that you receive a reasonable return on any investment that you make will require you to consider every decision and partnership from multiple angles. By getting into the habit of thoroughly considering and evaluating your partnerships from the moment your business launches will help to instil good habits in both yourself and the other decision-makers in your business.
Consider a decision like deciding on a card machine to use to take payments in your shop. You might think that one card reader is as good as another but we know that this isn’t the case. There are some card readers and payment processors that are able to offer a better service than their competitors. For example, a card machine from UTP Merchant Services can offer faster processing than many of their competitors’ thanks to their partnership with Barclays. UTP also provides in-house tech support, not the inferior outsourced customer service experience that many other businesses have started to embrace.
Know the area
London is an incredibly diverse place that is home to a wide range of different environments. Understanding the nature of the local area where you are launching your business is imperative if you are to be successful. A retail outlet that is out of kilter with its surroundings is always going to struggle. Of course, your business will not just be for the people that live in the immediate vicinity, but you want to blend into your surroundings as elegantly as possible. This is as much about the image of your business as it is about the practicalities of attracting customers.
Think very carefully about the location that you choose within London. If your location is chosen for you and you don’t have much choice, you should aim to style your business in keeping with the local area. Given the diverse range of spaces available in London, there is something suitable for everyone if you are willing to look hard enough.
Starting a successful retail business in London isn’t easy. However, if you manage to do it right then the potential returns are enormous. Make sure that you do your homework so you can open your business in the best possible location and start targeting the right people with your marketing. Every decision that you make as a startup can ultimately determine whether your business thrives or shrivels. Make sure that you consider all of the points above before you launch.