Scaling up can be daunting because of the time and effort required to navigate the numerous financial, legal and regulatory hurdles. Here are my top tips to help companies overcome these challenges.
Once you have established that there is a market for the products and services you offer, it is time to draw up a comprehensive and robust business plan. Document everything and include realistic targets with a horizon of at least three years. Don’t over-complicate things. Financial and legal advisors as well as funders can help with business planning templates.
Your intellectual property (IP) must be registered in the form of copyright, patents or trademarks. These valuable assets are neglected by too many businesses, until it’s too late and someone else copies them. Get advice on branding, building your trademark portfolio and monetising your IP through licensing agreements.
Pick your partners
You don’t have to go it alone. Take advice. Listen to critics, not just friends. Find people with whom to collaborate or form joint ventures. It’s important to find partners with relevant and complementary skillsets who are in it for the long-term. Get legal advice on what the company structure should look like. One size does not fit all! Flagging issues at an early stage will avoid problems down the line.
When looking for sales, funding and development partners, there is a temptation to over-promise on what your company can achieve. It’s far better to set realistic expectations, over-achieve and demonstrate that your business is well-run and sustainable. Potential funders will want to see clear milestones rather than hyperbole and over-ambitious numbers.
Right from the start, your business needs investment to ensure a healthy cash flow. Keep an eye on expenditure, have solid contracts that ensure you get paid on time and have a buffer to cover any unexpected costs.
Keep payroll low, constantly re-examine major outgoings, outsource where needed and sub-contract to keep costs flexible as most early stage businesses will face peaks and troughs of demand.
Initially this might come from your own savings or from friends and family but, at some point, you will need to seek additional funding. There are many options, from bank loans to seed capital funds, grants and crowdfunding. Securing funding takes time and energy and you need to be resilient.
If you decide to offer equity in the business in return for funding or support, don’t offer a stake too lightly. When issuing shares, get it done properly with shareholders’ agreements and the right provisions in the Articles of Association.
The sad reality is that many start-ups fail. Sometimes, for whatever reason, you may need to rip it up and start again. Don’t compromise your time, finances and well-being chasing a lost cause.
Shout about your successes via a PR and social media strategy. Consider entering awards that will turn the spotlight on you and your business. We have partnered with Leeds Beckett University on its Business Advantage Awards for start-up businesses since 2015. Each year six Start-Ups are rewarded with a package of services to enable them to accelerate their growth journey.
Please note this information is provided by way of example and may not be complete and is certainly not intended to constitute legal advice. You should take bespoke advice for your circumstances.