Your 10-step guide to starting a small business

TINA TOWER
Small business expert · 6 September 2021
Thinking about starting your own business? In this edited extract from her new book, Tina Tower shares a 10-step guide to bring your business to life.

If you have made a decision to start a business and know what it is that you want to do then it’s time for the fun part— bringing this business baby to life! Let’s make this thing real and start setting up your new business. Here I’ll cover the main areas you will need to consider. By the end you will have what you need to officially establish your business.

1. Choose your business name

A lot of people find coming up with the most apposite business name a challenge, but the hardest part is actually finding one that’s available. In the era of domain parking, people register domain names in anticipation of future need or in order to resell them later. For some, they’ve become a great investment, but this has made securing a fitting business name increasingly challenging.

Before you settle on your business name, check its availability for your:

  • website address (URL)
  • social media handles
  • trademarks.

A good tool to use for this is namecheckr.com.

2. Think about whether you want a company name or personal name

Some people will build their business on the back of a company name, others on their own name. Each option has merits, and your decision here will depend on your goal in the long term. If you’re going to hire a large team and have other team members run sessions and play a part in the delivery of your products and services, then it makes sense to use a company name. However, if you are your business and people are purchasing access to your own expertise, then go with your personal name.

3. Register your business name

These are the steps to registering your business name:

  1. Brainstorm all your ideas. Brain dump them all on paper or a giant whiteboard. Write down everything that comes to mind. Use a thesaurus for further inspiration.
  2. Check the availability of the names. Be sure to check both locally and abroad, especially if you are operating an online business. As soon as you are online you are a global company, and the last thing you want is to discover you have inadvertently used names that are already registered in another country. Check domain registers and social media, do a trademark search then do a simple Google search to make sure.
  3. Register the names according to the laws of your country and/or state.

4. Decide on your business structure

This is simple: go to your accountant! Don’t skimp at the set-up stage on establishing the company structure that’s right for you and your specific situation. There are so many possible variations, so spending a few hundred dollars for professional advice is a great investment. It could save you way more than that down the line in taxes and restructuring costs.

Your accountant will also help you navigate your taxation registrations so you can start collecting money from clients as soon as possible.

 

Woman looking at tablet
Image source: Monkey Business Images/Shutterstock.com

5. Set up your business banking and accounting software

I still remember the day I received my first business bank card. That official recognition was so exciting! As soon as you have your entity name sorted, go and open that account. If you like having all your accounts in one internet banking window, you may choose to stay with the bank you already use, or you may prefer to start from scratch.

When I started out in business I didn’t mind going with different banks. I usually chose whichever bank offered the best deal at the time, knowing that all those expenses add up. Now I’m happy to pay a $10 fee to keep it all together, providing a more convenient internet banking portal and app.

I’m a big fan of doing what you’re great at and outsourcing the rest, so I recommend using a bookkeeper to make sure everything is synced and reconciled correctly. The bookkeeper will also help you set up your accounting software.

Always keep your business and personal expenses separate. It’s a good idea from a taxation point of view as well as a performance point of view that you start as you mean to continue. Perhaps you decide not to worry about setting everything up properly at the start, thinking you’ll just start slow. Bugger that! Start with the right set-up to propel you towards your goals as quickly as you can.

Good bookkeeping allows you to see at a glance how the business is performing, and what is and isn’t working, so you can make quick adjustments and achieve success more easily.

6. Register your domain name

GoDaddy is my domain provider of choice because it’s easy to use, well known and trusted. Buy your root domain first. A root domain is the URL you mean to use as your main website. You can set up any other domains you purchase to redirect to that main root domain.

When you’re domain shopping, I recommend investing in privacy protection, which will hide your contact details from online searches. It costs around $10 to $20 a year. It means you won’t be on the Whois.com registry, which saves you from a lot of spam.

When you go on a public database, you’ll get loads of emails from people throughout the world offering their web services, SEO services and the like. I personally hate excess emails, so paying that small annual fee for domain privacy protection so I don’t have to worry about being spammed is well worth it. If spam doesn’t bother you, then maybe save the $20 there.

Protect your domain real estate! Every country has its own identifying extension. For example, in the US .com, in Australia .com.au and .co.uk in the UK. Because the US is the global leader in online programs, you should always register the .com no matter where you are. I like to get as many other different domain extensions as I can afford. To be able to protect your domain name in various countries throughout the world for a couple of years, around $20 is a worthwhile investment.

7. Set up Google Workspace for your emails

Now you have your business name and domain name, let’s set up your email address.

I am a big fan of Google Workspace for email because it opens the door to so many other tools. You get access to Google Calendar and Gmail, so you can access your emails really easily. Google Docs allows you to collaborate with others on text documents. You can store things on Google Drive and keep your business systems manual on Google Sites. So for $5 a month per email address, Google Workspace is well worth it and definitely the way to go.

Go to workspace.google.com, hit ‘Get Started’ and you’ll be walked through the whole process. When entering your nominated main email address, you may want to use a generic customer service email address. For example, the main email address I use is hello@tinatower.com. It’s the one I started out with so I could enter that address on all our subscriptions and use it for customer service email, because I knew that as soon as I was able to afford an assistant, they would be monitoring that address. I then set up my personal email address as an alias. You can create as many aliases as you like. You might use hello@, yourname@, podcast@ or marketing@. All of these derivatives will make you feel like you have lots of staff but they’re all coming through to the one email address. As your company grows, you can split them off into their own email accounts. Setting up aliases now will save you money on additional accounts later.

Again, this is something you could do cheaper without having an email address linked to your domain name, but let’s be super professional and set it up properly from the beginning.

8. Set up Dropbox

You can share documents by using Google Docs through Workspace, but I also like to have a Dropbox folder set up. It provides an easy way to share, store and upload your files, and for a certain amount of data it’s free. I keep copies in both Google Drive and Dropbox as a backup in the unlikely (but possible) event that one software system fails.

9. Protect your IP

You’ve already taken great steps to protect your IP through registration, but I want to take it one step further. Get on Google and research the relevant regulations.

You may consider talking to a trademark lawyer. A preliminary chat with a trademark lawyer will help you decide whether this is a step you want to take. Registering a trademark is a lengthy and expensive process, so you will need to be absolutely sure of the name and future direction of your business.

10. Work on your budget

People tell me that spreadsheets scare them. Learn to love them! I did very basic maths in high school and didn’t do all that well. I knew that to be successful in business I had to learn to know my numbers and work with them, so I practised and practised. Now, I’m a ninja with a Google Sheet and I love my beautiful budget.

Download the digital budget planner sheet at milliondollarmicrobusiness.com and start inputting numbers particular to your business.

Following are some typical expenses you might encounter. Keep in mind these figures are current at the time of writing and are estimates only.

Set-up expenses:

  • Business registration $500
  • Domain registration $125
  • Trademark lawyer consultation $250
  • Logo design $500
  • Launch marketing $1,000

Ongoing monthly subscriptions:

  • Bookkeeper $200
  • Google Workspace $10
  • Xero accounting software $25
  • Virtual office phone number $20
  • Zoom $25
  • Dropbox $20

For business success, a good rule of thumb is to spend only what’s vitally necessary while making as much money as you can. As with time management, spend on the things that matter, and forget the rest. If it boosts your brand and/or your sales, then it’s a worthwhile investment. If not, always question whether it’s vital or just something you want.

Remember, revenue is for vanity and profit is for sanity. It doesn’t matter how much revenue you have if you spend it all on expenses. Focus on creating and widening that gap so you develop wealth to invest in line with your values and future goals.

Million Dollar Micro Business Cover

 

This is an edited extract from Million Dollar Micro Business  (Wiley Publishing RRP $29.95), exclusive to Canstar, and republished with permission.

 

 

Cover image source: Daisy Daisy/Shutterstock.com


Tina Tower About Tina Tower

Tina Tower is an award-winning serial entrepreneur who has founded, grown, and sold several businesses and franchises. Tina has won Telstra National Young Business Woman of the Year Award and Australian Business Champion and has been featured on the Today Show, in the Financial Review, on Sky Business and as a Business Woman to watch by Huffington Post.

 

 


Thanks for visiting Canstar, Australia’s biggest financial comparison site*

 

This content was reviewed by Editorial Campaigns Manager Maria Bekiaris as part of our fact-checking process.

Share this article