Friday, July 11, 2008

Something (Practical) for the Weekend

If you know anyone who is planning on starting a business at some stage, but still in full time employment, writing bits of their business plan here and there, and pondering how best to set up, give them a couple of practical tips.

Odds are, they will not think of the little housekeeping things that take an extraordinary amount of time to design up, when they are starting off. All efforts will go into figuring out the service offering, going out and selling it! Admirable! Sure why not, isn't that what we're all here for...

Then we come to the making money part. What do you need? A few things actually, so it might be an idea to get them sorted before you start. If you have a customer or two, you will want to spend most of your time either taking care of them, or finding more of them. Not wasting time doing these things...

1) Get your tax registration sorted - a TR1 form for Sole Traders and Partnerships, a TR2 for Limited Co's - anything more taxing (pardon the pun) and you should call in the accountants/bookkeepers. Seriously. They're better at it, it will save you money in the long run to use professionals to do these things; it'll cost you your own man hours if you're no good at it. Harsh but true! Tax registration forms available from the Revenue Commissioners. There are sections on these forms for VAT by the way, but until you begin trading, don't register! Well you can, but it's a pain in the arse dealing with the paperwork before you have to, right?

2) Obviously in tandem with the TR forms - you need to register your business name(s). If you are planning on having more than one arm to your business (example - you walk dogs, but you also mind children - different business names required! You might also do people's books for them if you're good at numbers - a third business name - all trading under Joe/Janet Bloggs, Sole Trader...) RBN Forms are so called because they stand for...Registration of Business Name. They are all found at the Companies Registration Office, which also has lots of important information that you need to read!

3) Now that all the reasonably important stately stuff is out of the way, the next part is far more interesting. Figuring out your brand and your logo. If you are just trading under your own name that's fine, you should still find an interesting way of having your name in print. This will be vital for the next few items on this list! Mess around with your name in different fonts - it's that simple. Pick a colour that ties in with your service provision or product, and your identity - the one you want to project. This is really important! You will eventually become a champion of your own brand. Start watching how other people do it. I bet you can't look in any single direction in Coca-Cola's offices without seeing that trademarked brand everywhere...

4) Now that you have your logo or brand all designed up, you should start putting it on document templates. The first of these should be your headed paper. Even if it is just in the header or footer of a standard Word document, with your registered business address beside it in a nice shade of purple/grey/whatever brand colour you have chosen. Pick a nice, clear, legible font that you like and adopt that as your template font for everything. It's all part of developing your business identity.

5) Next on the list of vitals - your invoices! Get that brand/logo out again and put it on an Exel spreadsheet, or any type of spreadsheet. Use that font you liked so much, in the colour that's clear and readable. Don't forget your tax & CRO registration numbers, registered business address, trading names, etc... If you like, look at invoices from other people in your industry and see what are the all-important things they have included. Don't forget the invoice numbers - you have to start a ledger that is going to match up with your system for cash flow management. Lastly on this point - make sure your spreadsheet is printable - easy to forget!

6) Another important template to have at the ready is a quotation template. I know it is tricky, but at least have the bare bones ready. Google some templates if you like, there are loads out there. The important sections to have in a template - once you have plastered your mini-logo onto every header/footer of course - are: Introduction (a bit on your business), outline of the proposal (what you are being asked to quote for), list of items being quoted, their unit costs, any notes you have to include on special or bespoke items on your list, the tax (VAT) associated with various items on your list,(if there is any), your payment terms (50/50 or 25/50/25 or 40/30/20/10 or whatever you want it to be, within reason!), and finally the conditions of your quotation (how long is it valid for, etc.). The other important thing of course is your name & contact details at the end of the document, so they know who to ring & haggle with!

7) Since you have got the invoice done, get a receipt ready too. I think it is great to not only get a receipt but also a small note of thanks for the payment. It makes people smile, it really does. Making business a little more personable is always a total winner.

8) Other more miscellaneous items you can prepare in advance are things like internal memos, compliment slips, that sort of thing. They are not crucial but they are important at times!

9) Your business cards! Please get a proper print company to do these up. You can get them done inexpensively without being cheap, if you know what I mean. You want people to think of quality when they think of your business - so do not hand them a post-it with your number on it...please...

10) I've saved the best for last, because it is usually the thing that people think about last! But it is so important... Documenting. Filing. Set up a system - a system of folders on your server or hard drive or Internet storage space - so that you are ready, with a file structure in place, when you start up your business and start going through the motions. Having a structured filing system right from the start is going to be SO much easier in the long run. Please believe me when I say this, I really do know what I'm talking about... The same goes for the paper files. Follow the same structures if at all possible.

I hope you find this list of top ten preparation tips useful. I hate headaches, so any way to avoid them is good! If you think I've forgotten anything, let me know...

I will of course be blogging on the lovely CRM possibilities soon too...remind me...


  1. Great post! I'll have to print that off and keep it for future reference.

  2. Thank-ee! And for reading it all - I know it's a long one...

  3. Yep, excellent post! Thanks for that - going to be very useful and soon! :)