The Penny Drops
Starting a brand new business from scratch was never going to be easy, I was under no illusion, but of course, I was not prepared for how much there was to do before even launching.
I was working part-time and had acquired a skill. It slowly dawned on me that this new string to my bow could open an opportunity, a chance I had to grab. I had a long, hard think, sought opinions from friends and family and made my decision. The first of many.
This is my first solo venture, and I’m finding it liberating. I have to make choices, and I will make mistakes, but they are mine to make. The buck stops here. No “Can I refer you to my manager?”, that is me.
I needed a name. I would pick one, and try it out for a few days, roll it around, write it down and then discard it. Do I want my location, my name, some identifier? I wanted to stay under the radar until I was almost ready to launch, so strangely, I needed a degree of anonymity. I finally settled on an obscure reference to my daughter – MB. I am now MB Inventories.
With a name, I could buy a website name and set up an email account.
Then I considered logos and colours. The colours had to mean something, I had to be able to explain my choices. White (background) for clarity, grey (writing) for impartiality, blue for truth and purple for honesty. I knew I wanted an image of a house surrounded by a protective ring and with my husband’s computer skills, was able to produce exactly what I had in mind.
The font was going to be slick, simple, clear, no serifs, no faff.
My public image is important. I will wear a version of a uniform. When I am face to face with clients, letting agents, landlords, or tenants, I will wear grey trousers and a smart white shirt. On site, practicality suggests cargo trousers and a white polo shirt, grey fleece or coat, with the tops bearing the company logo.
Once I had a logo and corporate colours, I could start branding template documents, a website, social media pages and clothing. I had template letters, invoices, a business plan, a selection of business card mock-ups and a head full of ideas.
I had to work out a pricing structure. I looked at other inventory clerks nationally and locally. Living and working in a rural county, there is a lot of travelling, incurring extra cost, but luckily I am central to the county. I have kept my prices on the low end to begin, I can review them in the future.
The business plan was daunting. I had never seen one, and the examples I downloaded were the equivalent to War and Peace! I did not need funding, so this document was not intended to sell my idea to any investor. I finally found a basic template (thank you Pinterest) and was able to break it down into bite size pieces.
I decided to focus on just a couple of social media platforms instead of trying to cover them all. I have Facebook and Twitter pages and I am exploring LinkedIn. I post pictures, little fun bits and repost articles that I feel are relevant.
I will reach out to private landlords and tenants on Facebook, and connect with other businesses on Twitter.
It is very convenient having a retired business consultant in the family. Cousin Ian is always on the end of an email, ready with advice and happy to point me in the right direction.
I happened across a free Business Drop-In Clinic locally. I met Darren Thomas, a business adviser from Business Wales (a company I follow on social media) and Colin Evans, an associate from Business Doctors.
Darren signed me up to a day’s training course. I showed him my progress so far, and I seem to be on the right course.
Colin focussed more on marketing and sales. This is new territory for me and I will accept all the help I can get. I need to learn how to sell. I mean, what on earth is an Elevator Pitch? Time for more research.
I came away from the clinic with a lot of advice, a to-do list, a date for a training course and a follow up appointment with Colin to monitor my progress so far.
Registering with Official Bodies
I have registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) and paid the £40.00 fee. I wanted to do this well ahead of my launch so not all the annual renewals will occur at the same time.
I have to consider insurance. I will need Professional Indemnity and Public Liability, and possibly other cover. I will put this in place just before I launch, I do not want to be paying monthly premiums without any income. I have business class insurance on my car, so that box is already ticked.
Whilst I am still working part time for a letting agent, I cannot be accredited with Association of Independent Inventory Clerks (AIIC) because I am not considered independent, even though there will be no crossover.
GDPR is a big new consideration. It might be easier for me, I have to have everything in place before I start and not have to worry about changing practices that might have been in place for years.
Getting Ready for Launch
Time is getting close to announce a start date. I have decided on May 2020. Probably Monday 18th, but kick off on the social media pages over the weekend of the 16th and 17th. How big do I want to go? Do I contact the local radio or newspapers to cover my launch? I’m all for free publicity, but mine is such a niche market it would not be prudent to spend much on general advertising.
Have a lot to learn before I start, and I will keep learning as I go. I am hopeful, nervous and determined.