PRCA MENA Members Active DMC partnered with us to create a useful handy reference guide for new business and Entrepreneurs.
The following is a 20-point check list that can be useful for anyone embarking on this incredible journey and is relevant and applicable to this region as much as globally.
Our focus and expertise within this checklist obviously centres around Points 3,4, 14, 17
Developing and defining key messaging is a step that many either overlook or don’t consider key until its too late. Ensuring that the way that you frame who you are and what you do consistently is very important especially as there are other start ups out there who probably sound like they are doing something like you.
In addition, when you on-board employees this is key to making sure they also frame the company, the products and services consistently too
By promoting your start up – albeit economically and even at the start – single handedly you will generate attention and interest from potential investors, so this does play a key role in finding funding via various different sources.
As for a website – gone are the days when this was just a “billboard” – today it’s a functional toll to drive traffic to and therefore needs to be clear, easy to navigate and act as a sales funnel or lead generator to convert sales or attract investors to contact you so the content and the way that is presented are key.
Social Media is another key tool to provided presence and visibility online as well as to communicate the culture, spirit and value add of the business and the content strategy can be very important and needs to evolve as the business does.
1. Test your concept.
Before you dive in, test your business idea to make sure it’s based on a valid market need. Perform competitive analysis to make sure your product or service doesn’t already exist. Find out if there’s a solid customer base who will want what you have to offer.
2. Build a business plan.
A business plan is necessary for when you apply for funding, as well as to guide your operations. The goal of your business plan is to:
- help find financing,
- show you’ve vetted the market, and
- fully detail your execution strategy
3. Work on your sales pitch.
Hone in on what makes your business different from everyone else’s. When you’re just starting out, you must craft an elevator pitch that articulates what sets you apart and why investors and customers should care. A great sales pitch will explain what you do or sell, to whom and why in two to three sentences.
4. Find funding.
There are many sources of funding for new businesses. Some business financing options include:
- Short-term loans
- Angel investments
- Venture capital
- Working capital loans
Many entrepreneurs also bootstrap their venture using their personal finances or ask their friends and family for initial capital. Use your business plan to decide what option is right for you.
5. Decide on a business structure.
Sole proprietorship, limited liability company (LLC) or nonprofit: The way you structure your business entity has tax and liability implications. No matter which business structure you choose, if it’s more complicated than a sole proprietorship, you will need a lawyer to help set it up correctly. Consult an expert from the start to avoid any tax complications down the road.
6. Get the right licenses and permits.
Some businesses, like restaurants and cafes, need specific licenses to operate. Depending on where you operate and your industry, you may need several permits and licenses. Check this list from the SBA to find out what, if any, you need to procure.
7. Open a business bank account.
Even when you start a sole proprietorship, it’s critical to keep your business and personal finances separate. Open a separate bank account for your new entity to keep your cash flow organized and trackable for when it comes time to do your taxes.
8. Organize your accounting.
Anticipate tax time and set up your accounting system to make April that much less stressful. Organize your expenses and income into three categories: business income, inventory costs and other expenses (like payroll, rent and other overhead). Find and hire an outside accountant or buy an accounting tool to help you stay organized as you grow your business. In the Middle East region it is fairly easy to contract freelance accounting services cost effectively.
9. Develop your product.
Does your business idea revolve around a new product? Some entrepreneurs need help getting their concept made into a physical prototype. Work with a partner who can take your initial idea, work on a design and get it manufactured for distribution through a partner or online store.
10. File a copyright or patent.
Once you have a solid plan for your product or service, protect your intellectual property with a copyright or trademark. You can file to protect the rights to your company’s name, logo, content, creative ideas or original creations, in addition to a product design or service offering.
Build a business website that tells your story to build excitement before your launch and to help people learn about your product or services, about you and your story and why this is a great business to interact with – as a client or as an investor for example.
11. Decide where to sell.
There are many companies that launch online before moving into a physical retail space. Launching online can be a good way to keep costs down, but there are some serious benefits to having a brick-and-mortar location.
12. Negotiate a lease.
Should you decide to open an actual office, you will need to find real estate property. That usually means negotiating a business lease. Make sure you know how much space you need, carefully consider the surrounding area, Free Zone or business district and read the contract thoroughly before signing.
14. Get the right insurance policies. Know your Labour Law!
The insurance policies you need will depend on the size of your company (i.e., how many employees you hire) as well as your assets and liabilities. Here are a few policies you might need:
- Worker’s compensation.
- Professional liability insurance.
- Product liability insurance.
- Business vehicle insurance.
- Small business health insurance.
- General liability insurance.
- Property insurance.
Be familiar with or have a source to help you navigate and understand the Labour Laws in your market. For example, these are changing in fundamental ways here in the UAE.
Many of the policies above will be defined and/or affected by the Labour Laws
14. Set up a website.
Your website is crucial to help customers learn more about your brand. Build a business website that tells your story to build excitement before your launch and help people learn about your product or service. Even entrepreneurs who don’t intend to sell online need a website with their opening hours, location and phone number, at a minimum. But in this region, this needs to provide backgrounds to the founder/s, the business/social/financial challenges the business addresses and any publicity achieved – announcements of Series A funding for example or some narrative concerning the investment to date.
15. Register your business.
New businesses may need to register with the government and the respective Economic Departments in each of the GCC states. If you want to file for trademark protection or if you need a federal tax ID, you will have to register with the government.
16. Get the right tools.
When you’re just getting started, you don’t need a lot of fancy technology to start selling. But you do need some basics, like a POS system, wireless internet and telephone service.
17. Set up your social media channels.
Social media is how many customers discover new brands. Create Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles for your business. These platforms are where you can share news about your upcoming grand opening, launch your products and generate buzz.
18. Hire an employee or more.
If you have the budget, it’s time to bring an employee on board. Find someone you can trust to delegate part of the day-to-day operations so you can continue to focus on the big picture. This might be a manager, a partner or your first worker who can oversee your premises, sell or support you in the admin/social media activity.
19. Advertise/Promote/Market the Launch!
Ready to meet your first customers or grow from the present base of pre-launch clients? Make sure they know you’re about to open for business. Advertise your launch/opening on your social media channels and in local media. You might also work with an influencer who can quickly spread the word about your brand.
20. Open your doors for business.
Congratulations, you’re ready to go. Good luck you will do an amazing job!