New entrepreneurs always ask me how long it will take them to start up their businesses. I usually ask them as many questions as I can in order to give a more accurate answer. During our first consultation, I often realise that entrepreneurs have not done enough research or initial study in the market to understand where their businesses will be heading to. The most important lesson you should know about starting up your own business is: Do your research and ask yourself as many questions as you can before you invest a penny.
RESEARCH IS THE ENTREPRENEUR’S HOMEWORK
Imagine that you need to pass an exam about your new business before you will be able to launch it. The best way to save yourself time and money is to spend enough time asking yourself all the relevant questions about your business. Obviously, even experienced business people will commit some mistakes, but small mistakes need only a small amount of time to fix. Big mistakes, on the other hand, require big amounts of time to fix and huge mistakes may mean losing all the time and money you’ve invested. During the start up implementation phase, time spent also means money spent. Every second counts. The longer it takes to set up the business, the more money you will spend in business costs and expenses.
PLAN YOUR TIMELINE AND ROADMAP
I have seen individuals starting up service provider businesses in a few months, if the service provided does not need a license to operate. Example: 6 months to start up a computer repair business, 5 months for a computer training business, 7 months for a graphic design studio, just 3 months for a business providing secretarial services, 4 months for a freelance copywriting business. Now, if the service provider needs a license then it all depends on how long it takes to get the license approved. The financial services sector in London is one of the best example of regulated business activities. The vast majority of financial services are regulated by the FCA (Financial Conduct Authority). Some of these financial license applications can take 3 to 12 months to be processed before you can start operating. At the end of this article, I’ve provided average implementation times for different business types.
PROTECT YOUR BRAND (AND BUSINESS)
Protecting your brand (trademark) can take some time. A trademark application can take up to 3 months to be approved or refused. If the trademark application gets refused you need to rebrand your business before you sell its products or services to your clients.
FUNDING YOUR VENTURE
Make sure you have enough training in the business you will start up. Don’t start allocating time to a project if you don’t have or don’t know where to find funds to start it up. Please don’t start up a business with insufficient capital and try to raise finance after. That’s how you end up wasting your time and losing money. Raising finance can take some time. My main advice is make sure you have enough time to research, plan, implement and adapt if something goes wrong or needs to be improved before you sell to your first customer.
GET YOUR PREMISES READY
You must be cautious about renting an office space and contracting employees before you get the license approved. Remember that your business license can be refused. My advice is to rent a temporary office space and invest as little as possible before you have your license approved.
PAY ATTENTION TO THE PREMISES LICENSE
Do you need business premises or do you want to start up an online business without physical presence? If you need premises – as you will if you are opening a restaurant, coffee shop, pub, or retail shop (clothes, electronics, and similar) – you must make sure that the premises you want to occupy can legally be used for a business. Commercial properties are covered by the Town and Country Planning (Use classes) order 1987, which divides the use of business properties into different categories; A1: shops, A2: financial services and professional services, A3: restaurants and cafes, A4: drinking establishments, A5: hot food takeaways, B1: business, B2: general industrial, C1: hotels. You can apply at the local Council to change the business use but remember that this can take some time. My advice would be that unless this venue is the greatest opportunity of your whole life and there are good reasons to wait, occupy a business property which already has the same permissions as the business you want to start up.
TAKING A LEASE IN CONSIDERATION?
Are you looking to sign a lease agreement? A lease agreement is a safe commitment from both sides (landlord and tenant). Make sure you contract the right solicitor. In a restaurant that I got involved in as an investor, it took us 6 to 8 months to have the lease agreement signed. I learned a hard lesson on that occasion and now I only deal with professional individuals and companies which have enough people to deal with their clients. A friend of mine once contracted a solicitor who promptly took 4 weeks holiday and made him wait until his return to finish his legal agreement. This is ridiculous. A lease agreement should not take more than 2 months to be concluded. Also, be careful not to get trapped into an agreement – try short term licenses and explore commercial opportunities. Most of these license agreements are valid only 12 months and there is no clause forcing the tenant to renew the agreement.
Your new business needs to be established, which means renewing the premises and buying equipment and furniture. This can take longer than you might expect, as you must also consider the buying process, delivery and installation. In my experience, an inexperienced business individual can set up a restaurant, coffee shop or pub in 6 to 18 months (average 12 months), if renewing the property and buying equipment is necessary. If not, the average start up period falls to 9 months. A retail shop takes an average of 6 months. These are rough estimates and your setup time will also vary according to your investment. Higher investment usually leads to shorter implementation time.
IF YOUR BUSINESS IS ONLINE
Nowadays, many people are starting up online businesses. If there is no special technology development behind the online business, your set up time could be much less than for a commercial, offline business. You must be very careful in choosing the company which will help you with your business website, e-commerce site or app development. There are good and bad marketing service providers in the marketplace. And even the bad marketing companies understand very well how to promote themselves and how to sell their online marketing campaigns.
Many of them promise more than they deliver. You may find yourself spending a long time fixing the job of a bad marketing company. Often you will need to redo your marketing material from the beginning. It can be very frustrating. Some people believe that in order to succeed in the online market, you only need to have a good website, an e-commerce platform, a payment portal to receive payments via the website and promotion via social media. It is not as simple as that. It can take a long time for people to get to know your business and your brand. In my experience, an online business selling a product or service could take 2-7 months to start selling to its clients (as long as there is no special technology or programming required for the website or app). But it could take another 3-6 months to start reaching its online sales targets. If you need to develop special software, do not launch the business before the software is ready and tested. If you are selling products, make sure you sell to a few customers and get their feedback before you invest a lot of time developing marketing materials, websites and marketing campaigns.
List of businesses and average set up time
Alcohol sales 3-12 months – Personal Licence/Premises Licence
Automotive Part Sales – 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Bakery 4-18 months – No licence requirement
Beauty Salon 1-12 months – to become a fully qualified beauty therapist, you will usually need to complete a level 2 or level 3 qualification in beauty therapy.
Bookkeeping 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Building construction 1-12 months – No licence requirement – See also CSCS
Car Wash 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Casino Gaming 1-12 months – see Gambling Commission
Caterer 0-12 months – No licence requirement
Child Care Services 1-18 months – See OFSTED
Collection Agency 6-12 months – FCA Licence
Consultant 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Convenience Store 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Courier 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Dentistry n/a – See General Dental Council (GDC)
Dry Cleaning 3-12 months – No licence requirement
Equipment rental 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Event Planning 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Fitness Centre 3-12 months – No licence requirement
Florist 3-12 months – No licence requirement
Insurance 6-12 months – FCA Licence
Investor 6-12 months – FCA Licence
Lawn care services 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Locksmith 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Massage Therapy 1-12 months – No licence requirement but you must register with the local council.
Motor Vehicle Rental 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Mortgage Company 1-12 months – FCA licence requirement
Pawn Broker 6-12 months – FCA License
Personal Assistant 1-12 months – No license requirement
Pest Control from 1-6 months – No license requirement – See Also British Pest Control Association
Pharmacy 6-24 months – Pharmacists and pharmacy technicians must be registered with the General Pharmaceutical (GPhC)
Photography 1-12 months – No license requirement
Plumbing 1-6 months – No licence requirement – See APHC
Private School 6-24 months – See Department for Education
Publishing services 1-6 months – No licence requirement – See Also Publishers Licensing Society.
Real Estate Broker 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Record business 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Repair/Maintenance 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Restaurant/Bar 2-24 months – Licence requirement depends on activities
Retail sales 6-18 months – No licence requirement
Tanning Shop 4-12 months – No licence requirement
Taxi Services 2-12 months – Transport for London licence
Telemarketing 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Travel agency 1-12 months – See IATA, ATOL
Truck Transportation 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Video Production 1-6 months – No licence requirement
Vending machine 1-12 months – No licence requirement
Veterinary Medicine 6-12 months – The veterinarian must have a degree approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons
For any questions or specific advice, please get in touch via email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0207 328 8338.