Starting a Business – What Do I Need to Know?

Top Tips

For many, the thought of being your own boss is an attractive prospect. You can set your own hours, select your own staff and work the job you’ve always dreamed of doing.

But how can you make it to the point where your dream becomes your reality? Callum Handley, one of our business advisors here at First Enterprise, shares his expertise on what it really takes to start a business and, crucially, ensure its success.

Starting a business

Can “anyone” really start a business?

It’s a phrase you often hear bandied about but it’s true – anybody can start their own business. However, to ensure it flourishes, it falls down to two things: timing and motivation. Over the years, I’ve worked with many entrepreneurs and the most successful ones all had one thing in common, motivation. Whatever form it comes in, having that drive is key. It inspires people to keep their business going and make those tough decisions, which will inevitably have to be made.

How should an entrepreneur go about choosing the business they want to start?

The first question I always ask an entrepreneur is, “why do you want to start a business?”. Is it to maintain your quality of life or is it a side hobby? Do you enjoy it or is it out of necessity? Finding the right business is extremely difficult to do and not something that should be entered into lightly.

The best place to start would be to take stock of your skillset and work out where your strengths lie. Be honest and realistic with yourself and focus on the industries and areas where you could best implement your talents. Also, take a look at what you enjoy and are passionate about – remember the famous proverb, “if you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life”. By pinpointing something that engages you, you will soon be able to identify business areas that will work for you and that you’ll enjoy working in.

What are the main challenges an entrepreneur will face?

Each stage of starting a business comes with its own challenges and obstacles. Some entrepreneurs can struggle to deviate from their initial dream, regardless of the direction their business is taking. While others struggle to ask for help or relinquish control and trust people with their company. There will always be financial challenges in the initial stages of starting a business, further down the road these could transform into moral or ethical challenges or external pressure to change and adapt the start-up.

Whatever the challenge you may face, the key to overcoming them is to be adaptable and open to help and advice from others. Your business may have started as one distinct idea, but it’s vital that you’re prepared to be flexible with how it develops and operates. All successful businesses are successful because they’ve been able to adapt, whether that’s their operating model or the product itself.

When is the best time to start a business?

It’s often said that “any time is the best time to start a business”. For me, I find starting a business is comparable to moving to an expensive city, an easy decision to make if you have either unlimited resources, or no other option than to take a risk.

However, for those in the middle ground who aren’t sure when, or even if, they want to start their own business I’d strongly recommend asking yourself the following question. Why do you want to start your own business? By being honest with yourself you’ll discover one of two things. Either that the motivation is there and that now is the perfect time to take the plunge, or that you’re not quite 100% and maybe now isn’t the best time for you to start a venture. But that doesn’t mean that the day isn’t just around the corner, take stock an remember what inspired you to begin with and allow the idea to grow organically in its own time.

What about finances?

Simply put, there’s no way to avoid them. Finances are vital, whether that be using your own savings or approaching a lender. I’ve spoken to countless people who don’t like borrowing, and in an ideal world, they would never need investment. However, the reality is that there are hardly any successful businesses running that haven’t had financial support in some way, shape or form.

My top tip would be to ask. Ask your lender if they can help you, ask what they think of your proposition, ask them as many questions as you can so you can make an informed decision on what’s best for your business. There are so many different ways finance can help, so ask the experts how it will shape your company to ensure its future success.

What are the main things entrepreneurs can overlook, but shouldn’t?

In my experience, there are three things budding business owners can overlook in their quest to start an enterprise.

  1. Provisioning. I can’t emphasise enough how vital it is to have back-up funds available for when things don’t go to plan. As previously mentioned, every new business will experience difficulties at some stage – some avoidable and some not such as the current coronavirus pandemic – so preparing for this in advance is key.
  1. Bank charges. Almost every single entrepreneur I’ve supported overlooks how they will be paid and how the bank will charge them for these payments. Familiarise yourself with what percentage you’ll be charged for a card transaction and whether you will be charged to pay in cash.
  1. Working hours. Starting a new business venture is rarely a nine to five job. Take care of yourself and make sure you don’t overexert yourself. Be strict with how many hours you work each day and make sure you’re able to give yourself a day off every now and then. I’ve seen it happen where a client approaches a lender with a cash flow forecast which they’d need to work 20-hour days, seven days a week to be able to maintain. Be realistic and be kind to yourself.

Why First Enterprise?

At First Enterprise we pride ourselves on having three core values – honesty, integrity and experience. With 30 years’ experience as a business (and many more when you combine that of our staff) we’ve provided loans for every type of business imaginable, meaning there’s very little we haven’t already dealt with or heard.

We always strive to do the best for our clients and will openly tell them if we think there’s a better option elsewhere. It’s because of our strong moral ethos that clients come back to us time after time, not just for financial support but also for our opinion and help with their business.

As one of the leading responsible finance providers in the East and South East Midlands, we provide loans of between £3,000 and £250,000 to start ups and established businesses. We also work alongside the Midlands Engine Investment Fund (MEIF), Start Up Loans, Big Society Capital and the Creative Quarter Loan Fund. We also provide business advice, offices to work in and so much more.

Callum is based in our Lincolnshire office so whether you’re a new entrepreneur seeking advice or funding, or an existing business looking to expand, then contact him on 0115 942 3772, or email

More in this Section