If you have ever wanted to start a business, Singapore is a great place to start! Ranked second in the world for ease of doing business by the World Bank, Singapore has the infrastructure and robust trade network that will help your business flourish. However, starting a business can be tough and it is normal to feel lost as you develop your idea into concrete reality. We have hence created a 7-steps checklist to guide you in the process of setting up your own business.

Step 1: Define your business’ value proposition

Before starting a business, it is crucial to have a clear picture of your target consumers and the need that your business aims to meet. To attract a sizeable market, your product or service needs to offer a value proposition that is enticing to your customers and adds value to their lives. Remember to always look at your product from your customer’s perspective!

One of the best ways you can ensure that your business will meet your customers’ needs is to utilise the Value Proposition Canvas. It is a framework designed to identify the jobs your customer wants to get done in their work or life, and then create your product or services such that it provides them with the tools to do so. This can be done in two ways:

  1. Providing pain relievers to the pains that hinder your customers from getting the job done
  2. Providing gain creators that help your customer get the job done more efficiently and value-adds to the experience

Step 2: Design a business model

After determining your value proposition, the next step is to design your business model. This is crucial in providing an overview of how the business will run and the feasibility of your business. A comprehensive business model also helps you craft a convincing business plan for potential investors. One possible tool that you can use to create your first business model is Business Model Canvas, which comprises 9 easy-to-understand components:

  1. Value proposition
  2. Customer segments
  3. Customer relationships
  4. Channels
  5. Revenue streams
  6. Key activities
  7. Key resources
  8. Key partners
  9. Cost structure

These components will provide greater insights into your business and you can use them to better understand your competitors’ businesses as well. It is essential to understand your business as it helps you better communicate your goals to your team, to convince your clients why they should work with you and reveals any potential problems your business may face once it starts running.

Step 3: Get connected with the right people

If this is your first venture as an entrepreneur, it is essential to be connected with the right people that can provide you with feedback and advice.

Firstly, you should find a business mentor. It is human to make mistake but by having a mentor, you can learn from their vast experience and avoid common pitfalls. There are a few platforms where you can find a business mentor such as through SME centres or by joining associations such as ASME and SEA.

Secondly, you should attend SME networking sessions within your industry or across industries. This is a valuable opportunity for you to engage with like-minded people to learn from their business practices, stay updated on business trends and build connections with relevant people. More importantly, the people you meet may open doors for future business opportunities.

Step 4: Determine the most suitable business structure

There are five legal entity forms available for registration in Singapore:

  1. Sole Proprietorship
  2. Partnership
  3. Limited Partnership
  4. Limited Liability Partnership (LLP)
  5. Company

You should choose carefully as the form of business entity will affect many aspects of your business such as the extent of your personal liability and income tax treatment, etc. There are different advantages and disadvantages brought out by each form of entity. Hence, it would be wise to engage with an accountant or financial advisor to choose a structure that will best serve your business.

Once you are done, you can go ahead with registering your business on ACRA!

Step 5: Find out your business financing options

There are many financing options that you can look into for your business. They can be split into two categories: Equity and Debt financing.

Equity financing works by selling a stake in your business to angel investors or venture capitalists in exchange for cash.

Debt financing is to accept funds from an external party and to pay back the principal with interest at a specific date in the future. There are many types of debt financing such as bank loans, credit advances and peer-to-peer lending platforms to list a few. You can check out “The Definitive SME Business Financing Guide 2018” for greater insights on each type of financing such as its advantages and disadvantages.

Step 6: Use business apps to organise and improve work productivity

One of the biggest challenges SME owners face after starting their business is organising their workflow and creating a productive workspace. In today’s world, you don’t have to start from scratch anymore as there are many business apps available in the market which can help you manage your business more effectively. They provide an array of services to help you with managing your projects, accounting and even to provide quick business financing.  

However, there are thousands of app available nowadays and we understand that it is time-consuming to sift through them. Hence, we have compiled five “Useful Business Apps for SMEs” that we would like to recommend. These apps are all free, simple and easy to understand!

Step 7: Determine the most effective social media channels for your business

Social media has become essential in our lives. We spend hours every day scrolling through Instagram, Facebook and searching through Google. Your potential consumers are doing the same, which is why it is more essential now than ever to have a robust social media marketing plan to capture their attention!

If you are a business-to-consumer (B2C) business, channels such as Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest are best suited for you! They provide a direct channel to your consumers, though each of them targets a slightly different market. For example, Instagram is more suitable for businesses using a visual-based approach and Twitter is more suitable for businesses that leverage trending topics and have the potential to go viral organically.

If you are a business-to-business (B2B) business, LinkedIn may be the most effective social media platform for you as it allows you to target people by industry, field and job title. Relationship-building is the way to go on this platform and by getting to know the people within your niche market, you can better capture their attention.

Read more at “The Best Social Media Platforms for Your Business” to see a breakdown of each mentioned channel.

We hope that this 7-steps checklist will provide you with useful tips to start your business on the right note, but of course, it does not guarantee success. As an entrepreneur, you have to continually keep up with business trends, adapt as you go and be prepared for any challenges ahead. But with hard work, perseverance and competent employees, you will have a high chance at success!

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