If you’re looking to start a small business in Singapore, a checklist will prove invaluable to keep track of all you need to do, and when. After all, there are numerous tasks to look into as a fresh entrepreneur and it’s easy to miss out on a few vital steps.
We’ve put together such a checklist to guide you through the starting days of your business and help you get it up and running as quickly and efficiently as possible.
1. Identify your Unique Selling Point (USP)
The success of your business depends, to a large extent, on its USP. Identify what makes it different from your competitors and put it down in words. This is what you will be using to pitch your business to investors.
2. Put down your business plan
Your business plan need not be elaborate, but it does need to be comprehensive. Summarize your business at present and chart your vision for the future. Here are some points you should include in your business plan:
· Executive summary
· Identification of your customers
· Creation of customer profiles
· Market analysis
· Competitor analysis
· Identification of business opportunities
· Financial planning
· Marketing planning
· Staff management
3. Find a business mentor
It’s always a great idea to have a business mentor who is well versed in the workings of a business, and can guide you with sound business or financial advice and also provide honest feedback with regard to your undertaking. Business associations could provide useful support and introduce you to competent and reliable professionals.
4. Obtain venture capital
Financing your business needs a plan. While many people use their own personal savings, this might not be enough. The benefit of starting a small business in Singapore is the fact that several attractive schemes exist for helping new ventures, such as the Young Entrepreneurs Scheme for Start-ups, SPRING Start-up Enterprise Development Scheme or the Business Angel Scheme.
5. Determine your business structure
What kind of legal structure will work best for your business – sole proprietorship, partnership, limited liability partnership, limited partnership private, or a public company? Think about your business requirements as well as the advantages and disadvantages of each type.
6. Obtain a registered office address
Your Singapore company registration will require you to produce a registered office address. This will be used for all business and government correspondence. Small businesses have the option of renting a business space as per the Home Office Scheme under the Urban Development Authority. Alternatively, to cut capital costs, you can register your private residential property or HBD flat as well.
7. Pick a business name and register your trademark
Choose a business name that makes a favourable impression on your audience, that is easy to pronounce, and that promotes customer recall. Then run searches to ensure that no one else is using the name and you are clear to use it for your business, with no risk of infringing third parties’ rights: search engine checks, company name searches and trademark searches. Find out how to register your trademark in Singapore and start the process immediately to secure your name. While it’s not compulsory to do this, there are many vital reasons why it is important to register your trademark.
There are several reasons why your trademark could be rejected by the IPOS, so ensure that the mark you choose is in line with local regulations. Last but not least, you should consider filing your trademark overseas if you intend to use it in other jurisdictions in the near future.
8. Register your business
Once due diligence related to the business name is done, registering your business is the first formal step in setting up your small business. All your business details including your company name will have to be registered with the Accounting and Corporate Regulatory Authority (ACRA) of Singapore before you begin any business operations. In fact, you can register your business online, including foreign branch offices at Bizfile, by the ACRA.
9. Register a domain
A website is a powerful marketing tool that businesses must have. Hence, once you have picked a name and are sure that it is not being used by other parties, you can register a domain for your website. Ensure it is easy for your customers to remember and try to avoid using a hyphen. If you are using a domain name that is different from that of your business, ensure it contains the keyword indicating what your business is all about.
Also, think about the domain name extensions. If you prefer a Singapore domain name (ending with .sg), you will have to adhere to a particular set of instructions.
10. Open a bank account
Remember to always keep your personal bank account separate from that of your business. So, create one for your business. A credit card and PayPal account could prove to be useful too.
11. Set up accounting software
To ensure that your small business in Singapore is eventually profitable, you can set up accounting software that will run profit and loss forecasts. Xero is one such online accounting software that can help you automate your business tasks, give you updates on your financials, and help you run your business smoothly.
12. Learn about taxes
Find out about the relevant corporate taxes your new company will need to pay, and set up a good record-keeping system. You may be required to pay taxes such as income tax, corporate tax, and Goods and Services Tax (GST). You can learn how to apply for GST registration from the IRAS website. Make note of important tax-related dates.
Also, talk to an accountant to learn which expenses can be considered tax deductibles, such as office rent, internet charges, equipment costs and so on.
13. Get business insurance
Every company, no matter the size, needs business insurance. These are usually covered under “General Business Insurance” or “Business Owners Policy”. This is an extra layer of protection that must not be ignored.
14. Get your legal documents in order
Make sure that you don’t run into legal issues down the road, by keeping safely, these legal documents:
· Trademark registrations
· Articles of Association/Incorporation
· A non-disclosure agreement
· Employee offer letter or freelancer contracts
· Intellectual Property Agreements
· Founders’ agreement (in case of multiple founders)
· Website terms of service
· Business plan
15. Find the right employees
Hiring people who will be the right fit for your business is important. If you need some assistance, you can hire from job banks initiated by the Singapore Workforce Development Agency (WDA).
As an employer, you will also need to familiarise yourself with your responsibilities under the Employment Act of Singapore.
16. Set up your digital presence
This includes building your website using your registered domain name, as well as creating relevant social media accounts. While you can get your digital marketing going on your own, you could also outsource this to a specialized agency.
17. Identify digital tools for your business
Embrace technology to save time and organise better. There is a vast arsenal of digital tools you can use for various functions. For instance, Asana is an excellent business management tool. WordPress offers a scalable CMS for your website. Slack helps with communication and collaboration between employees. You can use Google Analytics to monitor your website’s performance, and MailChimp for your email marketing. Find out which tools offer features that work for you, and make your choices.
18. Secure your data
Small businesses are at equal risk of data breaches as are large corporates. As cybercrime continues to grow, businesses need to protect their data, even email data. As a business owner, you can consider encrypting data on devices and cloud data, using email encryption, backing up your vital data, keeping your systems and software up-to-date, and more.
You can consider participating in professional networking events in Singapore, or attend start-up meets, trade shows, seminars and exhibitions.
Work your way through this checklist to ensure you have all corners covered as you start your small business in Singapore. If required, you can always reach out to specialized agencies to handle certain aspects of business that you may be unsure of handling on your own.
Success is mainly a matter of working methodically and consistently and never giving up. We wish you the best of luck!
At IPHub Asia, we commend your passion and perseverance as you start your small business, and we can conduct pre-filing trademark searches to help you choose a name and file trademark registrations for your start-up, both in Singapore and overseas. Do get in touch for more details or visit our website to know more about our services.