We all start the year with the best intentions. We’ll get fit, we’ll lose weight, we’ll go the gym three times a week! Unfortunately, we tend to give up on these New Year’s resolutions by February. That’s why 2016 is time to do something meaningful. Set yourself a challenge that will change your life.

Start a business, and finally quit the job you’ve been longing to quit. Life’s too short to work in a career that doesn’t make you happy. Just think, this time next year, you could be your own boss. And you could be making more money than you’ve ever made before.

That’s why starting a business is the best New Year’s resolution there is. And we’re here to help. We’ve watched countless businesses turn a small idea into a multi-million dollar company. And yours could be next. There’s no reason you can’t create a successful, powerful company. All it takes is a great idea, and some perseverance. It won’t always be easy, but nothing worth doing ever is! Here’s how to get started this year.

1. Find an idea

The first thing on your list is coming up with that unique idea. Perhaps you’ve already got one in mind. It doesn’t have to be a world-changing idea just yet. It just has to be something. Very few companies are still selling the product they initially created.

The important thing is that you pick something, and start working on it. Of course, it has to be somewhat unique. There must be a market for it, and there must be a way to create value. Think long and hard about this, but then hit the ground running.

2. Market research

Before you dive into your business, you need to make sure there is a real market for it. You don’t want to spend months on your idea, only to realise it already exists. It’s time to analyse the market, and find out what’s already out there.

Assess your competitors, and see what they’re doing. Find a niche to exploit. Find a gap in the market. That will help you refine your product and business idea early on. This is also a good time to research your potential customers. Who are they, and is there a demand for your idea?

3. Business and revenue plan

A business plan is a simple roadmap to success. You wouldn’t start out on a long journey without planning a route, so don’t make the same mistake in business. You need a clear and defined direction to take your company.

A business plan should outline your long-term goals, objectives, and day-to-day strategies. It should also outline exactly how you will make money. This is the heart of business strategy, and you must work towards a revenue system. You’ll need a business plan if you intend to find a loan or investment too.

4. Choose a name and logo

Branding is incredibly important to any new business. Think about some of the world’s biggest companies. The likes of Apple, Red Bull or Coca-Cola. They have clear and recognisable logos and branding. A great name and branding will set your business apart from day one.

It’s often difficult for a small company to appear professional, but a good logo will certainly help. If you’re a creative person, give it a go yourself! If not, think about using a professional branding company to help.

5. Calculate startup costs and funding

The old business saying is certainly true: you’ve got to spend money to make money. A lot of businesses require an injection of funds to get started. You need this to buy stock or initial equipment. You might need money to help develop your product or build a website.

Investment will also help you boost your initial marketing efforts. This all adds up, and costs money. There are plenty of options for funding your new company. From your own savings to bank loans to angel investors. First of all, check whether you’re eligible for any business startup grants. It could be just what you need to get off the ground.

6. Choose a business structure

Choosing a business structure is one of the trickiest aspects of starting a company. In fact, you may need to consult a lawyer and an accountant. Your new startup must be registered with the government, and set up to pay tax.

You might want to start as a ‘sole trader’ which is perfect for freelancers and consultants. The other options are registering as a limited company or a partnership.

7. Create an online presence

No matter what industry your new business operates within, you’ll need an online presence. A strong website and social media channels will help generate your first few clients and customers. It gives you an easy way to reach out to potential customers, and build your reputation online.

It’s worth reading up on digital marketing techniques, and learning how to implement them. It’s the most cost-effective way for a small business to get noticed.

8. Hone and refine your product

By now, you should be up and running! Congratulations, you’ve come a long way. But the hard work doesn’t end there. As a small business, it’s your job to keep honing and refining your product. Every startup needs a strong ‘product’ at its core.

It needs something that your customers and clients demand. Look for ongoing feedback about your product so you can tweak it and amend it. The best businesses are continually making changes and adaptations. Think about the iPhone or the iPad; it’s an evolving product that keeps getting better. Always think two steps ahead in business!

9. Keep your customers and clients happy

If there’s only one rule you follow in business, make sure it’s this. Your customers and clients are the heart of your company. Make sure you put their needs first. If you’re looking for a long-term successful company, this is your golden rule.

Starting a business might just be the best decision you ever make. Good luck, and here’s to a successful 2016!