We're here with practical information for your business. Learn about business planning, running a business and more.

For a successful business, you need a viable business idea, the skills to make it work and the funding. Discover whether your idea has what it takes.

Forming your business correctly is essential to ensure you are protected and you comply with the rules. Learn how to set up your business.

It is likely you will need funding to start your business unless you have your own money. Discover some of the main sources of start up funding.

Businesses and individuals must account for and pay various taxes. Understand your tax obligations and how to file, account and pay any taxes you owe.

Businesses are required to comply with a wide range of business laws. We introduce the main rules and regulations you must comply with.

Learn why business planning is an essential exercise if your business is to start and grow successfully, attract funding or target new markets.

Marketing matters. It drives sales and helps promote your brand and products. Discover how to market your business and reach your target customers.

Some businesses need a high street location whilst others can be run from home. Understand the key factors from cost to location, size to security.

Your employees can your biggest asset. They can also be your biggest challenge. We explain how to recruitment and manage staff successfully.

It is likely your business could not function without some form of IT. Learn how to specify, buy, maintain and secure your business IT.

Few businesses manage the leap from start up to high-growth business. Learn what it takes to scale up and take your business to the next level.

Spotting gaps in your market

Every business needs to find their niche - something that makes you stand out from the crowd. This may mean offering improved products or services, taking them to new markets, or even coming up with an entirely new offer. How to spot gaps in your market and identify opportunities for innovation

Innovation is at the heart of every viable business idea, but "new" can quickly lose its gloss in a competitive marketplace. Rivals will waste no time improving on your offer, and customer expectations will rise accordingly.

"If you sit on your laurels, there's a risk your customers will move away from you," warns John Fitzgerald, chief executive of entrepreneur-support organisation BRAVE. "You could have a perfectly good product or service, but your customers may have become more demanding or there may be new, cheaper or more innovative competitors in the market."

How to find a gap in your market

Spotting a gap in your market could help your business to soar above the competition. Here are our three tips for seeing the opportunities that your competitors haven't.

Listen to your customers

"Any small business needs to look for trends in its customers," Fitzgerald says. "What are they thinking? Are their expectations changing?

"If you listen to your customers, you find out whether they may be thinking of leaving and give yourself time to do something about it," he continues. "Don't allow the day-to-day to get in the way - put time aside to talk to your customers, and not just your favourite ones either."

Watch your competitors

Knowing your competitors' strengths will help you identify what you could offer that they don't - highlighting needs in the market that are not currently being met.

Mystery shopping is one way of finding out about rivals, as is attending trade shows. But your customers are likely to be the most valuable source of information.

"Ask them 'What makes you stay with this competitor?'," advises Fitzgerald. "Is there an opportunity in that for you? For example, if you offer a higher standard of service, maybe that gives you a new unique selling point (USP). Look for weaknesses in your competitors and use that information to target unserved markets."

Keep up with business legislation

New laws steer businesses in new directions and may even open up new markets; environmental regulations, for instance, have generated an industry dedicated to helping firms reduce their environmental impact.

"Keep an eye on the Government changing the landscape," Fitzgerald says. "A lot of companies don't keep up with legislation, and this costs them opportunities."

Market gap analysis also means looking at the way other sectors do business. If you can, bring their approach into your own firm.

"The most important thing is to give yourself time," he concludes. "The earlier you spot a market gap, the easier it is to fill it before anyone else gets there."

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