Many Americans dream of owning their own business or creating an additional stream of income. Whether they are attracted to the flexibility, the adventure or the earning potential there is something mesmerizing about being your own boss. The process, however, is not for the faint of heart and should be navigated carefully. Statistics from sba.gov indicate that if you can survive the first few rocky years, your business can grow and thrive. Here are some top tips for starting strong so your small business has staying power.
Step One: Identify a Need
No matter how great you think your idea is if it doesn't solve a problem or fulfill a genuine need, you could be in trouble. Slow down and research your idea. Ask yourself:
- What problem are you solving?
- How many people need your product/service?
- How much competition do you have?
- How big is your target market?
- Is your market saturated?
If you can answer these five questions and still feel like you have a viable idea you can move to step two. If you find yourself stuck on one of these questions, don't give up. Your idea may just need a little tweaking to pass the need analysis.
Step Two: Intention and Investment
Now that you know what you want to do, it is time to figure out a structured plan for your business idea. Don't get bogged down here. Oftentimes, creative minds don't want to sit down and create a long detailed business plan, but initially, you need at least an outline of what you plan to accomplish. Things to consider include:
- What is your primary goal?
- What values will this company have?
- How will your company be organized?
- How many employees will you need initially?
- How will you get financing?
New ideas come with excitement and an eagerness to get started but as hard as it is to think about logistics, capital is an absolute must. Whether you need $5,000 to start or over $100 million in funding, you will need to research your possible funding solutions and find what resource will work best for you.
It helps to choose to partner with a financial resource that has a history of working with small businesses. It is important that you have financial support from a company that can appreciate the challenges a new small business will face.
Step Three: Pick a Name
This may seem like an obvious step, but not just any name will do. Your company's name should be memorable and appealing to the masses. Once you establish your name and brand it is not always easy (or prudent) to change it. So pick wisely. Ask yourself the following:
- Does the name make sense? Does it communicate what the company is about?
- Is it easy to say and spell?
- Does someone already have this name?
- Is there a domain available? (Choose domains that can be remembered if someone is driving on the car and hears it on the radio. No dashes!)
- Is the name limiting in any way?
After you've selected your name, make sure you register is with your local and state offices.
Step Four: Gather a Team
You will need some help to build your business. From financial tasks to day to day tasks, you can't do everything by yourself. One sign of a true leader is their ability to surround themselves with a solid team. Here are some team members you should consider:
- Accountant or bookkeeper (If you're bootstrapping it, try online accounting services, such as FreshBooks or QuickBooks. These can easily be handed over to an accountant in the future.)
- Legal advisor
- Partner or investor
- Social media and communications director
If you want to start your business strong you'll need to ensure you are meeting all the legal and financial requirements. Getting help from an accountant and a legal advisor right from the start can save you major headaches down the road. You might also want a working or silent partner. If so, select someone you trust who compliments your strengths and weaknesses. Employees are a vital force behind any company. Start small and add personnel only as needed. A business mentor is a valuable resource, especially for young startups. If you'd like a mentor to bounce ideas off of, there are multiple online sources.
Step Five: Set Up Shop
Whether you have a brick and mortar storefront or a 100% online business there is some set up involved in starting a successful company. From a website to a physical storefront, you 'll want to get yourself organized before you officially open. Don't forget to set up social media accounts, too! Think through all the "what ifs" and do your best to anticipate potential issues so you are ready to handle whatever comes your way.
Being proactive and structured with your business set up may take time in the beginning, but you will find your initial investment will pay huge dividends down the road.