The idea of starting your own business is inherently romantic, if not exhilarating: You get to run the show, flesh out your ideas and live your dream. But where do you begin? Here are seven smart steps to get you started – and help improve your chances of success.
Come Up With a Concept
What’s your idea? Is it profitable and something you’re passionate about? Would others consider you an expert in this area and seek your advice? What kind of funding do you have? Will you partner with someone or go solo? When you can determine all of these things, then you’ll be off and running.
Know Your Competition and Market
Do your research. Learn about the industry you’re entering. Who are the leaders, and what is their USP – Unique Selling Proposition? Then figure out what yours is. Next, get to know your target customers with questionnaires, surveys, and interviews. Find out what they want. You might also conduct a SWOT analysis, which stands for strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats. After you synthesize and analyze all this data, you’ll have a clear picture of how your business will take shape.
Create a Road Map
You don’t go on a trip without a guide. Starting a business is no different. In your roadmap – or business plan – you’ll want to generate a comprehensive picture of your business, which includes everything from an executive summary and market analysis to a mission statement and financial plan. Other items to include are a marketing plan and an exit strategy. When your business plan is complete, you can share it with potential investors and banks. Here’s a free simple business plan template you can use as a blueprint.
Choose Your Structure
Will you be an LLC (Limited Liability Company), LLP (Limited Liability Partnership), Sole Proprietorship or corporation? There are pros and cons to all of these. In addition, you’ll want to name your business, come up with your DBA (Doing Business As). Then, you’ll register your business, apply for an EIN (Employee Identification Number), and get the right licenses and permits.
Organize Your Finances
Open a business bank account – you’ll need your EIN when you do this. If you sell a product, you’ll need either a bookkeeper or good accounting software. Then determine your break-even point. What are your startup costs? What kind of supplies or professional services will you need? Will you operate out of your garage or rent a space? Here’s the equation to follow: Break-Even Point = Fixed Cost/Contribution Margin.
Fund Your Business
Knowing your break-even point, how will you fund your business? Do you have money saved? Do you have credit cards to use? Do you have cash from friends and family? Small business loans, grants and lines of credit, angel investors, venture capitalists, and crowdfunding are other solid avenues you can explore. Finally, consider buying business insurance to make sure that if something goes wrong, you’re covered.
Market Your Company
After you’ve acquired all the right tools, like accounting software, email hosting, and a credit card processor, you can hang a shingle and get the word out that you’re open for business. Bobby’s Bagels is now serving! You’ll need a website that explains everything you offer, as well as an e-commerce component. Then you’ll want to optimize your site for SEO and create content that is relevant for your target audience. The last step is creating a social media strategy.
All of these steps are high-level. When you’re in the process of gathering everything you need, other details will emerge. Starting a business might be hard work, but it will allow you to become your own boss and, best of all, realize your dream. Remember, you’ll never work a day in your life if you love what you do.