Starting a small business is exciting, whether you’ve been dreaming of it for years or just had the idea. Getting started can seem overwhelming, and a business needs more than an idea or passion to become successful. It requires strategy, direction, and resources.
That’s why it’s essential to understand the basics of starting a business right from the start, so that you can optimize your efforts and get the best possible results and be sure your new business venture will pay off big time.
- Outline Your Business Plan
A business plan is where you lay out how you intend to make your business a success. A good business plan will serve two primary purposes: it gives you a disciplined pathway for your progress and informs potential business partners of your intentions.
Business plans vary according to the industry, sector, size of the business, and other factors, but they all have the same essential components. Some of the most critical pieces include:
- Executive Summary-This is where you introduce the business and brief outlines on the rest of the document.
- Overview and Objectives- The overview describes the company you wish to become. Objectives are measurable milestones and achievements you want your business to attain along the way.
- Products and Services-A description of the products or services your business will offer, and what differentiates your product or service from others on the market.
- Financial Analysis-This is where you explain how you’re going to make it all work, money-wise. The financial analysis must be grounded in reality and accurate. Many entrepreneurs bring in an accountant to ensure this information is realistic and squared away.
- Figure Out Funding
Your business will need money to cover expenses ranging from office supplies and space to marketing and staff. Solid funding can be the difference between a smooth launch and a difficult one. However, the question of funding can also be a roadblock. Fortunately, there are multiple sources of funding available to first-time business owners that any entrepreneur can tap into:
- Bootstrapping- Using your personal funds, such as your savings, retirement funds like your 401k. Although having total control of your company is a significant benefit, it also means you will be taking on most of the risk, especially if you use your retirement funds or other rainy day savings.
- Investors- Venture capital is always looking for companies to invest in, and yours could be one. They typically favor high-growth companies and are willing to fund your company in exchange for equity and a say in your operations.
- Crowdfunding- Pooling funds from your network and beyond is a popular method and has become more popular as technology has made it more accessible. You will ask for funding from the general public in exchange for a range of “gifts” that can include equity, merchandise, coupons, or anything you believe will entice people to your venture.
- Loans and Grants- The Small Business Administration (SBA)has several loans, grants, and programs to help small businesses get the financial resources they need. Banks and credit unions can also give you loans. The loan terms will depend on factors like your credit score, business size, and viable business plan.
- Think Before You Hire
Growth should be sustainable. You want to know exactly what you need and what you can afford before you try to hire anyone new. Once you start the hiring process, be thorough, check references, and ask as many questions as you need. Your new business is your baby, so you want to be sure everyone around you will help take care of it.
Keep in mind that unforeseen circumstances will arise, so your staff must be alert and versatile. You want staff members that can pick up new skills quickly and potentially wear more than one hat.
- Use Your Network
The people in your life are a deep resource of knowledge, experience, funding, and connections. Your circle is the most accessible market at your disposal for your product or service; you can even use them as part of your pilot program. They will also be your biggest advocates, as they spread your brand through word of mouth.
As you grow your business, it will be essential to expand your network by getting new connections. You can build them using business groups that cater to small businesses and members of your industry. The new connections can yield sales, industry links, and experience that you can use to keep growing your company.
- Expect the Unexpected
Emergencies and disruptions are inevitable, but they don’t have to grind your operations to a halt. The best thing you can do is plan in advance, so you know you’ll handle various situations that might arise. For example, if a computer virus attacks your systems, it is essential to know where you’ll go for computer virus removal.
Have as many plans in place as possible, so you’re never scrambling for solutions to issues like weather threats, materials shortages, and so on. Keep these plans in a known location, so anyone on your team can access them if need be.
Plan For the Future
There is no way to predict what will come when you take the leap of starting your own business. But if you plan well and understand the basics, you can be prepared for any threat or opportunity that comes your way. Business partners and funders prefer to work with entrepreneurs with a viable strategy, so ground yours in reality and facts.