Is the new year filling your head with visions of a new business? Are you eager to get make your business dreams a reality, but you just don’t know where to start? One of the most complicated parts of owning a business can be getting one started. Defining your business, covering all your bases, and making sure you meet all legal requirements may seem daunting, but breaking it down into manageable tasks can help.
If you’re ready to take the leap and open your own business, these eleven small steps can help take you from a vision in your head to an official operational entity.
1. Write It Down
You may spend a significant amount of time visualizing multiple aspects of your new business, but if really want to get things rolling, you’ll need to write it down. The best way to do this is to begin writing a business plan. At the start, this will be an informal document that helps you define your business, determine feasibility, and identify any gaps or weaknesses your current plan may have.
As your business starts to take shape and you get ready to break ground (literally or figuratively), a polished business plan will be essential to secure funding, gain investors, and make logical decisions about everything from location to staffing.
2. Understand Your Financial Options
“It takes money to make money,” or so the saying goes. Unless you can finance your venture on your own, which is rare, you’ll need to secure financing in one form or another. Traditional loans, crowdfunding, angel investors, partners, etc. all represent feasible ways to access funds. Some may not be ideal for your situation, and some you may not qualify for; however, it’s best to have a solid grasp on your options early in the game.
3. Seek Out Small Business Resources
Opening a new business, particularly for the first time, can be stressful and confusing. From financing opportunities to industry requirements, there is a wealth of knowledge that you need to sift through if you want the best chance of success.
Small business resources, like the SBA, offer entrepreneurs valuable information and guidance. By identifying and utilizing them, you’ll gain access to the resources and tools required to get you started and to keep you afloat on your journey.
4. Understand & Apply for Licenses & Permits
If you’re opening a business, you will need a license or permit of some kind – it’s the nature of the game. Learning about these early on can save you a lot of time, hassle, and even money. Take time to identify the permits and licenses you’ll need so you can operate legally.
5. Become Acquainted With Tax Requirements
Depending on the type of business you plan on opening, you may need to obtain an employer identification number and register with the state and federal authorities. Make it a point to review your local, state, and federal tax requirements, or speak with a tax professional who can educate you on the requirements and guide you through the process.
6. Talk to Other Business Owners
Want some real nitty gritty, “this is how it really is” advice? Consider reaching out to other business owners. A successful (or even not so successful) business owner can provide unique insight, offering helpful suggestions or anecdotes to help you make tough decisions or alert you to something you’re forgetting or overlooking.
7. Analyze Your Competition
Are there businesses (local or otherwise) who are offering similar products or services? Take time to research their efforts, identify their strengths and weaknesses, and determine how your business will fit into the bigger picture.
8. Evaluate Locations
If you’re planning on opening a brick-and-mortar business, or simply want place to call your “headquarters,” you’ll need to find a suitable location, and that’s not something that typically happens overnight.
Will your business be well received? Is there a need in the area? Will clients feel welcome in your new location? Is there room for expansion, if needed? What other costs will be associated with the location?
All of those are great questions, and ones that you’ll need to consider. If you find the perfect spot on the first try, that’s great. However, if you really want to give yourself the best chance at success, you’ll need to take time to evaluate multiple locations before picking the right one.
9. Talk to Other Business Owners
Want some real nitty gritty, “this is how it really is” advice? Consider reaching out to other business owners for advice. Successful business owners and owners of businesses past can all provide unique insight, offering you some helpful suggestions or anecdotes to help you along the way.
Additionally, it’s likely you’ll come across a variety of issues, situations, and questions as your business matures, and a solid relationship with another business owner can be just what you need to make it through those times.
10. Review Operational Apps & Programs
Owning a business is more than just producing or providing a product or service (as you likely know). Behind the scenes, a business owner will need to consider accounting, project management, health benefits, payroll, etc. Thankfully, there are a variety of apps (many that are free or low-cost) to help you do that.
Start reviewing apps and programs now so you can be equipped with the right tools from the start.
11. Get a Website
In today’s world, an online presence is often essential to success. Once you determine the name of your business and a well-defined plan, consider buying and designing your website. If your business will be somewhat reliant on internet traffic, this will give you some time to gain organic traffic.
Don’t plan on selling your product or service online? You may still want to have a website to promote your business and to show up in local search results. And don’t overlook a social media presence as well.
Building a business from the ground up can seem like an insurmountable task, breaking it into easy-to-manage steps can make it a lot easier. These 11 simple steps can prevent you from missing key requirements along the way, making the same mistakes others have made before you, and simply following the rules and regulations as set forth by your industry as well city, state, and federal governments.
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