If you’re already beginning to nervously look away from this post, I recommend you look back. Beginning a business is not meant to be a breezy, two-step process that can be handled and taken care of within 30 minutes or less. In order to properly begin a business, you need to start off with questions that you will be able to answer:
- Who do I talk to about beginning a start-up?
- Where do I go if I want to get a loan?
- What’s my first move?
- What if I don’t even know what my first move is?
You do though. Your first move is already upstairs in your mind, quietly (or noisily) kicking around the cogs in your frontal lobe. It’s your vision, your idea. You’ve been visualizing it for some time now, working out all of the kinks and enhancing the features that your prototype has to offer. Your first move has been thinking- comprehensive thought which will lead you into our steps for success in strategically starting your own business.
1) Research and Plan Ahead
You don’t want to start your first business with a commodity, so be sure that you’ve researched your idea to ensure it has a unique slant or twist on a service that hasn’t been out on the market before.
During this time it is wise to come up with your top 5 areas that you plan on focusing on the most and what you need to move on to get everything moving. Create a short term plan of what you want your business to accomplish in the next 6 months to year and look into the possibility of strategizing a long term plan (which is anywhere from 2 to 5 years in length). Be sure you know exactly what you are selling and providing by now and the target audience that will be anticipating your business.
2) Gather Together a Team of Experts
Conduct informational interviews with professionals in the business and get their advice and tips on what to expect when starting a small business. If you don’t happen to know anyone in your field, use Step 1 (research) to find their online website where they will have contact information. Ask family and colleagues for referrals to business professionals they’ve worked with and trust. Remember that all of these pros know what it’s like to start out in the beginning so be sure to ask every question you have, even if you may think it isn’t significant.
3) Raise Capital
You may feel compelled to talk to investors immediately about lending you money for your new business, but be careful. Investors will usually anticipate that you share a percentage of the business with them. In addition, they will need to see a business plan that includes 3-5 years of projected financial statements, an exit strategy, and a marketing plan. One of the best methods to work with when it comes to funding for your new business is establishing seed capital, a securities funding that allows for individuals connected to the new business to invest money needed into the business so that it can last on its own while in a development phase. After that period is over, the business will usually be able to create its own funding. Seed capital doesn’t need to be a huge amount of money and may come from a re-finance or savings. It will allow you to be able to retain ownership of your business. If you aren’t in the position to fund your business through seed capital, talk with a lending institution. A line of credit provided through the institution may fit your needs better.
4) Establish an Online Presence
The most inexpensive and easy way to market your name and brand is by going online and setting up an official website for your business. Hiring a professional to build your site is ideal, but for those who cannot afford a website there are plenty of sites that offer assistance with building and putting together a free website. Start a Facebook and Twitter account for your business and set up a LinkedIn account to connect with professionals in your area. Start a blog on your business site page to tell visitors and potential clients what your business has to offer and keep your visitors in the know about the latest news going on with your company. It’s the best way to build a name for yourself in the industry and the easiest way to establish a diverse following base.
5) Slow and Steady Wins the Race
Like every business, yours will start off slow and grow as time progresses. Be patient. You could experience massive growth overnight or over the span of 20 years. So start out of a home office to save money for now and keep everything you need, computer, phone, copier, and scanner and coffee machine (for late nights!) nearby.
It is important that while you continue to work hard, you respond to all of the needs of your customers. By answering and catering to their needs, you’ll be able to establish much-needed credibility and positive word of mouth. Both of which will take you and your new business far in the world.
Deborah Sweeney is the CEO of MyCorporation. After graduating with a JD/MBA from Pepperdine University, she became a partner in a Los Angeles-based law firm practicing in the areas of corporate and intellectual property law. After six years practicing in a law firm environment, Ms. Sweeney became in-house counsel at MyCorporation Business Services, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Deborah supported the company during the acquisition by Intuit, the makers of Quickbooks & TurboTax. Under Intuit, Ms. Sweeney became the general manager of MyCorporation, managing the overall business operations. After five years of Intuit’s ownership, Ms. Sweeney negotiated the purchase of MyCorporation from Intuit. In October, 2009, the acquisition of MyCorporation from Intuit became final and Ms. Sweeney and her husband (who also owns a clothing manufacturing business) now own 100% of the MyCorporation business, while maintaining a strong strategic partnership with Intuit. In addition to enjoying her new found freedom as an entrepreneur, Ms. Sweeney loves more than anything spending time with her husband, who is a great sounding board and business owner himself, and her two sons, Benjamin (6) and Christopher (4).