Starting a business comes with a long list of to-dos. From picking a name to making sure that your finances are in order, every entrepreneur is in for a long journey when it comes to bringing an idea to life.
Setting the small tasks aside, there are five main bases that every small business hopeful should be sure to cover when planning a trip though the exciting, and sometimes stormy, startup waters.
Read along as we explore the various first-steps every small business owner needs to take, from business plans and administration, to branding and reputation management.
That feeling of first having an idea, the lightbulb moment that sparks passion and interest in your mind, is one that every entrepreneur knows well. But entrepreneurs also know the difference between a quick spark and something that could turn into a long-burning ember. To figure out which of those your idea is, you can start by working your way through a Business Plan.
A Business Plan is a document that covers a variety of aspects of a business or even just an idea. It will help you to weigh the pros and cons of your potential business.
By thinking ahead and looking into future staffing requirements, how much it will cost to produce your product, what you want your management structure to be, and how you plan to market your product or service you can decide whether or not your idea is actually viable.
You will need to conduct a lot of research in order to really plan properly, so be prepared to look into:
- Your competition.
- Who your target market is and how to reach them.
- What staff you will need to start.
- How the business will be funded.
- What are the costs associated with the product or service.
Once you have a plan laid out, you can figure out how you want to proceed: are you ready to use this plan to get funding, or is this idea better left behind?
If you decide to proceed, it’s time to start really getting to know your target market:
- How old are they?
- Where do they live?
- Are they male or female?
- What is their expected salary?
- What level of education do they have?
While these might seem like very specific questions, the more that you know about your potential customers, the more likely you are to reach them.
Aside from creating a customer profile, you need to figure out where you can best reach them based on what their preferred medium is. For example, a younger audience may be best reached online through social media or organic marketing, and an older audience may prefer radio, television, or even print ads.
To find out who your target is and where to reach them, you’ll need to invest some time, and probably some money, into market research. That means conducting user testing, surveys, focus groups, interviews, and anything else you can think of.
Use this information to find out where to target your market, but also to learn how to improve your product or service for them. Ask what they like and dislike, what they would change, and if they would buy it.
Getting to know your customers is the key to making a successful product. By finding out what their needs are, and fulfilling them, your product or service becomes something that they rely on and that they see as not just a want but an asset.
Building a Brand
Now that you have an idea of who you should target, you can start thinking about what kind of a brand would appeal to your market. This is where you can allow your creative juices to flow and have some fun adding personality to your business.
You’re going to need:
- A catchy, descriptive, and original business name.
- A branded, clean, and attractive logo.
- Consistent colors and styles.
Aside from the obvious, one of the most important factors in branding your business is your marketing copy—that’s the content that speaks to your audience. Do you want to be formal or casual? Do you want to be seen as edgy and modern, or mild and comfortable?
Whatever you choose will affect your branding and reputation, so make sure that you use the same tone throughout your content—from emails and onsite copy to social media pages and advertisements.
Another great way to focus on branding and really build up your business is to start thinking about potential partnerships and cooperative marketing opportunities that may exist with other more established businesses. Is there a way that you can gain some publicity from your city by hosting an event? Can you partner with a charity to cross-promote each other?
Be strategic about building up your social media pages and your advertisements so that you can become recognizable in a potential sea of competitors. It’s one of the first steps in nurturing brand loyalty and it will pay off in the long run.
One of the more complicated aspects of starting a business is financing it. Figuring out your total costs, coupled with your projected profits can be a stressful process, but it’s necessary if you are serious about turning your idea into a reality.
Initially, you are going to have costs associated with research, prototypes, potential patents, and more. How you cover those expenses is up to you, but some of your options include:
- Using your own money.
- Borrowing from friends or family.
- Seeking out investors.
- Borrowing from a bank.
In order to figure out where you should start you first need to know your costs, and that doesn’t just mean how much it will cost to get started. You should try to figure out your costs for the first year so that you can plan how much you will scale in the early months. It’s better to start out slow and steady than to become successful as a trend and be left forgotten soon after.
If you plan to hire employees, or start working on your business full-time, where will you get the money for salaries? You don’t only need capital to get the business off the ground, you need it to pay the bills until it can support itself.
Try to limit your spending by really narrowing down your needs. Scale slowly, grow with your profit, and make informed decisions when it comes to spending to maintain control of your costs.
If you’ve finally decided that you want to go ahead with your business, it’s time to get down to the nitty-gritty of it all. So how do you formally found your business? Start by:
- Registering your business.
- Forming a corporation.
- Obtaining a business license.
- Setting up a business bank account.
- Preparing for business taxes.
Most of these tasks are fairly standard and won’t take a lot of effort to complete, but before going ahead with any you should be certain that you are ready to take on full responsibility for your business.
The Eager Entrepreneur
Entrepreneurship takes patience, dedication, and a lot of courage. Although it can seem like an overwhelming undertaking, it’s a popular choice for many because the end result can be so fulfilling and rewarding.
If you’re interested in becoming a small business owner, or you have an idea, take it step-by-step. Even if it doesn’t work out, it probably won’t be the last great idea you ever have.
How far have you come with your latest business idea?