“Yeesh, that sounds like a lot of work” is usually the first thought right after “maybe I should start my own business.” And it is a lot of work. You know that without spending a single second on research. But it doesn’t have to be overwhelming.
Before you dive into building your business plan or stressing over the financial requirements, read through the following steps. Use them to guide your research into what your business needs. Take notes and keep them handy when you do start putting together your business plan.
Please note: This is a contributed post, but all opinions are my own. View full disclosure policy.
Meet Your Fellow Entrepreneurs
It can be easy to fall into the trap of thinking it’s your business versus the world. But not everyone out there is a competitor. There are hundreds of groups of small business owners dedicated to providing education and support to newbies. Some groups are industry-specific, but there are just as many whose support is tailored to women, veterans, and others. Find a community you want to join and learn from them. The possibilities are endless. You can find other entrepreneurs to collaborate with or even a business mentor!
Set Yourself Up for Leadership
You will be the boss of your new business, so it stands to reason that you’ll need certain skills to do the job well. Some of these come down to your mindset. Are you determined, self-motivated, and resilient? If you’re planning to run your business solo, this kind of mindset is crucial. But if you plan to have employees in your new business, you also need to have solid leadership skills.
It’s not enough to have a strong team behind your business. You need to know how to communicate ideas, delegate tasks, resolve conflicts, manage the team, and provide feedback. Don’t worry if you’re not confident in your abilities just yet; there are tons of leadership courses you can take to shore up your weaker skills.
Identify Your Business Structure
If you’re this far into thinking about starting a business, you probably already have some ideas about what products or services you want to sell and to whom. But a big chunk of running your business revolves around market research. At the starting-out stage, you’ll be focused on refining your target audience. Then you’ll fine-tune your offerings to appeal to that audience rather than the broad masses.
At the same time, you’ll be figuring out whether your business will operate with a business-to-business (B2B) or business-to-consumer (B2C) model. This step isn’t only useful for filling out your business plan, but also for laying the groundwork for your future marketing plans.
A Note on Registering Your Business
While you don’t need to register your business until you’re ready to launch it, it would be worthwhile to find a small business consultant who can walk you through the different business entities you can register as. This plays a massive role in your future tax obligations, so make absolutely sure you understand your options before making anything official.
Organize Your Financial Situation
Figuring out the cost of doing business isn’t as complicated as it sounds. Make a list of all the things you’ll need to use day-to-day with your business — materials, equipment, software, workspace, storage space, P.O. box, and so on — and tally up the cost. You’ll also need to factor in the cost of any licenses, professional memberships, insurance policies, and startup fees.
Something to keep in mind: you’ll need to set up a separate business bank account for your business. And if the idea of trying to track all your finances yourself is daunting, find room in your business budget for hiring an accountant. An accountant will keep your financial information organized, make sure you’re on top of any money your business owes, and provide invaluable help with sorting out your business’s taxes.
A Note on Insurance
Certain kinds of businesses will require insurance. Maybe you need a commercial surety bond for license purposes, or you just want to protect yourself from certain liabilities. A professional business advisor will be able to help you figure out what insurance you need if any.
Build a Strong Team
If you’re running a one-person business, your team might be made up of partners, influencers, suppliers, and collaborators. But maybe your business needs more people in-house in order to be efficient and profitable. When it comes to recruiting the people you’ll work with, remember to evaluate their abilities through the lens of your business. Your job is to lead the team, but they’ll be in charge of day-to-day productivity and maybe even client interactions. If they don’t have the skills and characteristics to contribute to your business’s success, you’ll either need to spend time fostering their professional development or finding new employees.
Establish a strong website
Building a website is a step that trips up a lot of would-be entrepreneurs. Hiring a specialist to build a site for you is an option, but it might not be financially realistic when you’re just starting out. Thankfully, there are a lot of low-cost options you can work with.
WordPress is the top Content Management System (CMS) for a reason. It might have a steeper learning curve than platforms like SquareSpace and Wix, but WordPress has unmatched versatility through plugins. Plus, there is a vast network of WordPress users, many of whom post helpful articles to help you work through any difficulties you might encounter.
When you’re just starting out, your business website only needs a few things:
- A short, memorable, and brandable domain name
- A hosting provider (can be the same place you register your domain)
- A CMS platform like WordPress
- A clean and easy-to-navigate design (worry about brand colors and design later)
- If you want your business to have a blog, set up a blog page, too
- A connection to Google Analytics
That’s it. And you can do all that yourself. Further down the line, you can spend some time learning web design or hire someone to create a unique look for your business.
A Note on Digital Security
While online interactions open the door to a variety of opportunities, they can also put the business at risk. Criminals often target startups because their security systems are easier to infiltrate. Investing in cybersecurity and data protection services will help you avoid potential problems. If nothing else, make sure your site has an SSL certificate. Not only is it an easy set-it-and-forget-it safety measure, but it also builds trust with your site visitors.
Final Thoughts on Starting a Business
A business, even a small one, has a lot of moving parts. It can be daunting to look at everything that goes into it. But it’s a lot easier to tackle the work when you know what to expect. And if you ever get stuck along the way, reach out to other entrepreneurs in your network.