Running your own business is a stressful but good career and life choice. It demands your time and focus. Start by expecting to live your work until it is established so it can get off the ground. There are many different opinions about how to start a business. Read below for some basic ideas and guidelines to get you started.
1. Come up with an idea. You will need an idea for a business before you do anything else. This should be something you are passionate about, since your new business will consume a great deal of your time and money.
- Come up with business ideas by identifying things people need which no one else currently provides, that isn’t provided in your area, or which you can provide better than anyone else.
2. Consider if it is plausible. Before going too far, think about how plausible your idea is. Is it something that people would actually pay for? Will it turn enough of a profit to be viable? You will also need to be sure that it is possible to implement. While it would be great to have a computer which makes food magically appear out of thin air, this is simply impossible.
Be sure it’s unique. Whatever your idea is, be sure it’s as unique as possible. This will help you eliminate or significantly combat competition, which will make your business more successful. Simply putting a small spin on a currently existing product (making blue Redvines or something like that) is not usually enough to build a business on, so push the envelope!
Make A Business Plan
- Determine your cost of operation.
You will need a solid business plan to present to any investors and the
best place to start would be with determining your basic cost of
operations. This will outline and help you determine how much money is
needed to produce the product or offer the service you intend to offer
or produce. It includes production costs, shipping, taxes, worker’s
wages, rent for workspace, etc.
- Knowing your cost of operations will be vital to determining if your business will be profitable, since you will need to make more than this baseline in order to remain in business.
- Determine your potential market. Be realistic. How many people will realistically use your business? How much will they pay to use your services? If either number is too small in comparison to how much it will cost you to stay in business, then you should reconsider or change your plans.
Determine impediments. You will need to plan ahead for all of the problems which can get in the way of running a business.
- Evaluate your competition; if their market share or product offering is too strong and stable, then you will have a very hard time breaking into the market. No one will want to buy an equally priced or more expensive version of a perfectly good product or service which already exists.
- You will also need to explore the associated regulations and laws, especially regarding taxes. You should ask your local state authorities, as well getting information from the IRS.
- Make sure there are no prohibitive costs, such as equipment which is too expensive to make the business profitable. For example, cars didn’t take off until Ford figured out how to make them cheap by building more efficient equipment.
- Write up a budget. Once you have a general idea of how much money you have to work with, write up a budget for marketing which indicates how much money you have available to spend on advertising.
- Create ideas fitting your budget. Once you know how much money you have, research the costs of different types of marketing and come up with ideas which fit those methods and are effective for the price range. If you have a lot of money to spend on marketing, for example, you can consider shooting a commercial. If you have almost none, you’ll want to think about ways to use social media effectively, which is very effective for requiring little money.
Plan timing and location of marketing.
Once you know what kind of marketing you intend to do, think about the
most effective places to advertise and what time of day, month or year
are going to work best to reach your target market.
- Talk with your bank. Talk with a bank with whom you already have a positive relationship. Ask about what kind of business start-up loans they offer and how they can benefit your business. By using a bank you already know, the bank will have easy access to your financial records and will be more confident in investing with you.
- Get local investors. If the bank loans will not be enough, look into local investors. There may be a local business tycoon or other similarly wealthy person who would have a vested interest in seeing you succeed. Research people in your area who may have the funds and motivation to help you.
- Seek venture capitalists or angel investors. Angels are high net worth individuals and venture capitalists are companies. Both fund a promising high risk venture for a stake (partnership) and often bring experience, management expertise and contacts to the table. They usually work through a network or association
- Approach friends and relatives. People who know you for a long time are most likely to have faith in your ability and intentions. These are also the people who are likely to stand by you if the going gets tough in the initial stages of your venture or you need to raise more money. However, make it clear the money is intended as risk capital and they might lose it completely or may not be returned in the short term.
- Use crowd-funding. If you still can’t drum up enough funding, use websites to raise the money you need to start. These funding sources have several benefits: you will not have to pay interest on the money you get (since it is money which is used to provide actual product or services) and it will help you not only gauge interest in what you have to offer but also help you build a customer base. You’ll start business with hundreds or thousands of customers already lined up and ready to tell other people about what you have to offer.
Report. No matter which
source you raise funds from, be sure to provide key operating, strategic
and accounting information to your financiers periodically, usually
twice a year. It's a good idea to hold a board meeting if everyone can
physically attend. If not, do it via teleconference.
Build InfrastructureGet an office. You will need a space from which to run your business. This can be a home office if you require little space and will not have employees, or it can require an entire workshop or warehouse. Look at renting in a low cost neighborhood or business incubators instead of a fancy address. Some universities make space available at a low rent for new business ventures based on an innovative scientific idea. It depends on what you will be doing and how big you intend your business to be. Make sure the space is coded and legal for how you intend to use it and within your budget.
Purchase equipment. Purchase all of the things you need to start work. This can mean mechanical equipment, computers, telephone, or craft supplies. It all depends on what you are doing. Try to purchase from business supply companies as they will have significant discounts. If you are short of capital, lease or rent is an attractive option too, so as not to block your funds.
Create a records system. From doing taxes to figuring out why you’re mysteriously missing $2,000 to searching through customer records to find out if Mrs. Jones did in fact pay her bill, you’re going to want a good records system to help your business run smoothly and efficiently. Invest in file cabinets, labels and digital records software to keep you organized and on top of things.
Make use of marketing and PR. You will want to reach out to potential customers in ways that make them want to use your business. This is especially important when you are first starting, before you have an established, regular customer base.
- Advertise in a way that catches customers attention at a minimum and hopefully goes beyond to capture their imagination. Be creative and appeal to the right aspects of the customers you want to use your business.
- Offer free samples of what you do to the right people, in order to get people saying good things about what you have to offer. Word of mouth (i.e. good PR) is the best way to attract new customers. If you get bad reviews or negative feedback, respond positively and fix the problem. People will be much less judgmental about mistakes if you’re willing to fix them.
- Use a little old fashioned networking. Go to conferences, charity galas, meetings with complementary businesses and anywhere where your customers are likely to be highly concentrated. In other words: get out in public and interact with people. Use your friends connections to meet people who may be able to help you. This kind of interaction is very important for starting a business. You can’t exist in a vacuum after all.
Have great customer service skills. Be good at interacting with people. Practice reading between the lines of what people say. Learn how to meet needs they didn’t know they had. Figure out how to make people happy. Be charming. Most importantly, be humble. The customer may not always be right but you need to be able to let them think they are
Have a website. The world has moved online. Any business that wants to survive the next ten years is going to have to have a website. People will use it to contact you, find your location, learn your operating hours, ask you questions, make suggestions, and maybe even buy your products or services. In having a website and services which are available over the internet, you will be able to expand your service area out across your region or even the world.
- Require payment. Don’t let people take advantage of you. Require payment within a specific window of time (whatever is appropriate for what you do). Invoice people as soon as you possibly can. If someone is late in a payment, talk to them. If you ignore these problems hoping that they go away, you will find yourself working for free and your business in the tank.
- Take credit cards. Very few people consistently pay for products or services with cash any more. It will be much easier for your business, as well as records keeping and accounting, if you accept credit and debit cards. If you want to save yourself ridiculous fees or keep your business more mobile, consider using the Square. This device plugs into a smartphone or tablet and lets you swipe customer’s card.
- Set up an online system. If you plan to have products for sale online you will need to make sure to set up an accord online payment system. Services like Paypal make this incredibly easy. Research to find out which method is best for you. However, make sure that whatever system you use is secure. You don’t want either your information or your customer’s information to be hacked or taken advantage of.