Many people have brilliant ideas for businesses. It takes far more than an idea to become a small business owner, but with some determination and planning, you can build a viable business on top of the foundation of your idea. A lot of the work you do at the outset will help to define your business for years to come. Here are a few tips for those taking their first steps toward starting their first business.
1. Research Your Market
Have a good idea for a business? That’s great! Still, it takes a fair amount of work to transform an idea into a viable business plan. Before diving into the heavy planning, it is smart to check out the market trends for businesses similar to the one in your head. Research can take many forms—reading market reports, talking to other small business owners, or reaching out to your local chamber of commerce or other small business organization. Think about your local, regional, and national market trends.
2. Start Your Business Plan
Once you have some sense of your customers and clients, you should spend time coming up with a business plan. Business planning is an extensive, detail-oriented, and occasionally emotionally draining process. You’ll probably want to take on your business plan over the course of several sessions. In an organized way, you will estimate your predicted revenues and compare that number to your predicted expenses. Do additional research on how to do your business plan–this document will be critical when it comes to finding funding.
3. Explore Your Niche
After you have some general ideas about your overall market and how your business will turn a profit over time, you want to get more granular with your thinking. How can you best reach the people who will likely be repeat customers? Thinking about who you’re trying to target will help you with marketing campaigns and networking goals. Especially when it comes to online advertising, understanding your target audience can help narrow your focus. By finding a niche, you can figure out how your business fits into a wider community.
4. Think of a Good Name
The first step toward building a brand is to decide on a good name. Business names can be changed in the future, but that can cost you brand recognition and customers. Your business name might just be your name; even still, that is a brand–a very personal brand. You will want to consider how your name projects an idea to your customer–is your business cute and friendly? Is being professional the top priority? Even letting people know that your family is involved in your business (putting in “and Sons” or “and Daughters”) is an exercise in branding.
5. Find Your Funding
A combination of market research, financial planning, and initial stabs at branding will put you in a position to seek out capital. Most likely, you will need funding to start your business and then more funding to get it off the ground. There are many avenues to go about finding the money for your business. Obviously, personal savings can be a great help. You can also seek out cash from family and friends. Maybe you can find an angel investor. If these aren’t options, you should look at the many loan options available.
6. Create Your Branding Voice
As you look into publicizing and advertising your business, you will need to formulate a distinct voice. Your business name and logo were the first steps toward a voice, but as you create a website and marketing materials, knowing your voice will be a great help. Spending some time thinking about a distinct voice will lead you toward a viable marketing strategy.
7. Structure and Register Your Business
As your small business gets out of the planning stages, you will need to consider how your business is structured. This choice will impact your taxes and hiring decisions. You will also need to determine if you need any permits or licenses to start. You will probably need to register your business with the local government. It is better to think about these technical elements at the outset of your business than risk fines, fees, or an expensive restructuring later.
8. Consider How to Exit Your Day Job
Most likely, you are doing something else to earn a living while dreaming about having your own business. Plan your transition to becoming a full-time small business owner carefully. If you quit your job too soon, you might be too stressed out worrying about survival to make your business thrive. It can be a lot of work, but this transition period can be crucial to ensuring your business finds its footing before you depend on it for a livelihood.