Starting a business now is nothing like it was 20 years ago. With technology growing at an accelerated rate and an uncertain economy, more people than ever are starting their own companies. While the process of starting a business can be a little time consuming, much of it has been streamlined thanks to outsourcing and digital forms. Whether you are starting a franchise, working with an original concept, or seeking part-time work, use this guide to learn how to start your business off right.
The first step in establishing a business is getting a good idea of what you want to do. Most business owners start with a vague concept and focus in one detail at a time. For example, a business owner may dream of owning a toy store. Before they start buying inventory or crunching numbers, they need to consider the following:
- Who is their target audience?
- Is there a need for this service in the area?
- How is this business concept different from others out there?
- Do the products and services accurately reflect the goals of the customer?
The more specific you can be, the easier it will be to do the next step.
Write Out a Business Plan
A business plan is an outline of everything your business intends to do. It typically consists of a summary, a marketing plan, a personnel plan, biographies for managers, and details on the products or services being offered.
There are countless articles online about how to write out a business plan. If you have never written one before, try using a template and filling it in as much as possible. Then, check your city’s resources. Many cities offer business associations or commerce services to help start-up companies. They can help you concur this step very easily.
Make It Official
After you gather your business plan, you need to make your company official. This varies greatly depending on where you live and the type of business you are running. Most cities require a business license, but the government will require separate documents for tax purposes. Leave no stone unturned when it comes to official paperwork, as one small mistake can lead to big issues later on.
Hire a Small Business Accountant
Expenses are one of the most difficult things for new business owners to tackle. Even people with accounting experience have trouble figuring out tax deductions and reconciling accounts payable. Hiring a small business accountant helps you get organized and stay in control of your finances. In fact, the sooner you get an accountant for your business, the better off you’ll be. No one wants to have to go through months of receipts to file taxes or have a service shut off because they forgot about a bill.
Develop a Budget
Budgets are the key to success when it comes to running a business. While you likely made a lose budget when you wrote your business plan, you will need to make a specific operating and marketing budget before continuing on to the next steps. Talk to your accountant about your estimated expenses. They can help you develop a working budget for your company based on the actual funds you have available.
Open Your Doors
If you have a digital business, opening your doors means building a functional website that allows you to start making money or gathering leads right away. Businesses with physical locations will have a few extra steps to complete, such as selecting the ideal spot, renovating, and filing paperwork. This makes owning a digital business a little more favorable and less expensive.
Once you are all set, you should have a grand opening celebration. For physical locations, send out invitations and plan a fun event at your place of business. Digital business owners will want to focus more on issuing press releases about their opening, advertising special sales, or making announcements on social media.
Enhance Your Marketing Strategy
Marketing is an important part of maintaining a business and getting new clients. Your accountant has likely given you a budget for your marketing departments. The problem is that most new businesses cannot afford high-end marketing services, so new owners often feel like their budget is way too small to get anything done. They shouldn’t feel discouraged though; there are many cheap online marketing services for new businesses and several inexpensive strategies that almost anyone can take advantage of.
No matter what your budget is, focus on these key marketing areas:
- Build a strong website that accurately reflects your brand.
- Create social media profiles for Facebook, Twitter, and other networks.
- Develop online ads to generate leads.
- Plan and advertise special events to gain public interest (such as your grand opening).
Before signing up for a marketing service, talk to your accountant and make sure it fits your budget. You don’t want to commit to very many expenses starting out. This could stretch your budget a little thin, especially if your business doesn’t turn a profit right away.
Once your business plan has been set into motion, you need to start getting involved with your local community. If your company is online only, try getting more involved in social media. For those offering local services, try connecting with other business owners at networking events.
Even if you only offer digital services, connecting to local business owners can have its benefits. The more business connections you make, the better off your company will be. Not only will you have a group of contacts that can help guide you through business ownership, you may be able to pick up a few long-term clients.
Having your own business can be a very worthwhile and enjoyable experience. Advanced technology makes it significantly easier to start a business from scratch. After you have written a business plan, completed any official paperwork, hired an accountant, and developed a budget, you will be on your way to success. To learn more about starting a business in your area, check your city’s business association or ask a local accountant.