To start your own business you’re going to have to work hard, commit to working on it at all hours of the day, and making sure that you’ve ‘checked all the boxes’. Here are 8 steps to starting up your very own business:
1. Find a good business idea
A good business idea isn’t just one that turns a profit. It’s one that’s a good fit for you personally, for your target market and your location. You’re going to be in business for the long haul, so you really should pick something you love. You can do this by:
Identify your strengths and weaknesses by doing a SWOT analysis on yourself
Come up with a business idea that caters to your strengths
How to start inventing things (or how to find something to invent)
Define what success looks like for you
Do your research and ask yourself: What are popular businesses today?
2. Test your business idea and do market research
How do you really know you’ve hit upon something that’s going to work on all levels? You may want to get out and talk to real people about your business idea and see what they think. It’s a great idea to do market research by:
Define the ‘problem’ your business is solving
Summarise the ‘solution’ your business offers
How urgently do people need what you’re selling?
Will your business continue to be relevant as time passes? How will you adapt?
Define your target market
Define your ideal customer
What’s your market size?
How easy is it to acquire a customer, and how much will it cost?
Figure out the best place to set up shop
What advantages does your solution have over your competitors?
How much money and effort will it cost to deliver value?
Do you know your industry?
Outline the team that will help you execute your idea
What key responsibilities will each team member have?
Will team members share ownership of the business?
Create a basic financial plan
What up-front investment will you need before you can begin?
Estimate your basic expenses and forecast sales to ensure that you can make a profit with your business.
Map out business milestones or goals and when you plan to achieve them
How long will it take to get to market?
Validate your idea
Interview potential customers to ensure that they have the problem you’re trying to solve
Interview potential customers to validate that your solution is something they’ll pay for
Determine if your initial price points will work for your customers
3. If you’re seeking funding, you may need a formal business plan
While you don’t need a business plan to get your business up and running, you will need one if you’re seeking funding for institutions such as banks. You can ask them if a ‘one-page pitch’ will be enough, or if they’ll need a traditional business plan with a detailed financial section. If it’s the latter, then you’ll need to include this in your business plan:
List of products and services (and the problems they’re solving or needs they’re fulfilling)
Target market details
Marketing and sales plan
Key milestones and metrics
4. Brand your business
A strong brand is the key to customer loyalty and higher sales. Through your brand, you’ve got the opportunity to grab your customers’ attention. You’ll need to:
Choose a name for your business or choose a brand name you can trademark
Decide on your ‘brand message’ (also known as unique selling or value proposition)
Develop a tagline
Identify your brand’s ‘tone of voice’
Define what your brand looks like (colour scheme and fonts)
Create a logo
5. Make it legal
Before you start running your business, you need to make sure that you have done these things:
Decide on a legal structure or business structure
Register your business name
Register for a domain name that matches your business name
File for trademark protection if you’ll use your business name to identify a product or service
Obtain any licenses or permits that you’ll need
Find a lawyer if you think you’ll need help
6. Get financed (only if you need it)
While not every startup needs outside funding, most businesses do require some help at least at the beginning. If you’ve worked through your business plan and have a sound handle on your financials, pitching for funding should be easy. You’ll need to:
Estimate your startup costs
Decide whether you’ll use personal finances, loans, investor money, money from friends and family, or crowd-sourced finances
Prepare the relevant financial statements including sales forecast, profit and loss statement, cash flow statement, and balance sheet
Refine your elevator pitch for investors
Apply for financing
Open a business bank account
Set up an accounting system
Know your exit strategy
7. Set up shop
Once you’ve found your business location, or set up an office, and set the hiring motions in process, you’ll be ready to begin marketing. You’ll need to:
Find a business location
Decide whether or not to extend credit to your customers (if need be, establish a credit policy)
Purchase insurance (this will vary depending on your business)
Workers’ compensation insurance
General liability insurance
Property or casualty coverage
Life, disability, and healthcare insurance
Define your staffing needs
Do you need full-time, part-time, or freelance employees?
Draft job descriptions
Post advertisements for these jobs
Set up technology
Point of sale (POS) systems
Billing and payment systems
8. Market and launch your business
This is your opportunity to get things going and get people talking. If you give yourself enough time, the media may ask to run a story about you. You’ll also be able to spread the word yourself, as well as ask others to get the word out for you. You need to:
Create a marketing plan
Market your business
Network, network, network
Create your marketing materials
Stationery, invoices, and PowerPoints
Brochures and flyers
Get set up on social media platforms
If necessary, create branded t-shirts or uniforms
Let the press know when you’re opening
Organise an opening day
Create a website (part of marketing your business)
Register a domain name
Build your site
Get your site listed on key directories