Starting a new small business? Find out where to begin and how to achieve success.
- You should prepare thoroughly before starting a business, but realize that things will almost certainly go awry. To run a successful business, you must adapt to changing situations.
- Conducting in-depth market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves running surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data.
- In addition to selling your product or service, you need to build up your brand and get a following of people who are interested in what your business offers.
- This article is for entrepreneurs who want to learn the basic steps of starting a new business.
Starting a business can be hard work, but if you break down the process of launching your new company into individual steps you can make it easier. Rather than spinning your wheels and guessing where to start, follow this 10-step checklist to transform your business from a lightbulb above your head into a real entity.
How to start a business
Refine your idea.
If you’re thinking about starting a business, you likely already have an idea of what you want to sell online, or at least the market you want to enter. Do a quick search for existing companies in your chosen industry. Learn what current brand leaders are doing and figure out how you can do it better. If you think your business can deliver something other companies don’t (or deliver the same thing, only faster and cheaper), you’ve got a solid idea and are ready to create a business plan.
Define your “why?”
“In the words of Simon Sinek, ‘always start with why,’” Glenn Gutek, CEO of Awake Consulting and Coaching, told Business News Daily. “It is good to know why you are launching your business. In this process, it may be wise to differentiate between [whether] the business serves a personal why or a marketplace why. When your why is focused on meeting a need in the marketplace, the scope of your business will always be larger than a business that is designed to serve a personal need.”
Another option is to open a franchise of an established company. The concept, brand following and business model are already in place; you only need a good location and the means to fund your operation.
Brainstorm your business name.
Regardless of which option you choose, it’s vital to understand the reasoning behind your idea. Stephanie Desaulniers, owner of Business by Dezign and former director of operations and women’s business programs at Covation Center, cautions entrepreneurs against writing a business plan or brainstorming a business name before nailing down the idea’s value.
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Clarify your target customers.
Desaulniers said too often, people jump into launching their business without spending time to think about who their customers will be and why those customers would want to buy from them or hire them.
“You need to clarify why you want to work with these customers — do you have a passion for making people’s lives easier?” Desaulniers said. “Or enjoy creating art to bring color to their world? Identifying these answers helps clarify your mission. Third, you want to define how you will provide this value to your customers and how to communicate that value in a way that they are willing to pay.”
During the ideation phase, you need to iron out the major details. If the idea isn’t something you’re passionate about or if there’s no market for your creation, it might be time to brainstorm other ideas.
Tip: To refine your business idea, identify your “why,” your target customers and your business name.
Write a business plan.
Once you have your idea in place, you need to ask yourself a few important questions: What is the purpose of your business? Who are you selling to? What are your end goals? How will you finance your startup costs? These questions can be answered in a well-written business plan.
Fledgling business owners can make a lot of mistakes by rushing into things without pondering these aspects of the business. You need to find your target customer base. Who is going to buy your product or service? What would be the point if you can’t find evidence of a demand for your idea?
Conduct market research.
Conducting thorough market research on your field and the demographics of your potential clientele is an important part of crafting a business plan. This involves conducting surveys, holding focus groups, and researching SEO and public data.
Market research helps you understand your target customer — their needs, preferences and behavior — as well as your industry and competitors. Many small business professionals recommend gathering demographic information and conducting a competitive analysis to better understand opportunities and limitations within your market.
The best small businesses have differentiated products or services from the competition. This significantly impacts your competitive landscape and allows you to convey unique value to potential customers.
Consider an exit strategy.
It’s also a good idea to consider an exit strategy as you compile your business plan. Generating some idea of how you’ll eventually exit the business forces you to look to the future.
“Too often, new entrepreneurs are so excited about their business and so sure everyone everywhere will be a customer that they give very little, if any, time to show the plan on leaving the business,” said Josh Tolley, CEO of both Shyft Capital and Kavana.
“When you board an airplane, what is the first thing they show you? How to get off of it. When you go to a movie, what do they point out before the feature begins to play? Where the exits are. During your first week of kindergarten, they line up all the kids and teach them fire drills to exit the building. Too many times I have witnessed business leaders that don’t have three or four predetermined exit routes. This has led to lower company value and even destroyed family relationships.”
A business plan helps you figure out where your company is going, how it will overcome any potential difficulties, and what you need to sustain it. When you’re ready to put pen to paper, use a free template to help.