BUSINESS | CONTRIBUTOR CHARITY MARCUS
MANAGING EDITOR |LIZ FRANK
You’ve decided to take the leap into entrepreneurship, great! Now what? Starting a business is enough work as it is, but going at it blind can be a nightmare. With all of the resources available online, it can sometimes be overwhelming just trying to figure out the next step.
When starting your business, keep in mind that the ultimate goal is to position your business to be successful. According the U.S. Small Business Administration, “About two-thirds of businesses with employees survive at least 2 years and about half survive at least 5 years.” Therefore, the beginning stages of starting a business, setting the foundation, are crucial to business longevity.
Here are 5 things you should do as you set out on your journey to successful business ownership:
Do Your Research
We all have great ideas for a business, however, you need to be realistic. Starting a business is more than just working for yourself and creating your own schedule. It is about making money by providing a service(s) or product(s) that consumers need. Your business must fill a need, solve a problem, or appeal to people’s desires. So you will need to ask yourself some questions:
- Is there a need/desire for my products/services?
- Does my product/service solve a problem? If so, what?
- Who needs/wants my products/services?
- What companies currently offer my products/services?
- Is there room in the market for my product/services?
- How will my business fit into the market?
- How will my business be different from the competition?
Answering these questions will not only help guide the direction of your business, but it will also be utilized when writing your business plan.
Write Your Business Plan
Depending on who you talk to or what website you visit, you will be told that you do or don’t need to write a business plan. Business plans are typically used for those seeking funding through a financial institution, investors, and some business grants.
Even if you do not plan to seek out funding, it is always best to have a business plan. A short business plan will suffice for you to keep on file. Your business plan is the road map for your business. It is something you can look back on when you are struggling in an area or just need a reminder of why you are doing this. Business plans contain, but are not limited to, the following:
- Title Page
- Executive Summary
- Company Profile
- Products & Services Description
- Market Analysis
- Operations & Management Plan
- Marketing Plan
- Financial Statement
Take your time during this process. You need to be sure that you do not miss any details that could cause a potential funder to deny your funding request.
Different sources and people may have different things to include in a business plan. Be sure to check a few resources to see what fits you the best.
Determine Your Business Entity
There are several different ways you can structure your small business. Choosing your business entity is the most important thing you will do in business. Your business entity affects your taxes, business structure, business name, and the amount of liability you assume. After you determine your business entity, you file your business with the Secretary of State. The business entities you can choose from are:
- Sole Proprietorship
- S Corporation
To determine the best structure for your business, it is always recommended that you consult with an attorney or certified public accountant (CPA) to ensure you are making the right decision for your business.
Get Organized, Legally
Beyond lacking funds, many business owners fail because they did not take the correct legal steps when starting their business. Often times, small business newbies skip steps in order to get their business out there. At the time, it may not seem like a big deal, but down the road it can cause you problems. Since you want to be successful, make sure you have taken care of these legal steps:
- Filed your business with the Secretary of State
- Filed your trademark, copyright, and/or patent
- Filed for your Employer Identification Number
- Applied for all licenses and permit needed to operate your business locally, state-wide, and nationally
- Applied for your state sales tax (if required)
- Signed up for insurance
- Have employees? Then you need workers compensation insurance, healthcare, unemployment insurance, FMLA, set up for employment tax, have employee eligibility verification, etc.
- Complete your articles of organization/incorporation
And this is just a starting list. Depending on what your products or services are and what your business does will determine what you will need to do legally to operate successfully.
Create a Launch Timeline
Getting your business started is going to be time-consuming. If you do not set goals for yourself, you can get lost in consumption of the details. Before you get started, create a timeline. When creating your timeline, make sure your set reasonable goals. Take into consideration your current available funds you have to commit to completing certain tasks; how much time you can realistically commit daily, weekly, and monthly; your drive and passion to get it done; and the amount of access you have to resources. Giving yourself a deadline to complete each task will keep you on track and headed toward launching your business.
By taking these 5 steps, you will lay a solid foundation for business success! Now check out the list of recommended resources below to help you along the way.
Trademarks, Patents & Copyright
Articles of Organization/Articles of Incorporation Templates
And for more resources check out my BWST article.