Starting a small business is equal parts exciting and overwhelming, especially if this is your first venture. You may have a great idea that you want to bring to market or just an itch to create something of your own and you’re not sure what it is yet. This article can help you understand the necessities for getting your business up and running, as well as suggest some resources for more in-depth learning.
Find Your Business Idea
“There’s no good idea that can’t be improved on.” – Michael Eisner
If you’re looking to start a business but don’t have a specific idea in mind, consider researching markets where small businesses are already faring well. It’s much easier for first-time business owners to start a business that fits into an existing market than it is to create a market for an existing business. So consider ideas that improve upon winning business models.
Business Idea Resources:
- This article from Small Biz Ahead discusses the 10 best markets to start a business in right now.
- While you’re at it, consider location and perhaps you’ll want to avoid one of these 10 terrible markets for businesses.
- If you already have a business up and running, but are looking for ideas on how to improve it, check out this article on free insights for your business.
- Learn how to test out business ideas in small doses before betting the farm with this episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.
Create Your Business Plan
“Plans are only good intentions unless they immediately degenerate into hard work.” – Peter Drucker
First-time business owners often think of their business plan as a detailed roadmap that outlines every single step for their business’s success. In reality, a business plan should function as more like a compass. It provides direction and keeps you from veering too far off course. It’s a good idea to document your goals, strategies and resources, but an in-depth, detailed business plan may only necessary if you’re courting investors.
Business Plan Resources:
- Get a comprehensive look at creating a business plan with this article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
- Learn what you need to do before you start writing your business plan.
- Listen to Small Biz Ahead podcast hosts Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin discuss how much you need in a business plan.
- Read about why your business plan is useless and how to make it better.
- And here’s how to give your business plan a long shelf life.
Protect Your Business with the Right Insurance
“People who live in glass houses should take out insurance.” – Unknown
The right business insurance will protect your venture from unforeseeable threats and help you maintain peace of mind without costing an arm and leg. The size and function of your business greatly determine the types of insurances you need. For example, a pizza shop most likely needs property insurance, workers compensation and commercial auto insurance. An e-commerce business may need data breach protection.
Resources for Protecting Your Business with the Right Insurance:
- Get a simple overview of the most common business insurances that are available today with this article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
- Assess your current insurance coverage to determine if your business is covered for the typical risks facing your industry.
- No two businesses are alike; learn how to tailor insurance to your industry with this article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
Manage Cash Flow and Fund Your Business
“An entrepreneur without funding is a musician without an instrument.” – Robert A. Rice Jr.
Eighty-two percent of businesses fail due to cash flow mismanagement. Whether you’re looking to get your business off the ground or keep operations running smoothly, you will need adequate funding and great cash flow management.
Cash Flow and Funding Resources:
- Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin discuss options for raising capital in this episode of the SBA podcast.
- Learn how to prepare your pitch for investors by listening to Shark Tank survivor Tim Barklage share his strategy on the SBA podcast.
- Gain an in-depth knowledge of cash flow management with this comprehensive guide from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
- Plug in your headphones and let Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin explain the difference between cash flow and profit in this episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.
Manage Your Accounting and Taxes
“The hardest thing in the world to understand is the income tax.” – Albert Einstein
Taxes are inevitable. In order to keep your business from running into any unfortunate surprises during tax season, or from suffering due to misplaced money, you need to manage your accounting and business taxes.
Accounting and Taxes Resources:
- Get an overview of how and when you should manage your own finances, hire a bookkeeper or hire an accountant.
- Learn some basics of business taxes with this comprehensive article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
Pick Your Business Structure
“Every company has two organizational structures: The formal one is written on the charts; the other is the everyday relationship of the men and women in the organization.” – Harold S. Geneen
You’ll want to choose a business structure based on how your business will operate and what its needs will be. For example, if you plan to seek funding from investors, then you may want to consider forming a limited liability corporation (LLC). If your business is smaller and you have no employees, a sole proprietorship may be your best option.
Learn about different business structures and their pros and cons in this article from Business Owner’s Playbook.
Set Up Your Office
“An office is a place to live life to the fullest, to the max. An office is a place where dreams come true.” – Michael Scott, “The Office”
There’s a lot to consider when choosing an office for your business. You want to weigh the pros and cons of working from home versus renting/leasing space. You also want to consider how much space you need and whether you can share that space with others outside of your company.
This article from the Business Owner’s Playbook offers a great overview of things a business owner should know when selecting an office location.
Start an E-Commerce Website
“Overall the web is pretty sloppy, but an online store can’t afford to be.” – Paul Graham
An e-commerce website can function as an additional source of revenue for a brick-and-mortar store or as a standalone, online business. With a little bit of know-how, you could have an e-commerce website up and running within 24 hours. Best of all, your doors are open to sales 24/7.
Here’s some information on how to start an e-commerce website.
Take Your Business Online
“Strip your website down to the basics and do a few things really well.” – BC Designers
If you think your business can survive without a website and social media presence, you’re probably wrong. A survey conducted by Verisign found that 77 percent of consumers believe a website makes a business appear more credible and 93 percent of consumers use the internet to do research before making a purchase. Even if you don’t sell goods online, you still need a website. The same study found 91 percent of consumers use the internet to look for local goods and services.
Resources for Taking Your Business Online:
- Gain a comprehensive understanding of things you need to build a website for your business.
- Listen to hosts Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin share valuable insights on business websites and social media presence in this episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.
- Get an introduction to social media marketing with this article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
- Learn how to handle social media complaints about your business in this episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.
Hire Employees, Vendors and Contractors
“I hire people brighter than me and I get out of their way.” – Lee Iacocca
Knowing when to hire an additional employee and how to choose the best candidate requires a great amount of research, skill and experience. Even if your business is a sole proprietorship, you may need to hire vendors and contractors. Though it sounds simple enough to hire someone who’ll produce profitable work, know that it’s not always that easy. And it can be costly if you end up hiring the wrong person for the wrong job.
Resources for Hiring Employees, Vendors and Contractors:
- Learn everything from writing job ads to conducting interviews and making a job offer with this article on how to hire your first employee.
- Gene Marks and Elizabeth Larkin share their expert opinions on letting employees work remotely in this episode of the Small Biz Ahead podcast.
- Cut down on overhead costs by learning how to create a virtual workforce with this article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
- You may not need employees for your small business, but you will definitely need advisors. Get familiar with the five different advisors you’ll need for your small business.
- Learn how to master the art of managing a contingent workforce (freelancers, contractors, consultants, etc.) to increase productivity and efficiency with this article from Small Biz Ahead.
- Hiring vendors can be a great way to keep costs low. Learn the best ways to manage vendors with this article from the Business Owner’s Playbook.
There will never be an absolute, definitive prescription for starting or running any business. There’s a lot of trial and error (more error than you’d expect) involved. You don’t need to be a master of accounting to get your web development business up and running. Nor do you need to be a prolific web developer to ensure your coffee shop/used bookstore business is a success. But to be a successful business owner, you’ll want to have at least a general understanding of all of the topics covered here.