Starting a business? No matter what product or service you plan to sell, your success depends on how well you complete the following steps:
Write a Business Plan
You are already forming a plan in your mind whether you realize it or not. You know what type of business you want to start, and you've probably begun thinking out how you'll make it work. A business plan is just a document that maps those things out and gets you to think through some things you may not have considered yet.
Business plans include:
- A description of your business, its legal status and structure
- Your marketing strategies—how you will get customers to buy from you
- Analysis of the competition
- How you will design and develop your product (if you're selling a product)
- Your operations and management structure
- Where you will get your start-up money
- How and when your business will become profitable
Your business plan is a high-level overview to guide your actions as you start and manage your business. Think of it as a living document and update it as your plans change.
Learn more about writing a business plan.
Secure Your Start-up Funds
Every business needs some money to start with. If you make a product, you'll need to finance the first production run. If you're a freelance designer, you'll need a powerful computer and expensive software. You may even need to rent office space or a store front before you earn your first dollar.
There are a few ways to get financing. Consider a loan from a family member, banking institution or venture capitalist. The option you choose should depend on the business you're starting and what you qualify for. Without a proven track record for success, it may be difficult to get a loan from a bank or venture capitalist.
If you have a family member with the means to help you out, write a formal loan document that spells out all of the expectations on both sides. Include things like payment schedule, interest rate and whether the loan gives the lender decision-making power in the business. Be as detailed as possible to avoid surprises later.
Learn more about getting a loan for your business.
Develop a Distribution Plan
How will you serve your customers? That depends on the type of business you're starting. If you're opening a restaurant, you'll need a physical environment where you serve food. If you're selling clothing, electronics or other products, you have the choice to sell online or in a physical store.
Selling online has the advantage of low overhead and the ability to reach a wider audience. If you choose this route, you need an ecommerce Web hosting plan, shopping cart software, SSL certificate and merchant account. Take a look at your start up budget and the number of products you'll offer to see what you can afford and assess your needs.
If you're selling in a store, find a general location that gets heavy foot traffic from your target market and take a walk around the area to find store fronts for rent.
Set Up Your Base of Operations
Every business needs a center of operations—the place where you will answer phone calls, check your email, keep the books, pack orders, etc. Whether you plan to work from home or rent a space, you'll need to set yourself up for business. Here's a list of office equipment essential to most businesses:
- Computer with appropriate software
- Fax machine or fax over email plan
- Phone line (wireless or land)
- Email accounts and email client
- Data storage (physical or digital)
Execute Your Marketing Plan
You created a marketing strategy in your business plan. Now it's time to implement it. First, gather the elements of your business identity. You'll need:
Next, get the word out about your business. If you're planning to advertise online, start making a list of keywords you want to go after, choose a search engine and write your ads. Identify other sources of customers, and build an email list for your email marketing campaigns. And don't forget to write a press release announcing your arrival on the scene.
Now that you have all the information you need to get started, it's time to think about growing your business! Learn more about driving traffic to your business.