How to Start a Business
That Works For You
Four key tasks to start a business.
So you’re thinking of starting a business. Congratulations! You are one of many new businesses that start each year. There’s good news you’re the boss, you can make a lot of money, and you’re creating meaning and purpose in your life. Whatever your reason, a successful new business creates an experience that is exciting, rewarding, and fulfilling. And that experience can be the single thread that carries you through the harder times that all businesses eventually go through. As an entrepreneur, you inherit a certain freedom and power to do whatever you want to do. Many people love this freedom and the thrill of the risks that accompany. But, where does it all begin? It all starts with a big idea.
Unpacking your big idea
That idea may not be quite ready to go to work. You have things that need to get done to bring it to life. You have logistics and processes that need to be established, there are legal preparations to make, you need technology and systems set up, and more. You may have an idea that requires engineering to create your new product or service, or perhaps you want to resell products or services someone else created. You have to decide how you are going to bring the products or services to the market; perhaps open a store or a website to sell your products or services. There are many factors involved to start a business, but it always begins with an idea. Do you have an idea? Let’s get it started.
But how do you start a new business?
Assuming you have an idea, there are plenty of self-help books, advisors, and consulting firms out there that offer plenty of methodologies for starting a new business. We’ll include some of these as references, but it really comes down to four key tasks to starting a business.
- Develop The Plan
- Address The Logistics
- Establish The Systems
- Launch Your Go-To-Market
The first task when starting a new business is to develop the plan. This is important to have written down in order to limit the “gotchas” that could hurt or kill the business too soon. Without a business plan you can easily forget an important step in your plan, miss calculate your expenses, or have too many assumptions about your potential market that may not be true. But one of more important, and unfortunately more common, “gotchas” is poor revenue forecasting. By assessing your market, estimate customer traffic, and developing a sales plan you can forecast your revenues over a period of time.
Elements that should appear in your business plan
- The “story” about your products or services
- Description of your products and/or services
- Marketplace demographic and size
- and/or services to market
- Overview of your operations and expenses
- Revenue plan and profitability
- Investment needs and offer
- Overview of the people running the business and why they are qualified
Many new business owners do not think through a plan before they commit to the business and run into problems quickly, and is one of the main reasons small businesses fail.
There are many ways to build a plan. Depending on your business you may need an extensive plan that includes every aspect of the business as listed above. But the point here is that you should select a business plan that fits the risk associated with the idea for your business, and to write it down with explicit goals. You need to know what “success” looks like before you start; so write a thoughtful plan to avoid the “gotchas.”
The second task is to address the logistics to get a business started. Depending on your idea for your products or services, you may need to establish a legal entity, acquire licenses, permits, get financing, and decide upon your tax considerations.
Logistics Short Checklist
- Step 1: Write a Business Plan
- Step 2: Get Business Assistance and Training
- Step 3: Choose a Business Location
- Step 4: Finance Your Business
- Step 5: Determine the Legal Structure of Your Business
- Step 6: Register a Business Name (“Doing Business As”)
- Step 7: Register for State and Local Taxes
- Step 8: Obtain Business Licenses and Permits
- Step 9: Understand Employer Responsibilities
- Step 10: Find Local Assistance
The third task is to establish your systems. When we use the term, systems, it means two things to think about. The most successful businesses always have good processes, so you too need to first think through your processes to answer questions like:
- How do you handle a normal sales process, like processing an order?
- What happens if that sales process goes wrong, or the customer changes their mind?
- Do you have processes in place to upsell after closing a deal, or to get feedback from a customer after you’ve delivered a service?
- If you have inventory, what is your process to ensure you maintain adequate stock?
- How do you manage employee time cards, training, and evaluations?
Managing your systems starts with thinking and tuning your business processes.
The other part of your systems usually involved computer technology and software applications. These are simply tools that help make your processes efficient, repeatable, and scalable. Systems can “make” or “break” your company. Installing the wrong tools will mean that your processes may not go smoothly, or there may be gaps in your processes because the software you selected was unable to help with certain processes. Choosing the wrong system can be very bad for your company, so you may need to get an expert to help you select the best technology for your business, and sometimes a dealer or consultant could advise you, as well as to get it installed, setup and trained. But remember the goal with technology; it needs to support your processes (not to force them,) and they must be designed to help you scale your business as you grow (not to hinder growth due to technical limitations.)
Systems to run your business:
Some of these are vital systems and others may be optional. There are also technologies that provide solutions across more than one of the following.
This software is part of a hardware and service solution to helps you make sales, run, and manage your business every day.
Credit card acceptance helps you take payments other than cash and receive the money directly into your bank account.
This software tracks the quantity of items, ingredients, and/or parts that you have on hand or in different locations.
This system allows you to manage and automate the sequence of business processes required to make and fulfill a sale.
Software that helps you maintain the customer life-cycle with records and processes connected to sales and service.
Software that uses email marketing and other digital means to draw prospects through the stages of the buyer’s journey.
Customer Services Management
This is usually a ticketing system to assist with tracking customer returns, issues, feedback, and more.
Employee Time Management
These systems help to track employee scheduling and even clocking in and out with controls to assist with certain state regulatory measures.
This is usually a service that integrates with employee time management solutions to fulfill payroll on a set schedule.
Financial Account System
This software tracks the assets, liabilities, profits, and expenses of the business. This is a core system that is required for any business.
The last task is to launch your go-to-market. By listening to and understanding your potential customers in the market, you can ensure that you have the right message to them as well as to create the right experience for them with your product or service.
Did you get that? To be successful, you need the right message and to give the right experience.
Here is a checklist to help you write and develop the right message about your products and/or services:
- Describe the problem you are solving
- Describe the need or desire your customers are having
- List out all the alternative solutions that are available today that attempt to solve the problems, and include why they are inadequate
- Carefully describe your products and/or solutions, and include answers to why, what, and how, your products or solutions is the best product and/or solution.
- List the benefits in short 4 or 5 word bullets for sales sound bites, starting with words like, “faster,” “higher,” “easier,” etc.
Successful businesses always start by communicating the right message. Customers want to hear your why and not so much what you offer. Of course you will eventually talk a lot about what you offer, but to get the customer’s attention, tell them why you. Then give them an experience that works for them.
Then you need to get your message out. This usually involves both inbound and outbound activities. Inbound activities are those latent activities where the customer comes to you. This can include website responses, or something as simple as a customer walking into your store. Outbound activities are those things like email or mass mailings, advertising, social networking, and so on. Keep in mind that inbound prospects tend to be “ready to buy” whereas fewer prospects respond to outbound marketing. For retailers, also think though everything from opening day, to the first experience on your website, to the first time the customer uses your product or service. Make it easy, fun, and benefit oriented.
You have value in your idea. Is it a 1 million dollar idea, or multi-millions? If you want the benefits of owning your own business, use these four tasks and their checklist as your guide to start a business that works for you.