How does this sound? Make your own hours, be your own boss, and keep more of the profits. These are the biggest rewards of running your own business. However, starting that business inevitably comes with some hurdles. It takes commitment, desire, and most of all, the will to work. But while starting a successful small business is challenging, if you have a solid plan and a great idea, it can be an incredibly rewarding experience.
If you're ready to start your own business, here are ten strategies to help get your business off the ground and keep it in the black.
1. Do what you know.
Running a business takes a lot of time and energy, and the work will be a lot easier if you have a knack for it and enjoy what you do. Industry knowledge, too, should be on the top of your list of requirements for small business success.
2. Start your business while you have another income.
One of the most stressful aspects of starting a business is the lack of incoming profits at the beginning. It takes time to build a reliable revenue stream. Determine how long you can live without a steady income, and be honest with yourself. If the answer is "not long," being employed while starting your business may take some worry out of the business start-up process.
3. Get help.
The more support you line up when starting your business, the better off you will be in the long run. Having a family member or close friend who you can brainstorm with can help take the pressure off of the everyday decisions of starting your business.
4. Create a business plan.
A business plan plays an important role in the success of your enterprise. As a new business owner, you must be familiar with your customers and the strengths and weaknesses of your competitors. Your business plan should detail this, as well as outline how your business can attract and retain customers, how it will compete in the marketplace, and what budget is needed to attain positive results.
5. Do research.
You will most likely do a lot of research to develop an effective business plan, but there is more research needed to begin a successful business. Research your industry, both in your area and outside your area, and become an expert in its products and services, if you are not one already. Join related industry or professional associations before you start your business to begin networking with others in your chosen field. Since many of these groups have annual dues, find other entrepreneurs who have already joined these types of networking groups, and inquire if a particular group was worth the investment.
6. Get customers before your doors open.
You don't have to wait until you have officially launched your business to begin soliciting customers; begin networking and making contacts before your doors open. Using your business plan, identify who your potential customers are and start marketing to them. Have give-a-ways of products or start promoting your grand opening sale well before your grand opening actually occurs. It is never too early to start marketing yourself.
7. Work with professionals.
You may be an expert in your field, but there will be some aspects of running a business that you may not be familiar with. Although there are many bookkeeping and accounting software packages, it is sometimes wise to hire an accountant or bookkeeper. If your funds do not allow you to hire an accountant early on, get advice from a professional certified public accountant when setting up your books for the first time.
8. Get financing.
You should have some money saved up to start your business, but most entrepreneurs still seek financing from lenders and investors. If working with a lender, sometimes asking for more money than you think you need is best, since many entrepreneurs underestimate how much it takes to start a business. Investor funding is also smart because investors can bring their knowledge of business along with their investments. You can also borrow against other assets, such as your home. Always remember that when you borrow money, your monthly payments will kick in eventually. Make sure you set up a payment plan that you can afford.
9. Get the legal and tax issues right.
How will you structure your business? Will it benefit from being an S-corp, a C-corp, or an LLC? Does your business need workers' compensation insurance? Does it need to be registered? What are your tax filing deadlines? Just as working with experienced professionals is important when running your company, sound legal and accounting information is essential to starting your business off right. Before you open shop, it's important to make sure the required legalities are covered and that your formal business structure is in place.
10. Have an exit strategy.
Everything that begins must end, and this thought should be in the back of your mind when starting a business. What if a co-founder dies? How would you handle bankruptcy? Do you have a succession plan? Your exit strategy should be a part of your business plan and should address, in contract form, all the "what ifs."