If you are reading this article, it's likely that you already have one or two great business ideas. You may even be spending a large part of your work day thinking about how to turn your favorite business idea into the perfect exit strategy.
So now that you have the desire to get going, where do you start? Every entrepreneur has his or her own way of doing things and no two businesses are developed in the same way. That said, there are some tried and tested steps to get your business off the ground quickly and to keep your motivation going strong, even during occasional dips or low periods.
Write Down Your Best Ideas
It's not uncommon to have more than one great business idea. During your early brainstorming sessions, you may wind up with a handful of viable business models. This is all part of the "thinking big" phase of entrepreneurship. But at some point you'll have to narrow your focus. The best way is to simply write down your best ideas.
Check Out the Competition
For each of your ideas, check out the competition to see what they're doing. Visit your competition's websites, look for their products in stores, and read up on their press. It's also a good idea to research where they manufacture their products and find out whether they own the patents. Then figure out how your product is different or better. Or if it's truly unique, look to see how your product fills a current void in the marketplace.
Select Your Best Idea and Discuss with Friends and Family
Friends and family are often an entrepreneur's most valuable resources. They can help you sort through all of the factors that go into choosing your best "go-forward" idea—factors that include how quickly you can develop your idea, how much it will cost to build a proto-type or a proof of concept, how you plan to market your service or product, and how you'll initially finance the business. Plus, you usually don't have to ask your mom to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Later on, you may want to widen this group to include people outside your immediate circle, especially if you decide to hold focus groups on the value and usefulness of your product. For this you may want opinions from people who aren't quite so close to you.
Write a Business Plan
Any endeavor worth undertaking—especially one involving money—requires a good plan. Your business plan is your map for success. Writing a professional business plan not only forces you to clarify your ideas and apply careful thought to every part your business, it also serves as a valuable tool for securing funds down the road. For many entrepreneurs, the idea of mapping out an entire business ahead of time can seem daunting, which is why it shouldn't necessarily be the first thing on the list. If you're the kind of person who needs to see everything carefully mapped out before you take action, then bump this task to the top of the list. On the other hand, if you rely on excitement and momentum to propel you forward, then you may want to reserve this "must-do" task for a little later in the process. In either case, you can find hundreds of sample business plans and DIY business plan resources online.
Start Building Your Brand Identity
One of the most exciting things you can do in the early stages of building your business is to transform your vision into something visually concrete. Creating a company or product logo is one of the best starting points for developing your brand. It's also a great way to give yourself an immediate confidence boost. Something about seeing your company name in logo form makes the whole entrepreneurial dream seem more real. It's something that can be done relatively cheaply and quickly too. For example, LegalZoom's partner, Logoworks, can convert your ideas into a variety of eye-catching and memorable logos in as little as 3 days.
Trademark Your Name and Logo
Once developed, your company name and logo will become two of your most valuable business assets. In a world where brand is everything, it pays to lock up these two assets as quickly as possible. The best way to do this is through a federally registered trademark. LegalZoom can help you file a trademark quickly and easily. But here's the thing—in order to trademark your name and logo, you'll need to prove to the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) that you are actively using your logo in commerce. This means they'll want to see it on something tangible such as your product or product packaging. An image of your logo all by itself won't work. But don't worry if your product or packaging isn't developed yet. You can still protect your name and logo by filing what's known as an "Intent-to-Use" trademark. You'll have 6 months to produce and submit the required materials to complete the trademark process.
Incorporate or Form an LLC
There's no better way to become an official business than to legally form a business entity. Forming a corporation or LLC is essential for protecting your personal assets from liability. This is especially important as you start to contract with vendors, open lines of business credit, or conduct any other official company business. In an increasingly litigious world, it is critical that you create a clear legal division between yourself and your business. Plus, having a legal business entity can help you save money in taxes, raise funds more easily, and establish yourself as a legitimate company. It's a lot easier—and more affordable—than you think. LegalZoom can help you incorporate or form an LLC in as few as 10 business days. We take care of the time-consuming details, including filing the right paperwork with the state.
Entrepreneur = Daydreamer + Action
Remember, the entrepreneurial world is rife with people who've succeeded on their own terms. Whether you've set your sights on building a small, at-home business or a large, global brand, now is the time to do it. The key is to generate enough enthusiasm to get your idea off the ground. Once you're up and running, you'll find a nearly endless supply of resources dedicated to helping your business succeed. So what are you waiting for? Get to it!